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Start with the Beginning AND the Ending

This is a piece of advice you hear a lot from seasoned writers. I know I’ve heard my share of it, but to be honest I didn’t really apply it in my work until recently. I am a very detailed outliner, so I know from the start where will I go and where will I end. But recently, while working on two novels, I found myself in a strange predicament.

I knew how the story should go, but I couldn’t go on with it. It wasn’t really writer’s block, I had all the scenes planned out, I knew exactly what should happen to the smallest detail, but I couldn’t move on with it.

I concluded it was writer’s fatigue. I’ve been working on two novels at the same time while trying to sprinkle a short story every now and then, and posts on my blog as well. I think my brain just refused to go on. That’s when I turned to the technique I want to discuss here: write your ending as soon as you write your beginning.

How does that translate in practical advice for a novel: After you write your first chapter, or after you reach your first conflict, take a break and write the ending. Not all the ending, just the important part. It could be a chapter, a scene, or a series of scenes.

How does that help, you will ask? Let me tell you what it did for me, and I think that it is a pure psychological ‘trick,’ a writer’s Placebo, if you will.

I sat down and I wrote the last 3 scenes of my novel. They were the scenes where everything I worked over those 100k pages came together. Plot lines were closed, mysteries revealed, characters’ quests concluded. People shook hands and said goodbye.

As soon as I did that, somehow, deep down inside of me, I felt like I almost finished the book. It felt as if by the simple act of writing that final part, I have managed to close a circle and everything just fell into place.

I came to the realization that I CAN finish the book, and I proved to myself that the ending is in fact possible. After all, I wrote it.

Once I did that, it was as if a dark veil had been lifted off my eyes. I started writing, filling up the gaps between the point where I was stuck and that new ending. And it worked.

My brain somehow accepted the fact that this is just a matter of completing something that is almost done. But having that ending there — that was just like a little carrot I need to see dangling in front of my eyes. A reason to chase. It helped me make that final leap and pull out of that frozen place.

It felt good.

Will it work for you? I can’t tell. But try it out. I think this will work even if you are not an outliner. If you are a seat-off-your-pants kind of writer and you simply write by going with the flow, this doesn’t prevent you from writing an ending. As a matter of fact, your final ending can be completely different from the one you pre-wrote, but its goal is just to ‘trick’ your mind, to show you that the ending is in sight.

It was the same for me: my final ending was different than what I wrote. Not in substance, but in delivery — as I said, I am an outliner. But in the end it served its purpose. It gave me the confidence that I can finish the book and it allowed me to read my ending out loud and have that fulfilling feeling you get when you reach the ending of a book.

And, by the way, you can work this technique in short stories as well. The short story is just an extremely scaled down novel, so scale down your beginning and ending. Maybe your ending will be one or two sentences, or a paragraph, but the results will be the same…

So, there you have it. One tip that I hope will help you move on with your writing, when you get stuck.

I am curious to know if you ever employed this technique yourself and if so, how did it work for you?

Best of luck,

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Iulian Ionescu

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