By Writing Excuses | April 16, 2014 - 8:55 am - Posted in Season 9, Theory and Technique

What do you do when the ending you’ve planned won’t be emotionally satisfying? You know, when you’ve discovered during the course of writing the story that you’re making promises to the reader that this particular ending won’t keep?

Mary talks about her recent experience with this exact problem in an as-yet-unpublished project. Howard talks about how he had to come up with a new set of concluding moments for Longshoreman of the Apocalypse (which you can read for free here.) Dan weighs the difficulties he’s having with a current project, and how he had to brainstorm what the story was supposed to be accomplishing, rather than simply what the plot was.

We examine the various tools that we use to solve this problem, which probably offers you some motivation to keep filling your own toolbox.



Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Vortex: Insignia, Book 2, by S.J. Kincaid, narrated by Lincoln Hoppe (Small world! Howard worked with Lincoln Hoppe twenty years ago, running sound for The Garrens Comedy Troupe while Lincoln was on stage being funny and amazing. You should let Lincoln read to you!)

Writing Prompt: Take a story you've already written, and write a completely different ending for it.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 at 8:55 am and is filed under Season 9, 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. April 16, 2014 @ 11:39 am

    Sounds a lot like the book I’m writing now – I had a plan for it, but as I wrote, I realized that there were a lot of things I needed to change in the story which obliterated the ending I had planned. So now I get to change and make adjustments as I go. My poor poor writing group has to deal practically every meeting with “So by the way, I will have explained this part/introduced this character/changed this in previous chapters.”
    But I’ve decided I can’t go back and change them yet because I need to get to the ending first, partly because of what you said at the end about finishing, and partly because I’d like to know all the stuff I need to change and prevent myself from changing more on my second draft.

    Posted by Elizabeth
  2. April 16, 2014 @ 12:49 pm

    I’ve known about Writing Excuses for years, but it wasn’t until recently that I started listening on a regular bases. I love that you have old episodes archived so I can go back.

    This episode, though, I even took notes!

    You see- last week I finally finished the first draft of my first novel. Those last two chapters I knew were a mess. I fussed over them and deleted and rewrote passages for a long time. Finally I just plowed through to get it done. It was an information dump and not at all satisfying. I should be elated, right? I finished!

    Instead, I’ve felt the impending burden of revision hanging over my head- especially knowing that I need to revise the ending.

    But you’ve given me some things to think about and things to notice as I start my revisions.

    Seriously… in this place and time, your advice couldn’t have been more perfect! Thank you so much! This was exactly what I needed.

    Posted by Regina
  3. April 16, 2014 @ 5:27 pm

    Totally agree on flexibility. I always start with an outline, but since I’ve started draft 1 I’ve actually combined two of the major characters in a way that significantly alters the dynamic of the others and the events of the ending. And even in the first 20,000 words I can see how much stronger and tighter of a story it’ll be than my original plan.

    Posted by Joe Mazzola
  4. April 16, 2014 @ 8:19 pm

    Hm. The book I keep fleeing from edits of may have needed me to hear this podcast, since the biggest flaw my alpha reader had with it (rightly so upon examining the book) was that the time between the climax and the ending was too abrupt with not enough wind down to land the plane so to speak. Hmmmmm.

    Posted by Patrick Sullivan
  5. April 17, 2014 @ 8:55 pm

    Very helpful. I had to ask myself if the ending planned for my current project fulfilled the promises I set up earlier on. The answer is a resounding Nope! As I enter the back third of the novel, my focus will be on fulfilling those promises. Thank you!

    Posted by Stephen R
  6. April 19, 2014 @ 4:53 pm

    Prefect timing with this podcast. 😉 I just realized that I needed to make some serious changes to the outline for my last few chapters of my novel.

    Posted by Tovath
  7. April 30, 2014 @ 10:47 pm

    New endings, halfway… Was that a left or a right turn at Albuquerque?

    What? Oh. Yes. Here are the words, ready for reading!

    Posted by 'nother Mike