Things other writers do that annoy me, #3

Posted: October 15, 2013 in Regarding writing
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The third in my occasional series about things other writers do that get my back up!

Today: Speedy and lacklustre conclusions.

You know what it’s like, you’ve read through 400 pages of story, seen characters grow and evolve, seen them overcome (or not) obstacles in their way, but you’ve reached the finale, the final confrontation with the bad guy. Perhaps they’re going to go toe to toe at last with the supernatural forces that have plagued them throughout the book, or maybe the hero is about to declare his love for the heroine. Whatever it is, you’ve waited for this moment, waited to see how things all come together in the end, how the author will resolve all the issues…

And then within the space of a page he or she has their heroine hit the villain over the head with a plant pot, or the hero throws a bible and the seemingly indestructible vampire-Chihuahua barks its last and crumbles to dust.

And you’re left thinking; is that it? That was a bit easy, wasn’t it? I mean, why didn’t they try throwing a bible at the blood sucking miniature dog before?

As someone who’s close to finishing his fourth novel I can understand that there are two forces at work here. The first comes down to planning. Sometimes, however well mapped out your book is, you might not decide how it’s all going to end until… well until the end, but I’m still not convinced that you can’t take a little time to come up with something better than “And then he shot her. The end.”

The second factor relates to writing a novel being somewhat akin to running a marathon, only slightly less sweaty and if you need the loo you don’t have to pee in the street. Of course I’m sure there are some very sweaty authors out there who love nothing more than relieving themselves in the gutter, but I digress…writing a novel is usually a long process. Notwithstanding the Stephen Kings of this world who can reputedly knock out a book in three days (Running Man) for the most part writing a novel is a process that will take the average writer many months at least (My first novel took my 6 months, my second about a year, the third almost two years and I’m currently 14 months into the fourth) and like a marathon, for the most part it’s a matter of keeping your head down and keeping going, not thinking of the 25 miles or six months ahead, taking each step, each paragraph, at a time.

But in every marathon must come that moment when you enter the final straight, and can see the finishing line up ahead, and you’re so tired, so utterly weary, that all you want to do is reach that bloody finish line as fast as you can, break the tape and finally stop running, have someone wrap a silver blanket round you and sit down with a nice cup of tea!

And so you pick up the pace, despite everything that’s gone before, despite all your dedication and focus, you sprint the last hundred yards, and I think it’s the same for writers. However much you’ve enjoyed writing up to this point, however invested you are in your characters, by the time you can see the end is in sight you just want to get it over with, and, truth be told, you probably hate your novel a bit by this point.

Like I say I can understand it, and frankly with my current novel being so close to the end I can taste it (hmm, strawberries) it does make me want to just wrap things up!

I think writers do have an obligation to the readers though, to give them a satisfying conclusion. Of course it isn’t always possible, and sometimes you do have to go where the story leads, and of by the end of a book the reader might well be feeling like the author, however much they’ve enjoyed it they probably want it to end too, and a seventeen chapter finale where the hero defuses a nuclear bomb and wrestles a gorilla before finally having a swordfight with the villain on top of the London Eye might be just as annoying as a more truncated ending.

But still, if you can spend a chapter early on describing a car chase, is it too much to ask for more than a paragraph in conclusion?

Anyway, I must go now. Need to finish my novel…

…er…does anyone know how to defuse a nuclear bomb?

  1. You’re so right! And I’m afraid I may be guilty of this as well. It’s just so nice to have the end–ANY end–in sight that I can lose the patience to wait for the RIGHT one to come along. (Hm, now it’s starting to sound like dating…)

  2. neil says:

    Isn’t this every dean cootts novel?

  3. starkers70 says:

    You could be right, Neil!

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