The End in the Beginning

Posted on 26 August 2010

“Henry told Laura that if you knew the end while you were writing, it basically meant that your book was shit.”

from “Letter from the Last Bastion” by Nell Freudenberger

I love this line because I happen to completely agree. That’s not to say that I think anyone who writes from an outline is writing a crappy book, just that if I knew or planned the endings of my novel/stories from the beginning, it would be a disaster.

Writers seem to love to debate the outline issue, but it’s pretty clear that some people work well with outlines while others do not. There’s no right or wrong. I happen to be one of the no-outline writers. I need to explore and learn and figure things out as I write. During the process, characters surprise me or disappoint me or reveal new plot opportunities that I never would have dreamed of when I first started writing. New complexities arise, subtleties are brought to light and layer after layer comes together. This is never more important for me than at the end.

Sometimes I wish I could be one of the outline writers. How much easier would it be to have it all planned out! But despite the frustrations and uncertainties and backtracking and rewriting that comes with writing without a detailed map, I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is the creative process for me — slowly uncovering the real story and writing things I never knew I had in me in the first place.


1 Response to The End in the Beginning

  • Paul Lamb says:

    Belated response: I “know” my ending as much as I know the rest of my story when I begin, but I discover so much, so many layers and new characters and new ways to develop ideas, that my ending may change by the time I get there. My current novel-being-shopped-around started as a first-person narrative but had to change to third-person about 2/3 of the way into it when I realized my original ending wouldn’t work.

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