One writer in search of a conclusion …

I am almost finished the first draft for the sequel to Imminent Danger — currently titled Chasing Nonconformity. It’s going really well. Eris and Varrin are up to their usual shenanigans, Miguri is fluffy and wise as ever, Grashk is doing a great job hissing at everyone, the settings are bizarre and fun, and the new characters I’ve introduced are all performing very well in their respective roles. There’s just one problem: I don’t know how to end the damn book.

I thought I had it all worked out, until I was informed that the ending I had planned was too depressing for my light-hearted series. Fair enough. So I re-worked the ending. And re-worked it again. And re-worked it again. And now I’m totally baffled.

I know I need an epic battle scene, possibly involving a chase of some sort, and lots of ridiculous one-liners thrown in at totally inappropriate moments. I have the big cliffhanger worked out, but beyond that … nada.

Watching Star Wars — Attack of the Clones last night helped. I think I’ve settled on the chase sequence, followed by a dramatic showdown at the __________ (Ha! Like I’m going to reveal that.) But I still haven’t quite worked out how they’re going to enter into said chase sequence, or how to tie up all the loose ends in the dramatic showdown. Sigh.

Any tips for conclusion-writing? I had everything worked out in Imminent Danger, but the ending for the sequel is maddeningly elusive. Any and all advice is welcome.

Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes!


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40 thoughts on “One writer in search of a conclusion …

  1. Let it sit and stew for a bit and don’t get anxious. It will come.

  2. Well, take comfort in the fact that Catskinner’s Book has the Worst Ending Of All Time, and so however you end Chasing Nonconformity it won’t be as bad as the end of my book.

    I hate endings–they always seem so contrived. Never in my life can I point to an “ending”–there are always loose ends and things unfinished. Unless you go ahead and blow up the universe (not a bad plot device, but it has been done) I think all endings have an element of “this is where I stopped writing.”

    • Yeah, I get that feeling a lot when I read books. And I doubt your book has the worst ending of all time, lol. To prove that you’d need to read every single book ever written, including books written in the future, and … wait. Is this your way of subtly divulging that you possess a time machine???

  3. I like to leave the sequel door open so however it ends keep something a secret for next time. – John

    • Oh yes, very good. Sequels sequels sequels! I know I’ll definitely be ending on a cliffhanger, I just haven’t worked out what the cliffhanger will be yet. 🙂

  4. Writing a good ending is harder than writing the entire book. I think you should let it sit for a while and then re-read it with fresh eyes – that always helps me 😉

    • I’ve definitely been considering that. Once I slot the rest of the book into place (almost done), I can just set it aside for a bit, then read the whole thing through and hopefully the ending will hit me. Fingers crossed!

  5. Good to see Attack of the Clones came in handy for something. 😛 I agree with the idea that you should step away and come back with a clear mind. Though, a cliffhanger ending might work if the tone is a problem. Cliffhangers have the benefit of ending on a ‘downer’ because it gives them characters a chance to rise up from it in the next book. Just think of how Empire Strikes Back ended. Though, this would imply you have a trilogy on your hands.

    • Oh man, it was definitely a bad idea to watch Attack of the Clones. It’s triggered another one of my life-crippling Star Wars phases. I’m halfway through my third Star Wars fanfiction, re-watching the Clone Wars animated series, and seriously considering going to the library and picking up some of the extended universe books. I have a job, dammit! I don’t have time for this obsession! Ahhhhhhhhhh!

      I will definitely be ending on a cliffhanger. I have no idea how many books will end up being in this series, but I love writing in this universe, so I have a feeling it will be a bit more than a trilogy. Maybe I’ll pull a Douglas Adams and write a trilogy in 5 parts.

      • I think I’m lucky I never got addicted to Star Wars like some of my friends. They’re fun to watch, but the prequels (especially Jar Jar Binks) caused a few near meltdowns among my circle. I did love the video games though.

        Douglas Adams is definitely a person worth following the path of. That reminds me that I need to figure out my copy of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is.

  6. Grashk is coming back?!!

    63% Finished Imminent Danger 😉

    (also: a sequel?! SQUEE!)

  7. What have your characters been trying to do in Book II? The ending should revolve around their goals and whether or not they achieve them.

    I agree with Charles. You can have a Empire Strikes Back ending where the characters suffer a setback and have to regroup, but they are wiser for their experiences.

    Also, I was reading another post about endings. Check it out if you have time :

    • Excellent link! Very interesting and insightful. Hmm …

      Well, definitely a cliffhanger is in the works. As for the characters … they will definitely be achieving their goals, it’s just the matter of how and where they achieve their goals that I’m still puzzling out 😀

  8. Hmm. Only thing I can think of is that when you are trying to look really hard to find say a comet in the sky, you can’t look right at it. It just appears when you are looking in the area. Not sure how that relates or helps, but be encouraged!

    • Intriguing. Hmm … so I need to think about something else, that’s still related to the ending but isn’t the ending itself, and then the ending will appear? Definitely going to try this.

  9. Hi Michelle. Since I have not read the first book (yet), I can’t really be very helpful. That said, I agree with Grace who suggests to “Let it sit and stew for a bit and don’t get anxious. It will come”. I like the idea of a trilogy, or more. If you agree, try to consider how you would want the next book to start. If there are any characters you don’t want to stick around for the next book, you can kill them or send them far away.I love Charles suggestion of the hero’s setback.

    In the classic hero’s setback and finale,there are at least 5-7 steps.
    Consider the great movie: Brave Heart where Mel Gibson’s character is forced into a hero’s quest.
    1.The Call – our reluctant hero is pushed against his nature to undergo a change and go on a mission.
    2.The Pit – his life and dreams are shattered when his wife is killed by the English.
    3.The Journey – he starts a rebellion and organizes a resistance.
    4.The Breakthrough- small victories against the English invaders.
    5.The Surprise results when he is betrayed by some of his own clan.
    6.Other People’s results- unification of the clans.
    7.The Celebration- Mel Gibson’s character’s death results in the birth of Scotland.

    Hope this helps.

    • It definitely helps! I’ve distanced myself from the ending and am letting it stew, as per Grace’s suggestion. As for the hero’s setback … yep, I think that should work perfectly. Some sort of cliffhanger, definitely. (I can’t say anything else without giving it away :D)

  10. I like the idea of leaving it open a bit… let’s people know another is coming and whets the appetite so to speak. Keep up the good work, Michelle!

    • Haha, will do. Yep, definitely loving the idea of a cliffhanger. I think I’ll end all the books on a cliffhanger — that way people will HAVE to keep reading! Mwahahahaha.

  11. ihelenblog

    Take a deep breath and know the answer will come to you. Keep calm and relaxed. I got most of my best ideas when I was completing mundane jobs such as ironing and washing up. It gave my mind a break for the answers to just come through. Good luck. It will be awesome whatever the outcome!

    • I’ve taken up walking randomly around the city. I came up with a silly club fight scene on my last walk, which was very amusing to visualize. I figure if I keep walking around every day, the ending should hit me eventually 😀

      • ihelenblog

        Oooh keeping fit at the same time. I like it! Well done! 🙂

  12. kathils

    I wish I had tips for you, but I usually have the ending written before anything else. I tend to write a bit backwards sometimes. I’ll usually get a beginning scene and an ending scene that write themselves — then all I have to do is connect them!

    • Ack, I wish I wrote like that. I tend to start off with an idea, and a bunch of scenes I know I want to have happen, and then kind of let the cards fall where they may. This is where an outline would help me, lol.

  13. I don’t have too many tips, since 1) I was almost done with the first draft of my first book before I figured out how/where to end it; 2) I just split my second book into two separate books, which is like starting halfway over again and now requires TWO endings, not one.

    Personally, I like a book to have a fairly tidy conclusion, while, at the same time, leaving room for a “What happens next?” (I think I have that for my second book, but the new third book does not have that yet.)

    • Two endings! Ack! Stick those books back together! Quickly!

      Kidding, kidding. Yes, tidy conclusions are the best, but cliffhangers are also fun (and infuriating for the reader, hehehe). I think I’m going to rock a cliffhanger and see what happens 😀

  14. A bit of randomness can sometimes help build clarity. I like the hat-trick, myself. I’ve usually used it for lyrics, but might work with endings. Write various kinds of feelings, items, characters, basic ideas from your original ending, crazy happenstances, etc, that could possibly occur in your universe to lead to your chase, etc – a lot of them – and pop all of them into a nice, little hat. Shake and draw out your favourite 1-digit number of them and arrange. See if inspiration/clarity hits. Repeat if necessary 🙂

    Hope the ending all works out without driving you too crazy.

  15. I am the worst at writing conclusions. I always mess it up one way or another. With one of my novels it took me… more than four years to finally come up with a conclusion, then I actually had to write it and that took a few months of rewrites.

    All I can say is good luck! At least you have a general idea of what you’re doing. 🙂

    • Thanks 😀 Oh God, I hope it doesn’t take me 4 years to come up with a conclusion! That would set my plans for the series back a bit, lol.

  16. Pingback: In Which Julie Sets New Writing Goals | The Read Room

  17. inkspeare

    I enjoy your blog very much. This is going to sound a bit weird, but since you seem to be so much fun (and your mom as well), you might want to try it. Ok, close your eyes, no distractions, and better if the surroundings are quite. Think of your characters, then ask them, how would you like it to end? Write the ideas they give you, then go with your gut on those. Hope that helps.

    • I like it! The only problem is that I know exactly how the characters would want the book to end, but … well, I can’t just go giving them what they want 😀 They have to earn their happily ever after! Maybe I should take the ending I want and completely flip it so things work out horribly for them, lol. Although that doesn’t quite fit with the light-hearted feel of the series. Hmm … decisions, decisions!

  18. Just listen to the story. I know it sounds crazy, but the story will let you know how it wants to end.

  19. Ack! Long post is long. Okay, let’s see …

    i) I was fairly fond of the old ending, but two problems: One, I took Bax out of the book. He irritated me, and Jesse gave me an extensive speech on why shapeshifters made no sense. So I may reintroduce him later, but I need to figure out how to make him make a bit more sense before I do that. Two, the overarching plot structure has changed in order for more plot to happen in the latter half of the book. This means the ending had to change to reflect these changes. So … yeah. I’ll send you the new version when it’s done and you can decide how it compares with the first version 😀

    1) Killing a character … intriguing. I have one character in mind who definitely deserves a striker bolt to the brain … but I want them to come back in future books to mess everything up. Hmm …

    2) Interdasting …

    3) Not feasible, unfortunately, but I have a feeling that meeting will be happening at some point in the future. And the conversation will play out EXACTLY like you described 😛

    4) This one I REALLY like. I won’t say anything more, but … A+ for you, sir. A+.

    5) New faction … hmm. Not at this point in time, but possibly in the future?

    I love these ideas! Very useful, especially #4 😀

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