William Blake wrote in Proverbs of Hell ‘You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough’. Writing the ending to a novel always makes me think of these words because I never seem to know what is enough, what is more than enough or what isn’t quite enough. I often have a clear idea of the ending but then I tinker, and tinker… I’ve just been away for a week and promised myself that I’d ‘sort out’ the ending of my latest novel. Cue frantic scribbling in an exercise book (I was backpacking so no room for a laptop) and lots of false starts and crossings out. I sat down yesterday to rewrite the ending, looked at all my notes and thought ‘that’s way too much’.
Sometimes I watch a film and find the last half hour ‘draggy’, leaving me feeling that the director should have ended it thirty minutes ago but couldn’t quite bring him/herself to leave it alone. That’s how I felt about my new ending – it just seemed to go on and on. So I stopped. I’ve tightened up the final scenes and changed the order of events slightly but the over-long interview scene with the ‘villain’ remains in the battered exercise book.
I find starting a book easy – I’m bursting with ideas and keen to get into the details of the plot. The middle can be a bit of a slog because that seems to be where all the self-doubt creeps in and I start to wonder what the hell I’m doing. Then I get to the end and feel jubilant that I’ve finished. But then I start to wonder whether I need to carry on, add in an extra scene, add more loose ends and then tie them up.
I feel it’s important that I don’t leave readers on a cliff-hanger and I don’t want the bad person to get away with what he/she’s done but do I really need to re-explain their motives and their character? Probably not – at least, not if I’ve done my job right in the rest of the book.
So Kate Fletcher 3 (not the real title!) has been printed and passed on to my partner. Now I have to let it go and sit quietly while she reads it, resisting the urge to ask where she’s up to and what she thinks of certain elements of the story. It’s going to be a long week!