OK

Greetings, fellow writers and writing-curious!  SensibleShoes is out for the week, leaving me with the unenviable task of trying to fill her... er, sandals.  

Okay.  Let's start with a quiz: what do all these quotes have in common?

It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done.  It is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.
On the second day, a sail drew near, nearer, and picked me up at last. It was the devious-cruising Rachel, that in her retracing search after her missing children, only found another orphan.
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
yes I said yes I will Yes.

If you answered These are all lines of English prose by long-dead male authors, you would be correct... but if you answered These are all famous endings to novels, you'd also be correct and a little more in line with what I'm thinking for this diary.

Endings are often the most memorable part of a good reading experience.  They may wrap up loose ends, they may resolve tension and answer questions, and they may do none of these things... but most importantly, they send us out of the novel with the feeling of closure.  Closure is an emotional rather than strictly narrative event: some books follow all their characters to the end of their respective stories, but I'm sure we all know works that have "open" endings but nonetheless feel complete.  What's important is the cadence.

Many writers don't know that ending until it arrives, organically, during the process of writing it.  Zadie Smith calls this kind of writer the Micro Manager, the kind who starts on page one and ends on the terminal page, following the plot and characters as the spirit moves.  The Macro Planner, by comparison, graphs out the narrative architecture ahead of time, in different color crayons à la Vonnegut, to have a sense of the overall plan before the prose writing starts.  

Whichever you are, you will eventually come to that ending, and that's when you need to be at your best: so let's give this a whirl.  A few weeks ago SS asked us to write opening scenes based on a (supposedly) poor model.*   Imagine an ending that would bring this hypothetical work to a close based on the tone, style, and material you used in your opening.  The details of plot and character don't matter for this exercise.  Think of it like a musical phrase: what final lines would serve to bring the reader of those opening lines to a sense of closure?  What emotional reaction do you want the reader to leave your work with?

Maybe there's a detail in your opening that'll hit hard if it's brought back in the final sentences?  Maybe it's about the stylistic echoes in your prose?  Maybe it's a character beat that satisfies the reader who found your initial hook so compelling?  There's no "wrong" way to end a book, but you'll know the "right" one when it lands.

+++

* If you missed that particular diary, maybe you took part in this one or this one?  Or heck, just give us an ending from scratch, if ya want to do that.  This is your space to fly.

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Originally posted to De hominis dignitate on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Readers and Book Lovers.

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