marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,
marycatelli
marycatelli

ending a story

Inspired by a post of jimvanpelt 's -- about how to get your stories to end.

"Trust an expert -- trust someone with experience." And since I started to write about the age of 11 and think I never managed to finish a story until I was seventeen, I think I have some experience here.

So -- some advice.  (Free, and worth every penny.)

The first piece is, if you have discovered like me that you get half way through your stories and don't complete them, take a whole stack of those stories and sit down to re-read them.  Do not do this from memory.  Re-read them.  And something beneficial may come leaping out of the stack at you.  (At worst, you will have lost a few hours.)

The second is that if your stories just peter out and don't go anywhere, try outlining them.  No, not the sort of outline your English teacher would approve of.  Write down the events of the story in order.  You don't have to keep them all on the same level.  (Mine tend not to be legible for anyone but me.  0:)  Terry Pratchett once described writing as
There's a phrase I use called "The Valley Full of Clouds." Writing a novel is as if you are going off on a journey across a valley. The valley is full of mist, but you can see the top of a tree here and the top of another tree over there. And with any luck you can see the other side of the valley. But you cannot see down into the mist. Nevertheless, you head for the first tree.
And it's like that for me to, but instead of actually building a path, I blaze a trail.  If I can actually go somewhere, I go back and build the path.  And if I can't -- I grab the story idea by its scrawny little neck and throw it out the window.  Since it's an Anthropomorphic Personification, it's not likely to kill it -- sometimes it even comes back in improved form -- but I do not start a normal first draft until I have completed that really, really, really sketchy first draft known as an outline.

(I will, however, note that this advice is not very useful to people who find they can't stick to an outline.  Such people exist; they have told me so.)

The third is for people who, like me, frequently can't stick to a piece.  You do not have to go on to something new when something goes flat on you.  Go back.  Circle 'round and pick up the last piece you dropped because it went flat.  Or the piece before that.  They can come back to life, you know.

And do not decide that a piece has gone flat or hasn't come back to life until you've actually taken a stab at getting words on paper (or screen).  Sometimes the flat feeling is just vacuuming the cat.
Tags: endings, outlining, persistance, plotting, writing
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  • flow into fall

    A branch of an apple tree has already turned in July, all peachy orange. The topmost leaves of a maple sapling are brilliant scarlet as they fledge.…

  • summer scenes

    The forget-me-nots in my garden are gone, only the seed pods showing where the halo of blue had spread. But down the hill -- down, down, down -- to…

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