Sunday, November 10, 2013

Good Friends, Great Times and Arbitrary Endings.

This weekend, my local RWA chapter, LERA, had our biannual conference. Two of our guests were Jennifer Enderlin, editor for the fabulous Darynda Jones at St. Martins, and NYT Bestselling author Deanna Raybourn. On Friday, Darynda and our two conference organizers, Tammy Baumann and Kari Bovee, made the trip up to Santa Fe. We did lunch and shopping and I got to play tour guide. Such a fun day for me!

The conference yesterday was terrific, too. Deanna's all-day workshop was amazing - with content that fed everyone from our rank newbies to our own NYT Bestsellers. I came home refreshed, re-energized and inspired to crank on this book. Deanna made a point of reminding us that writing is supposed to be fun, that we should enjoy creating.

She is so damn right.

The thing is, while writing should be fun and, by its very nature, must come from a creative place - some parts of the execution are harder than others. Listen to any working writer - and we did have a "what's killing me right now" conversation over lunch yesterday - and they'll immediately tell you which part of writing the story is the most difficult for them, the beginning, middle or end.

Which, not incidentally, is the topic of conversation in the bordello this week.

For me? It's totally the ending.

It's not so much that I can't end the story, as one of the gals complained yesterday. She writes menage and m/m romance and she says she has a hard time with the Happily Ever After (HEA). Life is not that way, she said, so it's hard for her to find an earned HEA that she can believe in.

No, for me it's a natural outgrowth of my writing style. I've talked before about how much I like the metaphor of gardening as a way to describe my worldbuilding approach. When I start a story, I keep adding elements, weaving them together and letting it grow. As I near the end, my flower bed is in full bloom, full and lush.

How do I end something like that?

More, kind of like my friend, my worldview gets in the way. It's not that I don't believe in the HEA as she does, it's that I don't really believe in endings. After all, life always goes on. Even after someone dies, their family, friends and all the world carry on without them. So, to my mind, an ending is an arbitrary thing.

I have been accused more than once of writing cliffhanger endings. My editors, more than once, have suggested that the ending is abrupt and needs more. I really don't mean to do these things - I just have trouble knowing where the ending is. When we had this conversation yesterday, Deanna suggested to my friend that maybe she was trying to end the story in the wrong place, which I thought was a very smart insight.

Though I don't *think* that's why I have trouble. I think I'm just emo about it.

So there I am, writing up to a particular point, where I know I'm planning to halt that story thread and I feel a sense of panic about what's wound up and what isn't. I slow way down at the end, going back into the earlier story lines and tugging threads, making sure they find their way to the end. It can feel agonizing and - worse - I get all focused and emotional, like it's all I can do to push this complete thing out into the world.

And then, all of a sudden, I realize I'm there.

The story is paused and I can leave my characters to go on without me.

Because, you know they do. For me, it's like having to leave the party early and going home to my empty house.

Fortunately, there's always another book to start.


  1. Great post. For me it's the beginning that's difficult: finding the voice of the story. If I can't find it I keep struggling the whole way through.

    1. Oh yes! For me, this part got much easier, the more I settled into my voice as a writer.