1. Millamber

    Millamber Active Member

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    Starting a story when you have no idea how to end it...

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Millamber, Jan 3, 2018.

    Hi All,

    As the title says, have you, or would you, ever start a novel that really 'makes' you want to write it, but without having any idea how you'd end it?

    I'm aware some authors next start unless they know the ending first, and I can see why, however I've had an idea in my mind for a while (over a year) that keeps coming back to me, however I'm really not sure how I'd end it now...

    I'm tempted to start writing it, develop more characters, make the world etc, but if I then get to a point where I can't finish it, I'm not sure how I'd feel ha.
     
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  2. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    No, I wouldn't do that. The ending needs to be set up from the beginning and, since I hate rewriting, I would rather get it right first time. I can't imagine getting to 70k words or whatever and realising I've written myself into a corner, or that everything needs to change to lead to a coherent ending.

    Other people don't mind rewriting, and treat their first draft like an outline. They seem happy with it.
     
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  3. Millamber

    Millamber Active Member

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    That's what I've been concerned with, especially if I need to go back to the first few chapters and rewrite, get some forshadowing in etc...

    I like the idea I've come up with, but I think once I sort out one major hole that is killing the story at the moment, I can get an agily outline done to follow/work on...
    the story itself excites me and makes me want to write it, but without knowing the ending, i'll be in trouble ha.
     
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  4. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Do you have any idea about the ending at all? I don't think you need to know every detail (I certainly don't!), just the main gist of it. Like if your farmer MC is going to end up king of his land, then you need to have him develop some kind of leadership qualities during the manuscript. If he's going to need to kill the current king to get there, then you know they will need to cross paths. You don't need to know, at this stage, exactly how your MC will kill the king and storm the castle.

    If you have no idea whatsoever about the ending then I think you'd need one-in-a-million luck to write a coherent story without significant revision.
     
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  5. Millamber

    Millamber Active Member

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    Erm, yes and no.
    Essentially, the character is from my local town (on the South Coast), but is 'pulled' into another world that occupies the same space as ours, but in a different way/setting (it's hard to actually write it down whilst I'm at work as I'm not feeling the most creative...) and essentially, the ending would be, that he resolves a conflict that is going on in the world he's pulled too, and then 'comes back home'/shifts into our plain of existence, however you want to put it... I'm just unsure if knowing THAT he is aiming to come back after solving conflict is enough, without having a clue HOW it would happen...

    Does that make sense?
     
  6. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    It does make sense. I'm assuming he was pulled to the other plane by some kind of higher power in order to solve the conflict? If so, you wouldn't really have to explain how he's sent back. He solves the thing, and a portal opens (or whatever). If not, then I'd link the conflict to his escape: if he has to stop a bad guy, then the bad guy has a Thing that can open a portal for his return.
     
  7. NigellaStory88

    NigellaStory88 Member

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    I'm not entirely sure I'd do that either. I prefer to let the story grow and develop in its own way simply because story concepts and ideas can change so quickly from moment to moment that very often you can end up with a vastly different ending to what you may very well have originally intended
     
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  8. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    As you write, you develop new ideas about your characters and your story. If you accept at the outset that he moved from one plane to the other, and you know at the end he's going to move back, that sounds like a good basis for a start. I certainly wouldn't hold back on a project I was excited about because I didn't have everything figured out.

    Good luck.
     
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  9. Millamber

    Millamber Active Member

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    That's not what I'm thinking. I know what happens at the start, that there will be conflict, and he'll return at the end, so I can start writing it now and develop the detail as I go.

    That's what caused me to write the post for other peoples opinions, as I figured I could attempt that, although I've not done it before. I've read Philip Pullmans Trilogy, and he wrote in the front of the copy I had a foreword, where he hadn't actually planned anything, he just started writing it... seems a good way to start to me ha.

    Thank you :D
     
  10. Vacuole

    Vacuole Member

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    Endings may be important, but I wouldn't let your worry about not having one preclude you from starting your journey—and that's what it is, make no bones about it: a journey. I usually have some vague idea of where I want a novel to ultimately end up, but in these long projects I trust myself to know that I will get to the end when I get there, not because I forced it out but because I followed the associative train of thought to its logical and emotional zenith. If you're watching your narrative unfold, it should just be another part of the process; if you're being honest in exploring your narrative, an ending is innate to the whole process. I wouldn't stress it too much.

    Then again, that's just how I write. Someone else responded here with a whole different writing style, but personally I don't mind doing rewrites. Some people rewrite as they go, and some people meticulously plan every narrative stopping and starting point, including the ending. One thing to keep in mind: If you don't even know how the story will end, the reader might not know either, making for some good suspense.
     
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  11. Medazza

    Medazza Member

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    Spot on. I knew roughly that I wanted to create X universe and have characters a and b get through certain events before reaching a point that opened up a whole load of possibilities for future writing. But until I was 2/3 of the way through I had no real idea where and how I’d end my work
     
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  12. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin I dress myself! Contributor

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    I wouldn't worry too much right off, but in theory the ending should become self-evident fairly early on in the process. If not, then you probably haven't posed a question/conflict that demands an answer/resolution yet, and whatever you've written to that point probably won't be very compelling in a narrative sense. I can't think of any specific examples at the moment, but have you ever gotten deep into a book and only sensed the ending by the dearth of pages that remain? And though, "Gee, I have no idea how this book is going to end because nothing has happened that would seem to lend itself to resolution." That drives me bat-shit. It happens a lot in literary books with more subtle plot arcs, but that's another kettle of fish (does anyone say that anymore? I just like the mental image of somebody standing over a bunch of fish-kettles and debating the pros and cons of each one... snapper? nope. haddock? hell no. sea bass? mayyyyybe. branzino? now we're talking!).
     
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  13. exweedfarmer

    exweedfarmer Active Member

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    Yeah, go for it. I do it all the time. I usually just start knowing the book length and chapter length. Usually I get a cohesive story with only a little revision. It's all on the 'puter these days so editing isn't hard.
     
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  14. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    If you had started writing your story a year ago when you first had the idea, I bet you would know how it ends now. Just saying.
     
  15. Azuresun

    Azuresun Member

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    I would start writing such a story (to see where it goes and if it captures my imagination), but I'd want to at least have an idea of where it's going to. You don't need to have the ending massively detailed, or to be shackled to your plan even if you have a better idea, but it's a good idea to have a basic idea of where you want the characters to finish up, the sort of climax you want to have and how it shakes out, etc.
     
  16. KevinMcCormack

    KevinMcCormack Active Member

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    Your question is about a novel, so I can say no, I haven't done this for a novel.

    But I have done this for some short stories, and I do it all the time (weekly) for live performance sketches (ie: improv).
     
  17. Orihalcon

    Orihalcon Senior Member

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    I'm working on a few short stories right now and just about to start writing a novel. I have ideas for a few more short stories and novels. I don't know the ending to any of them.

    It's like the things I write are ideas that allow me to ask interesting questions. I start writing to explore these ideas and if they're rich and interesting enough then I'll discover new interesting things and questions that I couldn't have thought of when I started. I think what happens is some dynamic between me and the story.

    It's vastly different from how I worked before, and it definitely works better---for me. If I know the ending to my story, if the big question is already answered, then probably the story was not so interesting or important to begin with.
     
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  18. big soft moose

    big soft moose All killer, no filler. Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Situation normal for me - I generally start from a kernel of an idea and make it up as I go along - you could find your ending as you are writing
     
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  19. Millamber

    Millamber Active Member

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    From a lot of the replies I've read here, and also things I've seen other authors say in quotes, or on their writing process, it seems quite a few people start writing with only an idea or question to answer.... I like it
     
  20. big soft moose

    big soft moose All killer, no filler. Contributor Community Volunteer

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    it really comes down to plotting vs pantsing (there isnt a right answer to that one - its whatever suits ) plotters need to know how the story ends before they start writing, pantsers don't
     
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  21. Krispee

    Krispee Senior Member

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    I write with plans and then sometimes without. A short I`m working on at the moment started out with a wardrobe in my bedroom and I have no idea where it`s going to end. I admit it`s usually a good idea to know the ending, gives you something to aim for, but I wouldn`t stop an idea just because you aren`t sure, sometimes the idea is worth it.
     
  22. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    Just develop what you've got, and see where it leads to. But also keep thinking about it. Make connections, if you can. Maybe turn some element around, to give yourself a different perspective, if you feel yourself getting stuck. Give your characters a problem that must be solved. Or a problem that can't be solved! If you are getting more and more excited about the story the farther you go ...well, you're on the right track, I reckon.

    I very much doubt that you're going to get all the way to the end and still not know what to do! Your story will take shape—and it probably won't take all that long. Just write a few scenes as you envision them, step back a bit and think about what you've got. What are your characters developing into? What are their relationships like? What kinds of things will happen to them? As you create a bigger picture, you'll get a story direction as well.

    No, you do NOT have to have the ending planned out ahead of time. And so what, if you discard some of what you write later on, because your focus has changed? It's not the end of the world. What matters is the story. If you want to start writing it to find out where it's going, then no writing time is 'wasted' time.

    I'm more inclined to worry about people who get everything so tightly planned that there isn't any wiggle room for new ideas that are likely to creep in as they write. Or people who start with an idea, but don't work it through, get bored, and drop it in favour of something else new and shiny—rinse and repeat.

    Writing is a voyage of discovery. You can have a destination in mind when you leave home, follow a map, use GPS, and get where you're going without any time-wasted diversions. Or you can just pick a road, start to notice things, follow your fancy, and let the journey develop as it will. All roads lead somewhere, eventually.

    You will have to do a fair amount of editing afterwards if you don't follow a plan, but again, that's not a chore. You'll be keen to make the story the best it can be. And by then, you'll know what you've got.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2018 at 5:49 PM
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  23. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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  24. Millamber

    Millamber Active Member

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  25. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    I like that it acknowledges there are many different ways of working.
     
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