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Endings

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Tea Drinker Extraordinaire
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I have loads of half written PBs without endings. Sometimes I know what the ending should be but just can't work out how to get there. A lot of the time I don't even know that much. I think up ideas for stories, characters with problems, and start writing. I seem to get about two-thirds of the way through and then...

Literally, my mss all say "..." :-)

I am sure that this problem is mostly due to my own mental block and I do have a handful of finished stories, so I know I CAN write endings. But it is a pattern that keeps repeating and it really slows down my progress.

Can you suggest any techniques, tricks, magic spells or useful articles/blogs that might help me tackle this head on and get me over that hump at the end of the story?
#1 - April 06, 2015, 09:32 AM

I've often heard that in order to find your ending, look to your beginning. Is there a problem introduced early on that needs to be solved?

Also, sometimes I have to distance myself from my stories for a while. If I can't figure out an ending, I put the ms away for a month or so. Then when I come back and read it with fresh eyes, an ending sometimes occurs to me.

Good luck!
#2 - April 06, 2015, 10:15 AM
ALIENS GET THE SNIFFLES TOO! Candlewick, 2017
LOUD LULA, Two Lions 2015
CALIFORNIA HISTORY FOR KIDS, CRP
FARMER MCPEEPERS Rising Moon

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When I get stuck I go to Barnes & Noble and read a bunch of new PBs, and/or I re-read books on craft, which almost always helps pinpoint where my story is stuck, and jiggles ideas loose. One of my favorites is Ann Whitford Paul's Writing Picture Books.

Best wishes!
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#3 - April 06, 2015, 10:34 AM
Ten Clever Ninjas (picture book, Clear Fork Publishing, 2019)
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I sometimes freewrite a bunch of options hoping one leads to something worthwhile.
I also like brainstorming with my critique group. I've also had some pretty good ideas in the shower or while drifting off to sleep.  :goodluck
#4 - April 06, 2015, 10:42 AM
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Do you think it might be that you fear that once you finish, you'll feel compelled to submit your work and are fearful of rejection? I've seen other writers who have this problem. If so, I'd just write endings even if they're not perfect so that you will have finished some stories. Then get them out there (at least to critique groups, but eventually to agents and editors too). Once you have a few rejections under your belt (and most authors have quite a few), the rejections will get easier and you may get some acceptances too.

If my armchair psychology is completely off-base, please ignore and try to forgive me!
#5 - April 06, 2015, 11:28 AM
Author of SILVER PONY RANCH and ZEKE MEEKS series

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You wouldn't tell a joke if you didn't know the punchline--Everything else is set-up to it, and whether you can lead us toward it, or distract us enough to surprise us with it.
If you can do that, it's easier to "work backwards", as the overused advice always has it.
#6 - April 06, 2015, 12:33 PM
Know the movies.  Show the movies.  Start the revolution:
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All great answers here and I agree with everyone.  The one that resonates with me the most, however, is to go back to the beginning.  That is where you set up the promise of what is going to happen. Make sure the premise (or promise) is a strong one.  I struggle with this exact same thing and this is where I see my problem to be most of the time.

#7 - April 06, 2015, 12:53 PM
Legend of The Beaver's Tail '15
Schnitzel: A Cautionary Tale for Lazy Louts,  '16
Moo La La! Cow Goes Shopping, '17
Piece by Piece, '17

I think you should try outlining/plotting first before you jump in and start writing. I sometimes start by writing the numbers 1-15 and then I write a small, general note after each number (page) of what will happen. Or if you want to keep it simple, just make a note of the beginning, middle, and end.

I do have a few unfinished pb's, as well, so I know what you mean! Usually happens when I don't plot first. Or sometimes I realize the original ending doesn't actually work. In that case, I put it aside for a few months and come back to it.

I'm also reminded of this great post by Kelly Bingham on Tara's blog. You might find it helpful! (Esp. when it gets to "Directions") http://taralazar.com/2014/11/03/piboidmo-day-3-kelly-bingham/
#8 - April 06, 2015, 01:15 PM
« Last Edit: April 06, 2015, 02:38 PM by DianaM »
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Lynda, lots of good advice here.

Think about the problem the child is trying to solve ... and then let the kid solve it.
What obstacles are in his way?
What does the child learn?
How does he change?

Good luck getting to the end of your stories.
Vijaya
#9 - April 06, 2015, 02:16 PM
BOUND (Bodach Books, 2018)
TEN EASTER EGGS (Scholastic, 2015)
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Author of over 60 books and 60 magazine pieces

I'm just jumping in to say that I remember reading something (or a couple of things?) of yours last year, perhaps around October, and truly enjoyed it/them. Can't offer anything except best wishes that you find a way to run with it.  :dogwalk



#10 - April 06, 2015, 02:48 PM
Imagination is more important than knowledge. Einstein.

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This is the hardest thing for me too. That's why, usually, if I don't know the end, I don't even start anymore.

I agree with what everyone else said. Awhile back, an editor told me that the end of a pb ms. wasn't working, that it was flat. Finally (a year later) I found a way to change the beginning, wrote another end, and now she's saying it works.

It also helps to read other people's picture books. Sometimes that will jiggle an idea loose.

The only thing I'd add is to try to reverse your reader's expectations. There's a pb (don't remember the title) that features a little girl preparing for a reading lesson with her grandmother, and the reader is set up to expect that the grandmother is teaching the little girl to read. But at the end, we find out that, no, it's the little girl who's teaching the grandmother to read. Very nice story.
#11 - April 06, 2015, 03:05 PM
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I have nothing to add, but I certainly can commiserate. Sometimes I have problems with endings as well. Some great ideas here.
#12 - April 06, 2015, 07:14 PM
Making metaphors out of molehills for over thirty years.

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These are all fantastic suggestions, thank you! I'm going to write them all down on an index card and use them to tackle some of my WIPs.

Diana, thanks for that link - that's a great post.

Debby, thanks for the psychoanalysis! Yes, I think that's a factor, although I have been subbing and the rejections are already piling up! I do think I have a problem committing to a version of a story - there are so many ways a story can be written and so many possibilities for plot and tone and structure that I worry about choosing the 'right' one (and that of course directly relates to worrying what others will think of it).

Also, from reading all your replies last night and thinking about my WIPs, I realised that the ones I'm stuck on don't have very well defined premises. That's probably at the root of all my problems so thank you for helping me to identify that! I'll sort that out. :-)
#13 - April 07, 2015, 12:03 AM

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I find that critique partners can help with some of these. First, you get in the habit of showing your work to others. Second, a good group has good ideas and can help you see what your story needs to make it work in the best way possible. Third, they commiserate with you on those rejections. Just knowing I'm not in it alone helps.
#14 - April 13, 2015, 08:59 AM
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That's a good point Debbie. I don't have a critique group yet. Sometimes working on my own makes me feel like I'm losing my mind!  :gaah
#15 - April 13, 2015, 09:06 AM

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If you're looking for a more concrete exercise then I might suggest brainstorming. Pick a number, let's say 20. Now, sit with a notebook or in front of a blank word doc (DO NOT open your manuscript.) Now think about the beginning of your manuscript. What is the goal of your MC? What is his/her initial motivation? Where does he/she begin. Now, jot down 20 (30, 40, 63, 100, 500 whatever number you want) WHAT IF ending ideas. What if this happened? What if that happened? Write a funny one. Write a sad one. Write the obvious one. Write an unexpected one. Don't judge them. Just write them down until you hit your number. Put them away for a day or two or thirty. Pull out the list. Hopefully there's something there that resonates with you.

Brainstorming is an awesome creative tool that few use properly. The trick is to not judge, just let your mind explore the possibilities.

Anyway, hope that helps!
#16 - April 14, 2015, 05:49 PM
BOB AND JOSS GET LOST! (HarperCollins Feb. 2017)
BOB AND JOSS TAKE A HIKE! (HArperCollins 2018)

www.petermccleery.com
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A number of alternative endings might be an option, although if I know the ending I usually try to stick to it. Like pmccleery says, brainstorming is excellent. Or even just carrying a pen and paper with you when you leave home can be of use. I am never without it.
Possibly sit down and interview your character. Where do they see themselves going from here? It is all about them, after all. It's helped me on occasion.
One thing: I honestly do believe that if we weren't all a bit mad we would not sit and write. That's partly what creates a great character. Everyone has the potential to go a bit potty and I think each human likes to identify with it. Even if they refuse to admit it.
#17 - April 15, 2015, 04:24 AM

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I agree with the posters above.  I usually go back to the beginning of my story to help me with the end.  If that doesn't work, head out to the library and start reading :)

Best of luck to you!  I'm sure the endings will eventually come to you.
#18 - April 17, 2015, 08:22 AM

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Thanks Peter, Laura and, er, elephants! I've been trying brainstorming my WIP and it's given lots of potential endings, some of which work better than others :-) just got to choose one now!
#19 - April 19, 2015, 10:41 AM

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