We all read books so we can find out what happens at “the end”. Is there a happy ending, where everything’s tied in a neat bow, like a Nora Roberts book? Or one that is satisfying, but has a sad, melancholic lingering of words that resound in my brain long after the book is over, like “The House of Special Purpose?”
Either way, I read to find out the ending, and that’s another reason I write. Some writers, like my dad, are able to outline their way to the ending before they even start writing their book. I have a great deal of jealousy for this technique. When I start a new book or story, I usually start with a solid beginning, characters who interest me, a setting that I can dive into and research, but no ending. I sometimes have a hazy idea of the middle of the book… but even starting on my fourth full novel, I still don’t know where it will end.
Sometimes this is immensely satisfying. I’m not constrained by my planned ending. I can let the story go where it will and follow the twisting maze-like words until I find the end.
But sometimes, it is just as dissatisfying. Thinking about it too much makes me start to feel nervous, like the feeling before a first date. I can almost feel a tremor in my hands, imagine the sweat on my brow as I think of the opaque ending that I’ll eventually have to see clearly. That’s another reason why I use beta readers when I’m writing. They can be helpful suggesting things I hadn’t thought of. Eventually, though, I have to be the one to discover the ending. I know I will, I always do, but that doesn’t stop the sense of fear when I think about it too much.
I think of the endings to my favorite books, how the words there have lingered long after I’ve put the book down, and that’s how I want my endings to be. Something to savor like the first glorious sip of coffee in the morning. I just have to find the words that will echo.