Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The End As I Know It

This is up for debate. I might be wrong about this. It would be the third time in my life that I was wrong. The first was that incident with the hair dryer and the cat. The second was that deal about the pickle and the microwave.

This might be the third.

What is the most important part of a novel? The beginning. The plot. The characters. The theme.

No, no, no, no.

It's the end. Don't believe me? Scroll down to the end of this blog. Go ahead. Right now. Scroll away.
Did you do it? What did you find? An unsatisfying, awful ending. Boy, doesn't that make you want to spend another five minutes reading through this blog?

I've been thinking about this lately as I'm putting together proposals for two of my projects. Edits are completed on Book #3, and it is currently in the very qualified hands of my wife for one final read through before it goes back to my agent. Meanwhile, I'm trying to convince an editor that they should risk it all to publish this thing. I have only a few pages to do so. In those pages is something called a synopsis.

A synopsis is a simple thing, really. It's the entire book crammed into three to five pages. This is so the editor knows what's going to happen, so they know you aren't going to get all Space Odyssey 2001 on them.
Writers worry themselves to death over these things. It's painful to read a single sentence that comprises fifty pages of your novel.

But what about the passion! What about that witty line in there! If the editor only reads the synopsis, they will never see how brilliant I am! It isn't fair!

The ending is hardest, just like it is in the full-length novel. My third book is complex and packed with symbolism. I think the ending is quite powerful. How to convey that in thirty seconds or less? No matter what I do, it's going to look flat in comparison.

Such is life.
And so, to defend my theory about the importance of The End. . . . When reading a novel, there is one destination: the last page. The end is the echo that stays with you. When you see that book on the shelf, you will remember what happened in those last few pages, because those are the words most fresh in your mind.

Endings are tricky business. Do you sum up everything? Do you dare write the tragic death of a main character? Do you wait until the very last moment to pull out a massive twist?

There are so many ways to do an ending right, and many more to do it wrong.

I'm thinking about endings, and as I prepare to dive into Novel #5, I'm also thinking about beginnings. Being a writer, your mind is always starting something that you will one day be forced to end. It's bitter, it's sweet, it's all confusing and beautiful, I suppose.

Maybe I'm wrong. I'm still trying to understand this great big world of words, trying to see what makes readers tick, trying to tell stories that entertain but offer something more.

Well, this I know is true. I'm not happy with a novel if . . .