There’s a bit of common advice you hear a lot from seasoned writers — start with the beginning and the ending. I know I’ve heard my share of it, but to be honest, I didn’t really apply it in my work until recently. I am a very detailed outliner, so I know from the start where I will go and where I will end. But recently, while working on two novels, I found myself in a strange predicament.
When You Get Stuck
I knew how the story should go, but I couldn’t go on with it. It wasn’t really writer’s block; I had all the scenes planned out, I knew exactly what should happen to the smallest detail, but I couldn’t move on with it.
I concluded it was the writer’s fatigue. I’ve been working on two novels at the same time while trying to sprinkle a short story now and then, and posts on my blog as well. I think my brain just refused to go on. That’s why I turned to the technique I want to discuss here: write your ending as soon as you write your beginning.
How does that translate into practical advice for a novel: After you write your first chapter, or after you reach your first conflict, take a break, and write the ending. Not all the ending, just the important part. It could be a chapter, a scene, or a series of scenes.
How does that help? Let me tell you what it did for me, and I think it is a pure psychological trick. A writer’s Placebo, if you will.
I sat down, and I wrote the last 3 scenes of my novel. They were the scenes where everything I worked over those 100k pages came together. Plotlines were closed, mysteries revealed, characters’ quests concluded. People shook hands and said goodbye.
As soon as I did that, somehow, I felt like I almost finished the book deep down inside of me. It felt as if by the simple act of writing that final part, I have managed to close a circle, and everything just fell into place.
I realized that I could finish the book, and I proved to myself that the ending is, in fact, possible. After all, I wrote it.
Once I did that, it was as if a dark veil had been lifted off my eyes. I started writing, filling up the gaps between the point where I was stuck and that new ending. And it worked.
My brain somehow accepted that this is just a matter of completing something that is almost done. But having that ending there — that was just like a little carrot I need to see dangling in front of my eyes. A reason to chase. It helped me make that final leap and pull out of that frozen place.
It felt good.
Will it work for you? I can’t tell. But try it out. I think this will work even if you are not an outliner. If you are a seat-of-your-pants kind of writer and write by going with the flow, this doesn’t prevent you from writing an ending. As a matter of fact, your final ending can be completely different from the one you pre-wrote, but its goal is just to ‘trick’ your mind, to show you that the ending is in sight.
It was the same for me: my final ending was different than what I wrote. Not in substance, but in delivery — as I said, I am an outliner. But in the end, it served its purpose. It gave me the confidence that I can finish the book, and it allowed me to read my ending out loud and have that fulfilling feeling you get when you reach the ending of a book.
Apply It To All Kinds of Writing
And, by the way, you can work this technique in short stories as well. The short story is just an extremely scaled-down novel, so scale down your beginning and end. Maybe your ending will be one or two sentences or a paragraph, but the results will be the same.
It also works fairly well for your non-fiction projects. In that context, your ending might be the conclusion of your article, while the beginning can be the teaser. Once you have those two “bookends” for your article, filling in the middle will be that much easier.
Just make sure that you are okay with the ending changing. Don’t create a contrived plot to match the ending you just created. As you continue to power through the rest of the middle, you will inevitably make significant decisions that will alter that initial ending you’ve written. But that’s okay. The whole point of this technique was to give you an anchor. The book’s ending is like a vision, like a beacon of light that pulls you closer and closer to it.
So, there you have it. One tip that I hope will help you move on with your writing when you get stuck.
Now, before you go, I have…
3 Questions For You
- How do you structure your writing? Is it all linear, or do you jump around?
- Do you typically know how your story ends, or do you usually find out along the way?
- Do you often change a story’s ending once you go through the middle and uncover new plot twists?
Please share your answers in the comments below. Sharing knowledge helps us all improve and get better!
Hi there! I’m Iulian, and I want to thank you for reading my article. There’s a lot more if you stick around. I write about personal development, productivity, fiction writing, and more. Also, I’ve created Self-Growth Journey, a free program that helps you get unstuck and create the beautiful life you deserve. Enjoy!