I have a terrible habit when writing: I race through endings. I’m not careful about word choice. I leave out all the important details that bring a scene to life. Dialogue is choppy. Once the end is in sight, it’s full speed ahead. Shoot first, ask questions later.
I think this happens for two reasons. The first is that I want to be done. I’ve been at it for a while, and I’m practically salivating to have a finished draft. This is the point at which I print everything out and get to actually hold it my hands: a completed novel. Yes, it’s rough. Yes, it needs a whole lot of TLC, but still, it’s a book with a beginning, middle and end. Something to go on.
The second reason is that I want to know what happens. Usually, as I’m going along, I really don’t know how things will turn out. When I wrote Promise Not to Tell, I didn’t know who the killer (or killers) was going to turn out to be until I made it to the end. Was it Nicky, Jean, Kate or Zack? Had Del’s ghost really come back and killed someone? I had no idea. And the only way to find the answer was to write my way through it, in hurried, broad strokes.
A lot of writers use revision as a time to carve away all that’s unnecessary, like a sculptor finding the form beneath. With me, it’s more like building a sculpture from papier-mâché. I start with a frame and add layers during revision. This is especially true by the time I get to the ending, when it’s pretty much chickenwire and toilet paper rolls held together with duct tape – it needs a lot of filling in, smoothing out, and prettying up. Hopefully, the homely frames of those rushed-through endings are invisible by the time they make into a reader’s hands.