Monday, May 16, 2011

The Neverending Story

No, I don't mean the classic fantasy by Michael Ende—though that is one of my favorites—I mean my agented manuscript.

I'm thiiiis close to finally finishing the tenth version—say the nine old versions in my old versions folder—of this manuscript. Some changes have been minor, bits of dialog removed here, pieces of voice added there. Other versions, like the one I just finished, have sweeping plot changes, with characters and settings removed and added. I even have a third person version rattling around in there.

Each version has been a learning lesson, helping me figure out what works, and—through sometimes painful experience—what doesn't.

One thing that's been the same since the very first draft, however, is the ending. Because of a bit of a bloated word-count that fluttered anywhere from 97 to 103,000, I'd written a pretty brisk ending. It was gritty and realistic, even despite the happily-ever-after feel to it.

Now that I've shaved a good 10K off my lowest word-count, I can afford a longer ending, a more satisfying one that the reader can savor. But I don't want to go on too long. Though all of my major plot points are tied up, there are some teeny threads I could pull to unravel a mystery for a second book, but I'm not sure if I want to go there. So I thought I'd put it to the readers.

How do you like your books to end?

One solid happily-ever-after moment? (It is a paranormal romance.)

Do you prefer your books to end? Or do you like the sense of something more to come? I'm not talking about the super-cliffhanger sequels that some books need in order to tell a story. I'm talking about a self-contained story, but one that hints at a story that's yet to occur.

I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Jen Daiker said...

I hate to say it but for me it all depends on the story. Sometimes ending in angst is the only way the book becomes as captivating at is.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver is an amazing read that will leave your heart ripped out even at the end. However if it were to be tied up in a tiny little bow I wouldn't have liked it near as much.

However my chick lits MUST end up in the happy-in-love story or it isn't a proper chick lit (in my eyes).

Best of luck with your neverending story!

Sara McClung ♥ said...

I'm not going to lie... I'm a sucker for a happily-ever-after ending. BUT I like all sorts. And I do LOVE the hint of a story to come :)

Sooooooo that probably didn't help you at all. Because I'm pretty easy to please, lol.

Cynthia Lee said...

I'm kind of a sucker for the sad but it-had-to-be-that-way ending. The endings of the Hunger Games and His Dark Materials trilogy come to mind. But ultimately it depends on the story and its tone.

Icy Roses said...

Depends on the story, but I do like major plot points to come to some sort of satisfying decision. Doesn't have to be a conclusion, there could be more to come, but some resolution has to be there. I really like the endings for The Chronicles of Narnia, Percy Jackson, Twenty Boy Summer, The Last Summer (of You and Me), and If I Stay.

I don't know if I liked the ending for His Dark Materials, but the climax was so awesomely fantastic that it made up for any short, vague endings.



Krispy said...

I agree with Jen - it totally depends on the story, but I will say that I don't like the super-cliffhangery endings unless it's like a book near the end of a series (and even then...).

I appreciate endings with some loose threads, but I do want the major plot points resolved or at least mostly resolved. I don't like super vague endings.

Oh and as for quick endings, they can totally work. Here's another Lauren Oliver example, Delirium. The book ends hard and fast, but it's so powerful that way. It's my favorite part of that book.

JEM said...

If you've done a good job building your characters and your world, I will ALWAYS want to read more about them! I think tying up the main storylines brings a satisfying end to a single book, but dropping in some future hint threads helps pull the reader into the next book in the series (if there is one). Otherwise what would compel them to read onto the next book? I think all series-type books need to have an overarching theme through each book that pulls you through to the end of the series.

Abby Annis said...

Now I have that song in my head. The neverending sto-or-y. Aa-a-a-a-a-a-a-ah... I've seen that movie at least a million times. Maybe two million :)

I like a solid ending. A sense of there being more to come in the mc's life/relationships/etc I'm okay with, but huge cliffhangers make me crazy and sometimes even a little angry. Depends on the story too, I guess. Some stories just warrant a more open ending. I can't think of an example, but I'm sure there's one out there somewhere. ;)

Great post! Can't wait until I get to read version 10! That's a nice round number to end on. :)

The Golden Eagle said...

I enjoy the hint of things that could happen in the future--but I don't always take that as a sign there's going to be a sequel. After all, it's seems unrealistic (to me) that after going through an entire book's worth of plot there aren't going to be some loose ends . . .

Missed Periods said...

First of all, I would just like to say that I am so glad I can finally read your posts. For some reason, lately my Internet Explorer wouldn't let me, but my husband just introduced me to Mozilla--and here I am.

To answer your question, I prefer the sense of more to come.

Tere Kirkland said...

Nice book recommendations, y'all, thanks! I see a lot of reading in my future.

I've been favoring writing a lead-in to a new problem, whether I write a sequel or not, just because I don't want the ending to be too mushy. As it stands now, it's too brusque and gritty to be mushy, so that was never a concern before.

I know it's a paranormal romance, but I don't want it to be too happily-ever-after, you know?

Elana Johnson said...

I like a story that can A) stand alone but B) ends the way the story demands it end. Sometimes that's not all wrapped up with a red bow. You know?

Plamena Schmidt said...

Tenth version--yikes.

First of all, congratulations on finishing it (probably by now), and second--I think it really depends on the type of story, but as long as it ends tying up all the major things it's okay to have hints of other things to come. That way you could always write a second one, but you don't necessarily have to. Plus, it gives it a more "real world" sense--everything doesn't come to an end just because the book finishes there.

Anyways, good luck!

Theresa Milstein said...

I like a sense of something more to come. I don't like abrupt endings. And if a series ends with a huge cliffhanger, I sometimes get soured about reading the next one. I don't know if I'll read Sophie Jordan's next one because of the way the first one ends. Too much unresolved.

Sometimes, endings are as hard as beginnings.

I'm impressed you've done so many edits, some of them extensive.

Paul Greci said...

It kind of depends on the story. That said, I like endings that feel like endings, endings that are not rushed, but also show the start of something new, like life will continue with both the bitter and the sweet but the character has a new way of walking in the world because of how they've changed in the story.

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Magan said...

I like closure in my endings. Cliffhangers are great, but I want to know that there could be more, but there doesn't have to be.

And (spoiler for anyone that hasn't read Mockingjay) I want there to be a purpose to everything. If someone goes on a great mission, I don't want someone else just to bomb the capital and the mission was useless.

That's just my two cents.

Janet Johnson said...

This is a great question. I like the major threads to all be resolved in one way or another. Not necessarily happy. And I love it when it all comes together in an organic way that the whole book has been working towards.

Definitely not going on for too long though.