Essay–Finding The End

I’ve been working on my novel Flames for what seems like forever. I stopped writing it to work on The Black and then stopped writing on it again to get The Black: Arrival written and published. On top of that, I had to put off finishing the book one more time to finish Daemons of Garaaga. That’s a LOT of delays.

And that’s not even the whole story, so to speak. I wrote nearly 20k words before I dumped them and started over. Writers hate dumping that many words and I’m certainly no exception. But as the story grew in my mind, I knew I was on the wrong track. So a little scorched earth was the only way to go.

That said, the “new” version of the book languished at 45k words for a very long time. So jumping back into it after being away so long was rough. It took some time, but I finally managed to find my way back into the story.

Now I’m “approaching” the end. It’s apocalyptic for the characters and it’ll truly live up to the “we don’t believe in happy endings” slogan. But I can’t just end the book. Why? Because I’m in love.

I know how the book ends. Or at least I did. Now, I’m not so sure. I made the age-old mistake of wanting to get to know two more characters. In the process, I’ve added scenes I hadn’t originally planned. That means more loose ends to tie up. And more obstacles to overcome. Both psychological and just plain physical. In other words, regular old boring human problems. And inhuman ones to boot.

When I start finding these loose ends, and they lead to more scenes, the book gets longer. I run the risk of going off track. I also run the risk of adding boring scenes and the necessity of fixing the pacing once I’m done. It’s a gamble. And here’s why it’s worse.

If I want to make my deadline for The Black: Outbreak, I have to get started on July 1st. Shit, that’s only 4 days away, kids. So how the hell do I wrap up Flames before then? Good question. I don’t have the answer, either.

Finding the end for any story can be difficult. In suspense/thriller/horror books, the end is usually a massive conflagration of all the characters and all the conflicts coming together in a huge trainwreck. But after the proverbial dust settles, you have to write the “actual” ending where you wrap up loose ends the characters didn’t know existed. They have to somehow get closure. As does the reader.

And sometimes that’s the trickiest bit. Some of my readers absolutely loathe my endings. Some say I don’t even know how to write them. Hell, they might even be right. Perhaps I have Stephen King syndrome where every ending is unfulfilling and at times seems a little too neat. I like vagueness in my endings because I never know when I want to revisit those characters. Those of you who have read/listened to my novel Closet Treats know what I’m talking about. Two characters were left on ice. On purpose. Why? I have plans.

The characters in Flames might end up in the same situation. We’ll see. But I can definitely tell you I’m in love with these people and I want to give them the book they deserve and make sure I can use them or their stories in future tales.

Finding the ending is a constant battle when you fall in love. And doing the horrible things you need to do becomes that much more difficult. Four days. Four f’ing days to find the ending so I can start the next book without delay and clear this one off my plate. It’s a terrifying place to be because I’ve never tried to match this kind of schedule before. And what am I doing at this moment? Procrastinating. Planning. Giving myself a break before I dive back in.

That said? I guess it’s time to get there. You may not see Flames for quite some time. We have a publishing schedule. We have plans in motion. And Flames will be the first experiment in those plans. With any luck, this will go well. If it doesn’t, so what? I have other books to write and publish. And I have to keep grinding and make those happen to realize my dream of doing this full time. So for now, I’ll stop this little bit of meandering into my psyche and get the hell back to work.

4 comments on “Essay–Finding The End
  1. Chris Bauer says:

    In all sincerity, thanks for sharing this challenge. I’m glad I’m not the only writer to get attached to their characters during the writing process. Causes NO END of trouble trying to complete the work. Best wishes and thanks again.

    • Paul Cooley says:

      If writing was easy, everyone would do it. If finding an ending was easy, there wouldn’t be so many terrible books/movies out there for the same reason. It’s a struggle and will always be one. Just find your way through like the rest of us. 🙂

  2. Aleleeinn says:

    Closet Treats. Not a happy ending, but one that had a too real feeling for me. They couldn’t got through all that hell and not have some ugly scars inside and out. And although I rooted for them throughout the book, I thought the ending was more honest than letting them walk away and live their lives with the grief and horror as a supportive unit.
    No, they were both flawed from the beginning and they kicked some serious ass. They did all that a human could and more and that wasn’t enough. The story was tragic, and the ending fit the tale.
    I know who that ice cream man serves. I thought the ending was open-ended in some ways, but where you left them was IMHO a realistic ending. And reality doesn’t neatly tie up the strings and let us exit at the perfect time.
    I reread “The Kilimanjaro Device” yesterday. I love Bradbury’s stories, but he so often gave us just that–the happy ending that never happens in reality. The stories give hope and a happy feeling, but life has taught me otherwise.
    I’ve read all that you have written. I’m confident you will find the right ending.

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  1. […] week I wrote an essay called “Finding the end” about my trials and tribulations with my current work in progress. I am happy to report I found the […]

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