Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Endings and Beginnings

I’ve never been a writer who can write to discover who my characters are and where my story is going. I do a lot of noodling when I get an idea. I meditate, come up with scene lists, think about what my characters want and what they need. I do whatever research I need to do. I wait for my ending to come to me.

Often I get impatient. I want to START already. But the one time I did that – start already – without knowing my ending, I just flailed around and created a mess.

But if I stick with my process—my noodling and my lists and my meditations—eventually an opening scene comes to me. And then a closing scene. I almost never know what’s going to happen between those two scenes. But once I know my final wrap-up scene, I can discover how to get there. Then I’m ready to begin.

I’m open to changing the ending, but I almost never do. When I was researching and thinking about MICHAEL AT THE INVASION OF FRANCE, I realized that Michael would choose to stay in France to continue working with the French Resistance, helping American airmen who crash landed evade the Nazis. While I was writing, I started to worry about Michael and my readers. Could I leave Michael in limbo? Why didn’t I just bring him to England with one of the pilots he saved?  Hadn’t he earned that?

I tried very hard to make that new, safer ending work, but it didn’t. Michael, who finds his courage and his self-confidence during the course of the novel, would never abandon France for safety in England no matter how much I might want him to. And so I went back to my original vision. Adults sometimes have a problem with that. But kids understand. That’s who Michael is. He couldn’t do anything else.

I’m working on a new idea now. I’m spending a lot of time with my main character and his friends. I’m meditating. I’m noodling. I’m making scene lists. Over the weekend the final scene came to me and now I can start already.

I know my ending, and so I can begin.


  1. Staying true to your process--and your character--leads to great success. Thanks for the reminder. Thanks, too, for the glimpse into your process!

  2. I have to know what the ending is to begin with, too...

  3. Now that I think about it, I'm this way too. I need to have at least a general idea of a story's ending before I start. Other than that, I'm not much of a planner!

  4. Great post, Laurie! I think knowing the ending first is essential.