I have never been good with endings. When I was little, and my parents took me to see Sesame Street Live, I cried for the last quarter of the show because I was so upset the experience was coming to an end. And if anyone really wanted to get me going, all they had to do was start singing the Mickey Mouse Club “Alma Mater” – “M-I-C – see you real soon!” – and I would instantly burst into tears.
Yeah. I had issues.
As I’ve aged, I haven’t necessarily gotten any better with endings. Every time I move, I get a tear in my eye when leaving my old place, and still get sad when the summer and holiday season come to an end. And when I finish a really wonderful book, I’m always a little sad the experience is over – that I’ll never be able to read that book for the first time again. (I also felt this way when I finished watching all five seasons of The Wire.)
That said, when it comes to my own writing, I love endings. I love being able to pound out that final sentence and then type the words “THE END.” There is something so liberating about those two words. They say, “I did it! I wrote a book.” Even if I know I’ll still have to revise that book ten more times.
I won’t pretend I’m particularly good at writing endings or that I always know what the ending is going to be. I remember hearing John Irving once say that he knows the last line of his books before he even starts writing them, and the whole story unfolds before him, leading to that last line.
For the record, that is not how I work. My endings often change slightly from draft to draft, taking into account other changes I’ve made to the manuscript. I like my endings to be satisfying but consistent with the story, and if I’ve made a bunch of changes that now render the original ending false or hollow, I have to change it.
So how do I know I’ve reached the “right” ending for the story? Put simply, the ending needs to feel right. With The Girls’ Guide to Love and Supper Clubs, I got there. The ending is satisfying – to me, at least. It feels right. With my second book, still a work in progress, the ending feels…right-ish, but not 100 perfect. I’m still working on it.
I probably won’t ever like endings in real life (where the heck did 2012 go?????), but in my writing, I love bringing a good story to a close.
What about you? Do you like endings? Or, like me, do they always make you a little tearful?
(Oh, and happy holidays to one and all! Whatever holiday you celebrate, I hope you’re spending time with friends and family today!)