Another Way to Write: Start at the End
This is the third in a series of three posts. Don’t worry, you didn’t miss the first two – they haven’t been written yet. I wanted to talk about something that is too often neglected but could arguably be the most important part of writing, and that is “The End.”
We talk a lot about the beginning, and with good reason – it you don’t start off well, you won’t engage your reader and rest of what you’ve written will be a tree falling in a forest with no one to hear it. Without a good ending, you will have wasted your reader’s time.
Sometimes, the end is obvious. Sometimes you are motivated to write because you have an ending in mind.
Do you need to know where you’re going when you start writing? No. Sometimes you need to get started and wander around until you figure it out. If you do that, however, you still need to go someplace before you’re done. As you write, you will discover what you want to write and that will help you find a good ending.
You can also start with just a vague notion of where you’re headed.
As a challenge, or if you’re stuck, try writing the last line first. It’s like starting a maze at the ending. You are less likely to make wrong turns. It can also give you a fresh perspective if you’ve been stuck on how to get going.
Regardless of whether you start with the ending or search around for it, pay attention to it. A compelling ending will make a good story great. It can even redeem a lackluster story. But a great story without a proper ending is like a pretty wrapped box with no present inside.
What makes for a good ending? To an extent you will know it when you read it. A lot of it depends on your point in writing in the first place.
A summary – a neat bundle of highlights to send off the reader. This is often preceded with lines like “in summary,” or “in conclusion,” or, “in short….” Although certainly you can will be more creative than that.
“It is clear that with a long such a varied history, tattoos have always been and will probably always generate controversy within cultures.”
A punchline — build up the story and then “pow” hit the reader with the point of it all.
“And that is why he said ‘Don’t eat the cherries.’”
A period –– just write until you’re done. This is typical of news articles in which the point has been made higher up in the story. It shouldn’t feel as if you’ve run out of steam, just that you’ve given the reader all the info necessary.
The best ending is one that makes people want to go back and read the rest of the story. And that is my final word on the subject – for the moment at least.