Ending First – A New Writing Strategy

In the past few months, I have been trying to make the transition from flash fiction and small collaborative stories (such as Ficlets) to short stories and have been having some problems. I think I’m pretty good at leaving a story hanging for another writer to complete or writing a couple hundred word story, but I’m having troubles finishing off my short stories.

I have story beginnings down pretty well. I’m able (I hope) to write the beginning of a story in a way that makes the reader want to keep reading. At some point, however, my stories seem to be stalling: usually ending up in a group of characters standing around saying things like, “uh huh”, and “yep” like the characters in the cartoon King of the Hill. The good news is that I have a solution to my problem: write the ending first.

I have read a few books on writing and several articles by writers I respect and a lot of times they talk about knowing the ending of the story before they start, or even writing the ending of the story before they start writing the rest of the story. This makes a lot of sense to me, and I think I’m going to try it.  Now, I’m not saying this ending should be set in stone or anything. If I wind up progressing through the story and the ending no longer makes sense, I think it would be fine to tweak or even change it. However, it does give me a target and direction to shoot for.

What do you think?

10 thoughts on “Ending First – A New Writing Strategy

  1. For my Nano novel..I think that all the energy I had for it came from knowing the ending. The very end of it was the first thing I had in my mind, and the central idea is all revealed at the end.

    Let’s not talk about the fact that I haven’t reached it yet…I’m stalling about two ‘chapters’ before the end.
    Still, I think it may be write, an ending is an important target…though it does not have to be too specific…I imagine you don’t need to know how it’s going to happen…but what is going to happen…or at least ‘where’ the story needs to end.
    Then you’ll always have something to aim for. If you stall…you can just try and work out something new to write that gets you closer to the end.

    And as always, anything can get chucked out at any point…for you have the power.

  2. I usually have a goal in mind early on. To me, the end is what often justifies the means and, without a punchy climax to shoot for, I get real nervous. I like the feeling I’m writing towards narrative *closure*.

    But that doesn’t mean it gets set in stone.

    Case in point – the Alpha & Omega novel/thread that is running on my site originally had a surreal, low-key ending set up which I felt was satisfying. As I’ve moved through the early segments of the story, the target has morphed into something somewhat… apocalyptic. And it was a surprise to me to discover that.

    I can’t wait to find out what else happens to the ending as it draws closer.

  3. In my first novel, “My Sweetpea: Seven Years and Seven Days”, I started with the ending, sort of — the majority of the book was a flashback. The biggest advantage is that it was clear where it was going and the reader enjoys seeing the process of how they got there. (There is one last surprise, however — I set it up for a sequel.)

  4. I love the idea of this. I never know the ending on my stories–and I do not know the ending of the novel I’m working on–and it really can be difficult…I feel sometimes that I have to work really hard in a story to have something actually happen. Something that leaves the reader feeling something! I think if I had the ending in mind, however loosely, it would anchor my story writing…I’d love to try this, and think I will. Thanks!

  5. i think this is a great idea. Endings are really hard, and frankly, I think its where a lot of books fall flat. In a short story it must be even harder (one reason I don’t write short stories!) because you don’t really have a lot of time to finish. It seems like with those, you have to plan out a lot more.

  6. Pingback: Sweet, sweet endings « Finding the Words

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