Yes, I’m still here. Tapping at my keyboard, in between basting a 12.5 turkey. I made my mother’s recipe for stuffing, produced sweet potato biscuits last night, and by this evening will be digesting vast quantities of tryptophan with the best of them in the United States. And I am thankful for all that I have, truly. So among the items on my be-grateful-for list is having the time to write, which although appearing in scant amounts this last week, is generally available to me whenever I need it. I’ve made a habit of writing every single day, and it needs to be said that some days, this is easier than others. November 25, 2010, is not one of those easier spots on the calendar. I may only get through a few hundred or even a thousand words, but I’m only 3,000 away from 50,000. The careful readers out there will remark that I set a personal goal of 60,000 for this NaNoWriMo project this year, so yes, tomorrow afternoon, after the apartment is cleaned up and the guests departed, I need to make some serious headway.
Regarding writing itself, it’s a good time to think about any of those late-in-the-day plot twists. Do they make sense? Are they bordering on hokey or expected? Do they fit in with the rest of the plot in an interesting way?
I know there’s a pull toward ending on a twist—I call it the Law & Order special, along the lines of the admonishment “not to stop watching, even for the last few seconds!” But I think there’s a reason it seems easy, and that’s because often, the twist as ending is a cop out. It’s significantly harder to finish a story in a way that does justice to the story as a whole as it is to put in some clever ending and cut to black. Also, because it’s the ending we’re talking about here, it’s the last things readers get. Do you want to go out on silly twist and have them forget about all the nuance you built into the characters, story arc, and word smithing? I don’t.
Endings are important, and endings are about finding the place where there’s no point in continuing the story. All along the telling of something, we opt to leave in what needs to be said, and omit out extraneous bits that don’t advance anything or give readers anything new. Endings, by definition, are part of the story, so they should follow the same tenets. Don’t end before or after the optimal stopping point. If that means overwriting and taking back some scenes, fine. Or the reverse: ending and after some thought, realizing there needs to be a little more development. Both are justifiable strategies toward finding the proper bookends for a novel.
Whether it’s a story in which the loose ends are tied up or left dangling, readers can be satisfied or dismayed with a proper or ill-fitting story finish. So while we’re at the tail of NaNoWriMo, let’s give respect to how we’re closing out the picture.