2015-Starting with “The End”


Hello Reading Friend!  Hope you had a great holiday season.

I appreciated the change in routine, but have to admit, I’m glad to be back in the swing of things.  And the beginning of each bright new year brings such hope and promise to the weeks and months ahead.  None of that “I’m so behind” kind of stress.

So if the beginning is wonderful, why would I write a post on “the end?”  I do this, because I like to envision the best outcome for a year and work my way backwards.  For example, by this time next year, I plan to have not only Pot Shots written, but a second novel well under way. In order to do that, I have a task list all set to go. Don’t want to bore you with the details, but one of the things I’d like to do in my writing is focus on putting better chapter endings in place.

Why focus on chapter endings?

Picture of book with "The End" on it

Whether at the end of a chapter or a book, there needs to be a feeling of completion.

As one author pointed out in her blog, chapter endings are a great marketing tool.  Amazon will often put endings in as part of their “Look Inside” feature. If you can make a reader feel compelled to go to the next page and it isn’t there, then they’ll supposedly buy your book to find out what’s next.

Another reason to focus on chapter endings is that there are rules in writing that help you pull your reader along and the chapter ending is full of them:

  • Never wrap up all the questions in one chapter without posing another to help the reader stay engaged
  • Never end a chapter with the protagonist falling asleep
  • Never give your reader the ability to put the book down at the end of a chapter–they may never pick it up again.

The chapter ending hasn’t really found its way into writing books yet, thank goodness.  I have so many books on writing, that I feel the dissected frog is more and more like Humpty Dumpty–all apart with no way to put him back together again. Yet, the chapter ending is hugely important, not only for drawing a reader on, but for satisfying the reader if they truly need to stop.

One writer, editor Beth Hill, compared chapter endings to the god, Janus, who looks both backward (finishing up questions from the beginning of the chapter) and forward (posing new questions for the reader to ponder). I like that concept a lot.

One of the reasons why I’m looking so hard at chapter endings is because I’m currently reading “A is for Alibi,” by Sue Grafton.  The book, set in the mid 1980’s, is full of what we might today consider “no-no’s” in writing–descriptions that go on forever, characters that only pop into the work every so often so it’s easy to forget who they are, and chapter endings with Kinsey Malone falling asleep (really!).  Yet, I am drawn to the book, and am enjoying a great read.  Ms. Grafton may have broken the rules, but the book works.  Her frog has gotten up to jump another day.  While I will continue to study chapter endings throughout my year, I will keep this example in mind and remember my favorite of all writing guidelines: RULES ARE MEANT TO BE BROKEN!

WRITING PROMPT

If you enjoy journaling or creative writing, I’m going to try to start making up some writing prompts at least once a month.  Here’s today’s:

Pick up a book. Any book will do. Now open it to a random page, close your eyes and literally “dive in.” Go ahead, no one’s watching. Squish your face right into the binding or onto the page.  Spend a couple of minutes exploring your book by smell, touch and emotion alone. When you’ve done that, write down your thoughts about that book–what did you smell? Where in time did the experience take you? What did the pages feel like?

What will happen when books are no more, and everyone reads off their tablets and phones? What will happen when bound books–their weight, their smell, their ties to antiquity disappear? It’s 2015.  When do you think the last book will be printed? Why?

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4 thoughts on “2015-Starting with “The End”

  1. I love that one of the chapters you read ended with someone falling asleep. I agree, some of the best books break the rules. It makes me think of Virginia Woolf, her more experimental novels are so good and really break the conventional narrative rules.

    • Hi Letizia. Happy New Year. Thanks for your observation. Virginia Woolf is another author I need to get to know better. Thanks for reminding me of an overdue visit to my library. Have a great week.

  2. Grafton devotes much time in her A to Z books describing the mundane things Kinsey is doing, whether it be cleaning her tiny place, making a pickle sandwich, or reading a book. And yet her novels are addictive and I always want to keep turning the pages. I think through this description, she’s made Kinsey a character we feel we know, and that makes us keep reading. But I agree–a great chapter ending that leaves something open-ended is a wonderful way to get readers to stay up past their bedtime.

    • Hi Carrie. Thanks for a wonderful start to the New Year. I agree with you. Not only does Kinsey become more real, but I become totally anchored in place and time with the descriptions (plus, I don’t feel to guilty if I “speed read” through a paragraph or two on occasion). And if you have any chapter endings you’d recommend, I’d love to hear from you. Have a wonderful week, and thanks for spending time here.

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