Monday, May 9, 2011

Writing in 140: The Beginning and the End

We spend a lot of time talking about the importance of writing a great first page, chapter, but we don’t spend enough time on how important the last chapter can be…for the book you’re writing and for your writing success in general. Finding the perfect way to begin your story and developing that beginning strongly can grip readers and keep them on the page. Weak beginnings often mean the end to reading a book altogether. A well-developed ending offers a satisfying conclusion to a story, and it can also build a need for the reader to want to see what you’ll write next. If the book starts well, a reader will keep reading to see how that book ends. If the book finishes well, then a reader will want to keep reading you to see how your next book begins.

Writing in 140 is my attempt to say something somewhat relevant about writing in 140 words or less.

Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator. She has published both creatively and academically; her debut solo novel, Death at the Double Inkwell is available for purchase. Shon also interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her official website, and you can get information about her editorial services at CLG Entertainment. Currently, Shon is busy editing, promoting her debut project, writing screenplays, and pursuing her Ph.D. in Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech University.

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  1. What you said in 140 makes sense - I can't remember the source, but I read once that, as an author, one must write the first sentence to convince the reader to buy the book he's holding, and you write the last sentence to convince him to buy the next book you write.

    Judy, South Africa

  2. Very important to know. Thank you for posting this!

  3. Good point made Shon and Judy. I really struggle with the endings of stories. Sometimes an instinct kicks in that tells me this is the end. A place where the reader will stop and say, "Ahhh." Other times the ending is not so clear. I have rewritten the ending of one short story so often it has made my brain freeze. LOL

  4. My next book is only going to have a first and last chapter ... then I don't have to worry about screwing up all that stuff in between!

  5. LOL - You're halfway there then, Christopher!

    For most stories I write, I tend to see both the beginning and the end at the onset of writing the story. Not sure's always been that way. It helps me a lot when writing. In the brainstorming, outlining stages, I try to think about a major point of conflict in the story so that I have three points to hang the story on. Helps me see the rest of the story better.

  6. Mmm, too often movies and books string readers along to endings that don't, indeed, tie all the loose ends. It's a bit annoying.

    I love what you said about how this book's ending will determine whether a reader will buy one's NEXT book.

  7. Excellent points - and in 140 words! That last sentence/paragraph is what the reader is most likely to remember - and what will entice them to buy the next book.

  8. In a series, writing the perfect ending is vital. You can't have too much of a cliffhanger, but it does have to make the reader curious about what happens at the beginning of the next book. It's an art, all right.

  9. When I review a book that a writer wants edited, I always read the beginning and the end (as well as a little in between) before I bid on the manuscript or return it with regrets that I'm not the right editor. Why? I'm not sure, but Shon may have just answered that question.

    Endings, however, can take an unexpected twist as our characters tell their stories. The conclusion that we envision in the beginning may not "fit" when we reach the end.

  10. Great point, Shon. Readers will often recommend a book with the admonition: "It starts slow, but hang in there, the end is worth it." But have you EVER heard anyone say, "You've got to read this book! It starts out great, but then it fizzles."

    Yeah, I thought not.


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