By Writing Excuses | December 25, 2011 - 6:58 pm - Posted in Season, Season 6, Theory and Technique

Merry Christmas! Here’s the last episode of Writing Excuses Season 6! We decided to end the season with a discussion of endings. Specifically, we answer cries for help that we’ve gotten. The cries answered include:

  • I’m 90% done and I’ve painted myself into a corner! How do I end this book without resorting to deus ex machina?
  • The best part of this book was 75% of the way through! I need the highlight to be at the END!
  • My outline isn’t working here at the end! How do I know when to abandon it?
  • Help! I want both a satisfying ending and room for a sequel! (hint: we use an object lesson here…)

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. Try it narrated by Stephen Fry, or try out the original radio teleplays!

Writing Prompt: Dan needs a hamburger. What's stopping him? And what is he going to end up with instead of a hamburger? (Hint: it should be more satisfying than the end he had in mind at the beginning...)

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This entry was posted on Sunday, December 25th, 2011 at 6:58 pm and is filed under Season, Season 6, Theory and Technique. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. December 25, 2011 @ 8:55 pm

    Excellent cast! Again, your timing couldn’t have been better. I have a plan now on how to fix my lackluster ending. Thanks!

    Posted by Kim Mainord
  2. December 25, 2011 @ 9:09 pm

    Wow, Mary’s suggestion was brilliant. It seems like I’ve been so focused on avoiding deus ex machina in the past that I didn’t realize I CAN resort to it and then go back and layer it in like you said.


    Posted by Ben Rosenstock
  3. December 25, 2011 @ 10:17 pm

    Mary is generally brilliant, yes.

    In one of our long-ago ‘casts Brandon said that deus ex machina is just a failure to properly foreshadow things. This trick for writing an ending is an obvious-in-retrospect outgrowth of that principle.

    Posted by Howard Tayler
  4. December 26, 2011 @ 9:33 am

    […] Tweet of the Day: Writing Excuses 6.30: Help I Can’t End My Book! […]

  5. December 26, 2011 @ 9:38 pm

    This podcast made me hungry. I think I’m going to buy some Thai food.

    I liked the advice to just write the sucky ending anyway… then fix it later. I keep forgetting that advice even though I often preach it.

    Posted by Rachel Udin
  6. December 27, 2011 @ 8:54 am

    […] Writing Excuses team discusses endings, ending problems, and how to fix them. (Link) Share this:FacebookShareStumbleUponRedditPrintEmailDigg This entry was posted in Writing and […]

  7. December 27, 2011 @ 9:57 am

    One of the greatest things that this podcast does is to continually remove the mystery and mysticism of writing. This is another great contributor to that cause. When I was first writing, I felt like using an outline was somehow cheating, the second of my development found me slavishly holding to my outline. I have finally come to realize that writing is a very layered process, much like sculpting or wood carving. You just keep working at it until you get it to where you want it.

    Posted by Corey LeMoine
  8. December 27, 2011 @ 1:23 pm

    What a great ending to a great season and a great year. I love the “write it anyway” advice. Sometimes I get myself into a corner and just want to throw everything out when doing so would probably be throwing the baby out with the bath water. It’s good to remember that we don’t paint ourselves into corners. We pencil ourselves into them, and we can eraser and pencil our way back out again.

    Posted by Talmage
  9. December 27, 2011 @ 10:16 pm

    @Talmage LUXURY.

    So much ink. So much ink so early in my books.


    Posted by Howard Tayler
  10. December 27, 2011 @ 10:20 pm

    The last word? Well, or at least a transcript of it…

    Posted by Mike Barker
  11. December 28, 2011 @ 9:09 am


    It’s not my fault you chose a serial story telling method that leaves you with paint oozing everywhere. All the same, if you’re painting yourself into corners, I haven’t noticed. No pity for you, Howard. You’re doing fine.

    Posted by Talmage
  12. December 28, 2011 @ 4:25 pm

    […] new Writing Excuses is out, so I listened to that while I was working.  Today was about how to nail your ending.  A friend had recently had the very problem they mentioned in the podcast.  Basically, […]

  13. December 30, 2011 @ 7:37 am


    Is that the other writing podcast? Writing Without Pity? (Or maybe Revising Without Pity: the podcast about fixing it in rewrite and how to kill your darlings.)

    Still, that’s something they cover here, so maybe we don’t need a different podcast….

    Posted by John
  14. December 30, 2011 @ 8:13 am

    Should have said this before.

    If you want other suggestions, including an earlier and more full discussion of the quality of full-circleness (okay, resonance and resolution) that Dan mentioned in the podcast, try Ansen Dibble’s book Plot. (I’m afraid I bounced off James Scott Bell’s book on plot, so I can’t comment on it.)

    Posted by John
  15. January 5, 2012 @ 8:55 am

    I agree with Ben – Mary’s Deus ex machina advice…brilliant!

    Great podcast guys. But can you do middles please. I’m at the 45% mark and I’m flagging.

    Middles, middles, middles.

    How do you bridge the gap from act 1 to act 2 and get to the good bit?

    My protag is just coasting. I’m not an outliner, so I’m currently writing blind, with a blindfold in a really, really dark place and my eyeballs just plopped out and rolled away…they make a squelchy marble noise, in case you’re wondering.


    Posted by Chella
  16. January 5, 2012 @ 6:04 pm

    Psst? Chella? You might find Kate Paulk’s series useful. Here’s one about the middle of the pants (there are more on that site, too)

    Posted by Mike Barker
  17. January 5, 2012 @ 7:56 pm

    I’m struggling with this right now. I’m re-writing a book from a first draft on my blog right now. I originally wrote up to the end but not the end itself. While I had something in mind, by the time I got there it just didn’t feel right, so it’s still dangling there, taunting me. I still don’t know how I’m going to end it, but this ‘cast gives me some helpful ideas. In particular, I think I may just go ahead and write it anyway as suggested and see how it falls out and go from there. Once again, thanks for the timely advice!

    Posted by Jeff Whitaker
  18. January 8, 2012 @ 9:23 am

    Psst, Mike Barker – thanks for the link. Very useful.

    Just finished an online writing retreat and I think I’m back in the game…for now….

    Posted by Chella
  19. January 29, 2012 @ 4:01 am

    […] gave us two great episodes to chew on over the holidays at Writing Excuses. Character Foils and Help, I Can’t End My Book! Please, someone get Mary some […]

  20. October 14, 2012 @ 12:05 pm

    Really great cast. I’m so glad that I have this resource I can come to whenever I find myself in a predicament. Thank you all for doing this!

    Posted by Zach
  21. November 15, 2012 @ 7:43 pm

    One thing I used to do, to help me with endings is to right a beginning, and then write a logical ending. And then write down the necessary steps to get to the ending. Then again ending it isn’t as much of an issue for me, as just finishing it by continuing.

    Posted by Sarah
  22. September 2, 2013 @ 1:10 pm

    […] resolution the Bill and Ted Method, named for Brandon Sanderson’s practice of writing “remember a bucket” in his manuscripts where foreshadowing is called […]