There are two schools of thought about whether or not to plan the ending of a novel. Some authors — particularly mystery writers — like to plot out every chapter, carefully layering hints, clues, and red herrings so that the conclusion is a surprise. Other authors spend a lot of time thinking about their characters and the story, but don’t do a chapter outline; or if they do, they come up with a loose outline that does not include the ending of the novel. Here are a few pertinent quotes:
“In the planning stage of a book, don’t plan the ending. It has to be earned by all that will go before it.” –Rose Tremain
“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
“Writing is always a process of discovery—I never know the end, or even the events on the next page, until they happen. There’s a constant interplay between the imagining and shaping of the story.”
Either method can be successful, so figure out whether planning, or not planning, the ending works best for you.
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Leslie Wells has edited forty-nine New York Times bestsellers in her thirty-year publishing career. She is the author of Come Dancing, a novel about publishing and rock and roll, set in New York City in the 1980s. Visit her at www.lesliewellsbooks.com
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