Skip to main content

The Ending

Never, ever revise your opening chapter, your opening line, or the opening scene to your story if you haven't already written then ending. Mike Stackpole once told me, "Would you rather thirty chapters of a finished novel? Or thirty revisions of chapter one?" And he's right.

This is probably the advice I give to people more often than anything else.

Writers will ask about when they know how to move on from their first chapter, or they'll ask how to tell if they're opening is right, but there is no answering that question if there is no ending.

Unless you know exactly the bullseye you're aiming at, you're not going to be able to make the fine adjustments in your aim at the beginning of the process. That's the best part of writing. It's like archery in that you are aiming at the center of a target, but once you hit the target the first time, you don't have to shoot another arrow. You can go back to the beginning and readjust your aim and try again, seeing how close you came to that red dot in the middle.

That didn't do the trick?

Guess what! You can do it again.

And again. And again. You're always working with that same arrow.

That's what's great about writing novels. You never have to put a book out without putting your best foot forward and you always know you're going to hit the target you're aiming at.

As far as beginnings go, I do my best to not start a book until I know exactly what the ending is. Then, when I get to the end, all of the organic revelations I had during the drafting process will come to light and I'll have a much better idea of how things come together. Then I get to go back and make sure the beginning supports that point in ways I would have never even realized were possible if I hadn't finished.

Then I do that over and over and over again.

I do the same thing with my columns for City Weekly or Big Shiny Robot! I don't start writing the first sentence until I've worked out what the last sentence in the piece is. Then, writing it doesn't take so long and rewriting is even faster.

So, that's my two cents for this week.

If you're looking for some of my other work across the print media and Internet, my latest piece for Salt Lake City Weekly is about why it's not so bad that our favorite superhero movies don't win Oscars.

I'll also have my full schedule for Star Wars Celebration posted next week and we'll see what other irons have completed their time in the fire. In the meantime, I'm hard at work, still drafting new short stories and working every day on the revision of "The Aeronaut."

And don't forget to check out any of my books, drop reviews of them on Amazon or Goodreads, and follow me on twitter!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Anatomy of an Opening: The End of the Affair

Instead of breaking down a scene from a movie, this time we'll break down the opening of a book. (Previously, I've done scenes from City Lights, Citizen Kane, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  I've also broken down the opening to Starship Troopers.

Graham Greene's The End of the Affair is absolutely one of my favorite books. The writing is lyrical and story heart-wrenching and beautiful. Greene's style of writing is such that he always has me gripped, whether it's the beginning of the book or the end. And he shows you so much about the character in his opening lines.

So, here are the first two paragraphs from the book:
A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which, to look ahead. I say 'one chooses' with the inaccurate pride of a professional writer who - when he has been seriously noted at all - has been praised for his technical ability, but d…

50+ Rules and Tips About Writing I've Collected Over the Years

I have twenty or thirty notebooks and journals filled up with snippets about writing, my plans for stories, bits of dialogue, interesting ideas, plotlines, scraps of short stories, and a dozen other things. I carry one with me at all times and it takes me a couple of months to fill one up.

One of the things I've kept in one of my notebooks was a collection of writing tips and rules that I've collected over the years in my travels. From teachers, from books, from wherever. Most of my career has been spent screenwriting, so a lot of these are most applicable to that, but I wanted to present them so they might be of use to you as well.

I've never stopped collecting these over the years and I never will.

To start the list are Kurt Vonnegut's eight rules of writing. They are the first in my notebook and, I think, the most useful. I'll add a star to those I think are applicable most to screenwriting. Some of these aren't applicable to everyone in every situation, but…

World Building Without Bogging Down Your Novel

I was asked to talk today about how you build a world without bogging down your novel. And it's something you see all too much of, not just in the work of those working toward becoming professionals, but in professionally published manuscripts as well.

Part of the problem is that writers become so in love with their world that they hit you with as much of it as they can right from the beginning. There are dumps and dumps of exposition that are supposed to paint a vibrant world, but too many colors of paint hit the canvas and instead of a beautiful sunset and a happy little tree, you're looking at a big smudge of brown where too many colors mixed.

That's not to say you can't get away with some florid description. Sometimes, my favorite passages in books are descriptions of the world that leave my breath taken.

But you don't need all of it in your book.

The question you need to ask yourself is this: does it add to the story?

If you're creating a fantasy or a sci…