1. JessWrite
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    JessWrite Word Nerd & Proud! Contributor

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    To begin without the end?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by JessWrite, Apr 14, 2012.

    Hi everyone,

    A few days ago while cleaning my room, I came across a writing book I forgot I had bought at half-price. I took a break ;), and decided to flip through it. I skimmed through a few chapters about how to begin a story, outline, ect. Then I read a sentence that sort of rubbed me the wrong way.

    "Never begin writing a story before you know how it will end."

    Hmm...I'm not really sure what to think about that. Finding the way to end, comes easier to me after I write, at least know the characters, the situation. Wouldn't it be harder to come up with an end, if you don't write first? Plus, if you have an end in mind, would it more likely change by the real 'end'?

    I'm curious to know what your thoughts are on this...do you always have the end in mind when you begin? :)
     
  2. Floatbox
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    I'm trying that process right now with my WIP. I'm very far from the end so I don't know. Usually, I know the end, because the end more than wraps up the story - it gives meaning to the story through ultimate consequence. This character did this, and changed this way, and then this is what it all results in says a lot about an author's values and perspective on life. The end is very much the point of a story. My style has been to know the point of a project which excites me to write it, so I know the end. With this current project, I'm focusing on process and so there was no point when I began except to build characters, let them grow organically and see how it all turned out. So I don't know the end. I probably will. It's hard for me write something without a raison d'etre.
     
  3. A.L.Mitchell
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    A.L.Mitchell Active Member

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    Before I started writing my novel, I needed to know the endin. So it made it easier for me to write it because I knew how it will end. But it all depend how you want to it.
     
  4. Kaymindless
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    Kaymindless Contributing Member

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    Well, considering you said there were chapters about outlining, that's probably expected.

    I don't imagine many people who outline just stop mid way through and start writing before getting to the end via the outline. Though, from what I've seen, many allow their outlines to be fluid so that things may adjust.

    Personally, I'm like you, I don't have a definite end in mind. It'll come to me. Usually, about half way through I have a vague idea what the end will be and that's only because it's grown with the point and message of the story I'm writing. If I ever decided to outline, I'm sure I would come up with an ending before hand, but the way I write now, it's the ending develops with the story, which in my personal opinion, is great because it is completely connected with the story as it's grown with it.
     
  5. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    Depends a lot on what you write. Many themes have standard endings, a big battle, showdown, or some other confrontation between characters. The only question is the form it takes. Writing without knowing the ending increases the odds you'll never finish. It also means you're likely to let the story line wonder because you don't know where to go with it. Knowing the ending allows you to build towards it and generate suspense that can maintain the interest of the reader.
     
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  6. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I usually don't start with just the characters but with a situation, and before I even start writing I think it through for a while (days, weeks, months) and when I do start writing it I know what kind of ending I want and more or less how to get the characters there. So yes, I think I agree with the writer of the book. And no, I don't think it is harder to come up with the ending before I start, rather the opposite.
     
  7. Cassiopeia Phoenix
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    Cassiopeia Phoenix Contributing Member

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    I always come up with end, the beginning and at least three characters of a story to start writing. But the end is always kind of indeterminate, for example: "My MC will kill the villain." Now, how she or he is going to that point of killing the villain, I don't know. I would feel lost without the end, but I can understand people that don't have an end while writing...
    Though it must be hard, writing without an idea for an ending. How is that?
     
  8. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Agatha Christie apparently wrote whodunnits without knowing whodunnit. When she'd finished the story she would work out who was the least likely culprit and retrospectively edit the story to make it that person.
     
  9. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have to know the ending, mainly because I have so many ideas, I need to know I can actually finish the story I start. If I started writing every story that came to mind, I would never get anything done. So before I start writing I outline the whole thing to make sure it's actually good and interesting. I never set anything in stone though. I often come up with something halfway through that will change the story to some degree. If that happens, I develop that idea for a while and then make sure I still like it better than the original before I properly write it.
     
  10. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Exactly how I feel too. And I do have a hard time understanding how it would be working like that. Or even how people can go on writing without knowing what will happen. Like spklvr I need to know there is an interesting enough story before I start, and that it will keep my interest up for as long as it takes writing it. How do I know that without knowing what will happen? And how do I know it's the kind of story I would like to write, or would like to read too, for that matter? I never write anything I wouldn't read myself. And I can get the most interesting ideas for stories, but in the end nothing ever comes out of them because of that. How could I dedicate months or years to something I wouldn't read myself?
     
  11. MVP
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    I'm writing a novel, I don't know what the ending is. I know what the story wants to accomplish, but I have no idea how it ends. If I worry about it, I'll stop writing, and I enjoy writing too much, to let an unknown in my story dictate the pleasure that writing brings to me. If you have a story idea in mind, start writing it, you will never know if an ending will manifest if you don't try...and you may be very surprised at what you create!
     
  12. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    Usually I have at least a basic idea of the ending. For me (And I think most writers.) writing isn't so much discovering every plot point sequentially but filling in the gaps.
     
  13. Dryriver
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    Dryriver Senior Member

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    I think that there are 2 different danger situations here:

    1) You know the end well in advance, so your story and writing kind of gets "caged", because one way or the other, you are forced to steer the story towards your preselected end. The effort put into getting from your beginning to the predetermined end prevents the story from developing in interesting "spontaneous" ways, because you are constantly conscious of having to steer your story to a particular ending. This may make your story unfold in ways that are somewhat stiff and predictable, rather than "spontaneous" or "fresh".

    2) You don't know the end in advance, so your story wanders here, and there, and all over the place, and at some point - presumably when you think "I've written enough chapters now" - ends in some way. This can work great if your ending is a "really good one", that ties all the loose ends up and sattisfies the readers. But it may also be "not-so-great" if you have trouble ending your wandering story in a meaningful way, because of the way the story developed up to that point.


    I get around this in my own writing, by knowing "the end" in advance, but not "caging" the story to steer towards that ending constantly. I let the story unfold in all sorts of spontaneous ways in the beginning and middle of the book. Towards the end of the book is where I start steering events towards my pre-selected ending.

    I also try to write in such a way that the ending cannot be guessed easily at the beginning or middle of the book. That may involve giving the reader a "false clues" as to how things might end, so the real ending comes as a complete surprise.
     
  14. Cassiopeia Phoenix
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    Cassiopeia Phoenix Contributing Member

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    It's not hard for me to read the page one of the book and already know how the thing is going to end... Sometimes the writers drop some *~clues~* that are not that altogether hard to figure out. Personally, I keep my ending very, very well hidden. No clues at all. The readers don't know what is going to happen.
     
  15. Kaymindless
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    Kaymindless Contributing Member

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    Well, personally, I'm always writing to a specific point. I'm not writing completely blind. Usually, there's a scene I'm aiming for, some turning point that's caught my attention and I write to that, by the time I get there, then I have another scene/goal.

    Then I figure out the ending and start working towards it.

    Very true. Writing without an ending still requires structure from the writer themselves. I have started stories with no point at all, but they quickly move into at least having a point or purpose even if there's no plan what-so-ever.

    Easy as pie. I have so many stories started, all that I've put hours (Tears and blood) into, but I realize from the beginning they may not actually go anywhere or they may take a turn to be similar to another story I'm working on. I've got scenes coming out of the woodwork and only a handful of all my files actually beign worked on to be finished. But I'm not going to not write the ideas, if they go no where, they're practice, maybe I don't have the skill to finish them correctly.

    So, in short, I start writing whatever suits my fancy at the moment, with the distinct knowledge that it may not be worth anything 10k words in, but any thing I write is benefitial to me even if it goes nowhere.
     
  16. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I used to just write and write, until I started work on my novel and ended up with 2 rewrites before the first draft was ever finished, and all because I didn't know my ending - the way things flowed just didn't work, too many unanswered questions, too many hiccups, too many unresolvable conflict without making the story sound silly or give a cop-out solution. I wasted about 80,000 words before I dumped it all and finally, created an outline and yes, an ending.

    And ever since then, ever since I had my ending, everything works!!! And I know what I must do to shape the story towards that end. I now know what the message and theme of my novel is thanks to the ending. The ending shapes the entire novel - without it, you don't know where you are going, which direction is the best one to take. Some people like that and don't mind the massive amount of extra work they give themselves - they find it fun - and good for them - but for myself, I cannot stand to begin from page 1 like that, ditching a year's worth of work ever again. I think it's wasted time, and wasted effort. Mind you, it did sharpen my writing considerably. But a project is a project and when you feel like you can't finish a project, you risk feeling like a hopeless failure and stopping altogether.

    Don't get me wrong, I've cut events and added events that weren't present in the outline, changed facts, and have a gigantic rewrite ahead of me because I've changed so much, but overall the direction holds true, which is the key. The backbone's still there which means, none of it is wasted even if I have to rewrite it. The only thing that won't change is my ending - but the rest, the outline of how my story gets there, that is fluid, so it's still filled with surprises :)
     
  17. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I almost never know the ending before I start writing. That doesn't mean the story will wander around, or that it won't get finished. Those two problems can occur whether you know the ending or not - there are many reasons for both. The idea is to keep a grip on the story, letting it go where it needs to, but not letting yourself get carried with the the next bright shiny object.
     
  18. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    Like I can't tell how my life is going to end, I can't tell how my story is going to end. Most part of writing for me is spontaneous. I write and I am often surprised by what happens but it all makes sense and wraps well- or at least so I think. So no ending for me, I know the bad-guy is not going to die, but no idea what else is going to happen and I enjoy that.
     
  19. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sometimes not knowing the ending in advance is not The Most Important Thing, the journey and the things the characters discover on their way there is more important than the destination. I can still enjoy a story even though I have an idea of how it might end, in fact sometimes I even choose stories that I figure will end in a way I like, to not be dissapointed. I think some writers put too much importance in the unpredictability of their stories.
     
  20. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Definitely agree. There are stories I've read and enjoyed right up until the end - and then it's as though the author felt a "zing!" was necessary instead of logic. Totally ruined many a book for me.
     
  21. Kaymindless
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    Kaymindless Contributing Member

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    Honestly, I think it depends on the story on the needs of how transparent the ending is. But, I don't want to be able to guess the ending from the beginning. You can have both a predictable ending and unpredeictable ending that ties in with the stories, depending on the needs. What I think any writer should avoid, is the "Wait, What? The heck?" response where it's not a go back and find the clues type thing, but there was just no logical reason for it to end that way,
     
  22. NeedMoreRage
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    Most of the time I start writing without knowing the ending at all. I usually don't get far before the ideas I have start to fall into place and I get a clue as to where I'm going. For example, I started work on this one book a couple of days ago and I played around with a few intros and ideas, but I came up with the basic ending that there will be an antagonist and the main character will face off against him at the end of the story. I have no idea under what circumstances, who will "win", or even what will happen in the scene itself. All I know is that I have a confrontation at the end, and now I have a basic idea as to where the main plot will end up.
     
  23. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It's boring to me to know the ending before I start writing. If I know the ending, I feel like I have no motivation to write. I'm just going through the motions. If I have an outline, then THAT'S the story, so why should I bother writing it? I already know all of it.

    For me, writing is, in some sense, a discovery of myself. I start with a character in a situation. I start writing scenes, and as I do, I learn more about him and about me. And the story becomes clearer. I continue writing and I find myself heading for an ending. But that ending isn't necessarily where the story will end; I may find, during the process, that a better ending presents itself (in fact, I depend on this). Writing a story is like taking a course in school for me. I'm supposed to learn something. That means finding my way to a satisfactory conclusion that I would never have imagined when I started the darn thing. My eventual ending may have no resemblance to the ending I originally had in mind, and that's the way I prefer it.

    Writing a story, for me, ideally, is like being one of those early explorers who launched their ships without any idea of where they'd end up. But they had to explore, and because they explored, we know about our world.
     
  24. Erato
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    Erato Contributing Member

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    When I start to write, I have to know the ending. I have to have in my mind a structure. If I don't know the ending, I don't have anything to work towards. I wander all over the place, the pacing is bad, for that matter the story gets nowhere. I may not have in my mind everything there is about the ending. I may, for that matter, change it, maybe a little, maybe a lot. But I have to know, in general, what the ending will be. That's just what works for me.
     
  25. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I usually think I know the ending when I start. But my characters sometimes don't act in the way I expected them to, and even if the story I'd expected does happen they sometimes insist that it's a different story altogether that I tell.
     

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