I'm sure I've talked about this topic before, but it was just too appropriate today, given the state of the manuscript. I'm popping out of "the dark" to talk about beginnings, and endings.
There's a Stephen King quote that says, "The scariest part is always just before you start." I respectfully disagree. I love beginnings. I love those first few frenzied weeks of note-taking, staying up listening to music, researching, diving into new characters, new locales, new stories. In the beginning, the blood is up, the creativity is flowing, and each day at the computer is a delightful discovery. It's easy as breathing to start a new story.
And then comes the middle. That tough slog through the heart of the story. Muscles pulled, headaches earned, nails bitten down to the quick.
And then...then it's the end. For me, the end is the scary part. For reasons:
1) It takes more scenes than you think. There's always this image in your head, this design of the final sequences, and in your excitement, you overlook a few loose ends here and there. Then you spend a few extra days fleshing out the bones of your ending. Don't be too impatient to do this! Today was my personal deadline for finishing the principal writing, and I'm sitting beside a list of scenes I still need to work into the finale. Oops. Oh well. My advice: don't start cutting before you've finished the thing. Keep adding all the ingredients for a powerful ending, and cut later if you feel you need to. But while you're drafting, don't leave anything out.
2) Endings are delicate. Beginnings are all about absorbing new information; there's wiggle room. You're still learning the characters and the stories. (Not that this gives you free rein to phone it in.) But the ending is where the points are driven home. The ending is where you leave your readers; where you walk away and leave the characters to their own devices. The ending is where the emotional continuity leaves us. It's where the light dims, the curtain draws, and we walk away feeling satisfied...hopefully.
Endings weigh heavy on my mind, and it's why I've reached a point where I refuse to give firm release dates. I'm my own boss, without a corporation to answer to, so I have the luxury of tweaking until it's just right. Today was my deadline, yes, but at the end of it, there's still more I want to accomplish with this book, and so I'm going to take another day.
That's my advice to writers: take the extra day. Put in the extra time. It's the ending that counts. Take your time with it.