So you can read my books

Monday, December 6, 2010


Anne Gallagher has an intriguing post : "Where do you start your story?"

One of the criticisms of the last LORD OF THE RING movie was that it appeared Peter Jackson couldn't decide where to end the movie

and tricked the audience into thinking they were watching the end, only to be moved to yet another false ending.

By the time the movie did end, many were grumbling about the whole experience.

Are we authors like that?

Do we linger too long, milking the afterglow of the story. Or do we end too abruptly once the crisis is averted or overcome?

Many teachers of creative writing stress not to begin writing until you have the ending clearly in mind

so that you can head to it with skillful foreshadowing and firm precision, not meandering until the end just comes to you.

I think that approach also helps you to know when to begin.

If you know the ending with its transformation of the main character, then you know where to start your story ...

and you get a sense of how to bring your protagonist to his destination.

What mood do you want the reader to leave your novel holding in his heart?

Hope. Despair. Laughter. Resolve in the face of dissolution.

Or a mix of all of the above?


  1. Hi Roland,

    Thank you so much for the welcoming message. Yes, as you stated there are crazies on the road. My biggest beef is when driver's coast in the left lane on a two lane highway and you can't pass. That drives me crazy!

    I really liked this post. I just began a new project and I already know pretty much how it ends. I posted the first few pages of it in Tessa's blogfest. When you get a chance I would love your opinion on it. So far Donna hole and Tessa really loved it. With Donna's comment I tweaked it to clarify my mc is male, apparently the name Aidan could be female as well. I always though of it as a male name.

    Any news from the agents on your partials?


  2. I write little kid books mood is light and fun. I did know the ending to the book I'm writing now. The ending popped up somewhere along the way.

  3. Thanks for the shout and the interesting counter-topic.

    It's true, I think, you really need to find the end of your story first before you can find the beginning. OR at least have a firm grip on what you want to happen.

    What is a TRUE beginning anyway? There's always backstory. No matter where you are in the book.

  4. For me, it's not a must to know the ending right when I start writing (fiction or non). But the endings often pop up, as I go along.

    It's a great deal of fun. And sometimes, in the case of the current book, I have two endings. One scary (that's the one that first popped up), and another funny. That's the ending that showed itself later as I wrote.

    What's a waste of time to me, is when I see writers who have an ending, but then as they work, realize that ending won't fit anymore - yet they struggle to force it to fit.

    11:19AM and I'm still in my pjs on this wonderfully snowy day.

    Happy Writing to All.

  5. Roland, I know it's been a while since I commented and I'm sorry! It's crazy at my house right now!

    Anyway, I'm commenting now, so that's all that matters right?

    This is a great post! I didn't mind the end of Lord of the Rings because of the fact that he made sure we all new what happened to the important characters and how it all tied together. I think it worked. Then again, as a fantasy writer myself, I might be a bit biased! LOL

    My characters come to me and tell me the ending first. This is what grabs my attention and gets me to write their story. So I always know the ending first. Plotting requires a "fill in the blanks" game with my characters though as they can't tell me the story in any sort of logical order! But, *shrug* it works for me I guess.

  6. Yeaaaah, I made the mistake on my last novel of ending very abruptly, being in a rush to be done. Then I had to rewrite the last 2 chapters.

    I always want to leave my readers with hope, satisfaction of a journey well traveled, and with a smile on their faces. Most of the time that means giving my characters pretty much what they want/need, but not always.

  7. Mine is a journey and there is a logical end *grin* that said if I wanted to do follow on novels afterwards (HA!) I could :)

    BirthRight The Arrival, on Amazon 1.1.2011

  8. Since I'm writing a murder mystery, resolution is the end I'm going for. Killer caught. Loose ends, hopefully, tied up.

    The ending came to me, maybe eight chapters in and so I wrote it ahead and have worked on some foreshadowing.

    Moods, I love to play with different ones for different chapters, dark and light. But overall the tone is light.

    Great post!

  9. I had a vague idea of how to end the the story I'm currently working on when I started it--but all along, regardless of precisely where I ended it, I wanted the reader to feel hope and strength at the end of it.

  10. JRR Tolkien really didn't know where to stop that book either, to be honest.

  11. This gave me a lot to think about. I often try plot out the character's emotional arc withing the story arc usually one triggers the end of the other.
    Never thought of doing it the other way around. Hmmm!
    Edge of Your Seat Romance

  12. I always start with the final scene in my mind. The scene may be fuzzy, or it may change on final approach, but until I know what the story is about -- and the ENTIRE story is about the ENDING -- I can't begin to write.

    It's like building something in your garage. You don't just start picking up wood and nailing and screwing and gluing it together.

    You start with the ending -- a table -- and build from there.

    I call myself a pantser, but only because I can't pre-write my story and then re-write it with the same enthusiasm (I can't even watch re-runs or the same movie twice). I never said I didn't know where I was going.

    - Eric

  13. I always know the end before I begin the book. And I agree that knowing the end helps to know where to begin. It motivates me through writing the entire story because I want to get that to that end.


  14. You make a good point about endings.

    In my stories I consistently try to leave my reader laughing. I always end on a positive note. I will have to try something different just to see how it works out.

    Thank you for another interesting article on writing.

  15. ..."wrapping things up" is an admitted problem of mine. I've battled through three re-writes concerning this exact ordeal, each time swearing I'd nailed it...then, not so much.
    There's surprisingly a fine line between ending a story abruptly, and "beating down a dead horse," (one of my editor's quotes, not mine,) and to be quite honest, I'm of the opinion that in order to get it right, one may have to pen several different versions of an ending, in order to clearly define the hero's order to send your reader back for more.
    Great post,Roland:)

  16. This is a great point. There is the climax but often there is wrapup that needs to be done afterward which complicates where to end things.

  17. My favorite books are tragedies-I tend to emulate that. But I do like to give my readers hope at the end. Otherwise it's just plain depressing!

  18. Stephanie : I tend to end with a cliffhanger, even if there is no sequel planned like "The Lady or The Tiger?" The reader then gets to choose.

    Heather : Yes, the dust needs to be seen settling somewhat, usually with the threat not quite as dead as thought -- like the great horror novels or movies.

    Elliot : Yours is a good point. Mickey Spillaine said it truly : the end of the novel sells the next one! Tell your editor knotting all the loose threads is not beating a dead horse but leading him to the stall.

    Kimber : Leaving them with laughter is not a bad thing and makes the reader eager to read the next book you write.

    Jai : Knowing the end is great, yes. You get to see where you might lead the reader through and down some misleading paths that actually in the end gets them there.

    Eric : I use your point in my next point on the all-important middle of the novel. Maybe that was how the camel came about : God gave the job of building a horse to an intern angel who just decided to "wing" it!

    Raquel : Mystery writers have to start from the solution of the murder and work backwards. It seems to work for me, too. I did it with my murder mystery fantasy, RITES OF PASSAGE. Hope I gave you an idea or two with this post.

    C.N. : I think you're right about Tolkien. He had lived with those characters for so long that he was loathe to say good-bye to them.

    Golden Eagle : To pass on hope and strength to the reader at the end of our books is a great gift to them.

    Terry : Raymond Chandler worked without an outline and in THE BIG SLEEP, we never do get to know quite what happened to the chauffeur, do we? I look forward to reading your book.

    Nicole : I always try to leave room for further novels to be written with my characters at the end of all my novels.

    Carol : I think it is wise to leave the readers with a good feeling for having spent time in your world.

    Anastasia : Welcome back. I've missed you. I have a similar method in my novels. I call it "Connect the Dots" theory of writing. I see the end and I see various key points of the book. Then, I imagine the paths I have to take to connect those segments.

    The Happy Whisk : Dean Koontz is like you. He writes with the characters in mind with no clear-cut ending. And sometimes I see the sprawling plot he writes occasionally because of that method. But it works for him and you.

    Anne : I just had to point out your interesting post. And you're right, there is alway an earlier crime somewhere in the backstory of your characters!

    Michael : I truly am glad you made it back in one piece. I promise to read your segment when those blood runs leave me alone. Have a great week.

  19. Hi Roland: Like I said, the ending pops up as I go, and with this book, it popped up quickly. I knew the ending, early on.

    That being said, I don't *need* to know the ending to start writing. The endings come to me as I get into the first bit of the book.

    My bad for explaining myself wrong.