The Rush To the End Syndrome

I see this often in books and I don’t know if it happens because of time pressure or because of writer skill, but here’s what happens –

flag-finishA book starts off strong and you’re thinking “wow, this is a great story!” but then somewhere, usually about ½ to 2/3rd of the way the writing gets noticeably weaker. It almost feels like the writer is rushing to get out a finished product.

It was a great idea and it needs to be published *now!*

While accomplished and practiced writers who follow formulas like Patterson (nothing against him, just read his book ZOO) if a writer does not have the strength of story organization and formula under her belt, things quickly fall apart.

And the reader senses that.

Perhaps the best example I’ve read of this is Wild where you’re going along and then (literally) in the final few paragraphs, the author fast-forwards to several years later with marriage and children. (That’s when I threw the book against the wall.)

The end.

Huh?

Someone obviously told the author that her time was up.

I’m currently reading A Discovery of Witches – it was a staff pick in an indie bookshop and while it started off okay, I’m at 200+ pages (out of 600!) and it feels like someone told this author that she needed to pad her story (with tea time, yoga classes, and black slacks.) In this case, it’s not so much that she’s rushing to the end, but that she’s lost her focus (although to be fair, I’ve read the reviews on Amazon and I don’t have much hope for the ending.)

How can this be avoided?

Take your Time

You’ve got to take the time to write your book, be comfortable in your skin and in your story. I’m working on a memoir that will be ready to go out at the end of this month. I’ve done what everyone says you shouldn’t do – I’ve written the entire manuscript instead of the first 50 pages like you are advised to do with memoirs. I’ve taken my time and it says what I want it to say.

In the past, I’ve had agents bite on my “great idea” only to pump out a mishmash of garbage in order to meet a deadline. It didn’t’ work. I didn’t have the skills to write that way (and quite frankly I don’t want to write that way either.)

Outline

Look, you all know I’m a planner. I write out an outline of my projects and I keep to that general outline (notice I said general, it’s not set in concrete.) An outline is my road map, it keeps me on target. I write with a copy of it right in front of me.

I know my ending before I start my first paragraph, and in fact, I often start with the ending and work back from it so that it’s justified in my story. When I get lost (and don’t think I don’t) I look to my map to see where I should be heading and where I’ve come from.

Edit

I also let a friend read my work and I trust her enough to listen when she says something like, this part doesn’t really belong. Sometimes I push back but often I discover that that passage is important to *me* and not to the story. Out it goes.

As a writer, it’s important to give yourself enough time, a road map, and an outside point of view – while it may not completely eliminate wandering text and a rush to the end, it will certainly curtail it.

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com)

32 thoughts on “The Rush To the End Syndrome

  1. Great advice. I do feel that pressure in the writing of my first contemporary mystery – when I feel myself racing forward I remind myself that this is but the WIP first draft and there are months of work and rewrites ahead. It is not about pages or word counts, but telling a story that ends as strong, if not more so than the beginning. The first chapters compel the reader to read on; the last chapters compel the reader to read more stories you have written or will write.

  2. Good point. I can feel myself doing this sometimes. I guess the beginning of a novel often gets a lot of thought and editing in order to catch the attention of the reader / agent / publisher. We get told over and over again to make sure our beginnings are gripping, and without that we’ll get nowhere, but keeping the momentum up is an entirely different challenge.

  3. I think a lot of authors could do with writing their conclusions before the second half of the book is complete. It’s common in playwriting and screenwriting, where you write by scene and not necessarily in sequential order. It helps make sure that story arcs are tied, and provides a focal point for the author to target.

  4. A compelling post that made me stop to think. Yes I do this a lot, rush to the ending but it is often because I have posed a problem and come up with a solution. Keeping the pace and readers attention is vital and challenging.

  5. Thanks. Working on my first book, great advice. There are all these ads now for how to crank out a book in a month. I already knew that won’t be me.

  6. It’s funny – my sister recommended that I read “Discovery of Witches”. I got to about to the same point (it’s on my Kindle so I’m not sure of page numbers) and gave up. I liked the ideas but hated the writing.

  7. I have finished my book about my cancer journey, let it sit more than a month, and next week am going on retreat to do the editing. (I leave early Monday, so I hope you can answer me before then.) For nonfiction, do you have any suggestions? Thanks.

  8. Debb, I don’t write fiction. I write non-fiction. Having said that I organize my non-fiction around fiction rules. You still want to tell a good story. Take a look at my hero’s journey post a few weeks back, that’s the *basic* story you probably want to tell about your cancer experience. A few notes of caution – make sure that someone you *really* trusts reads your manuscript in order to identify the things that are “nice-to-knows” but don’t advance your story. For the most part, you have to have “won” in the end and you have to have changed. Lastly, it’s important to know that just because something happened it doesn’t necessarily belong in your story. Each paragraph, each page, and each scene must further the purpose and mission of your book. Good luck and have fun on your retreat. Wendy

  9. Reblogged this on M.L. Campbell and commented:
    Thursday will be Re-blog days for me. Ideally, I’d like to find inspiring or informative articles by someone different every week in order to circulate these writers’ ideas or wisdoms to my followers, thus increasing their followers. I have a suspicion that as time goes on this may become difficult.

    I’m re-blogging this article because I’ve experienced this quite a bit. I’m not one for outlining, but I agree that organizing your story is important to keep it strong, relevant, engaging.

  10. While writing a short story I have experienced the “rush to the end” phenomenon. I had a wonderful beginning but didn’t know what the central conflict would be. Then I found my middle and the central conflict but didn’t have the stamina to give the ending the time it needed. Are we just running out of fuel at this point in a project? It’s already written in my head, but I gave the ending only a few, outlined, paragraphs and was done with it. Is this writer’s fatigue? An inability to see things through?

  11. Good general guidelines. It always bothers me when the writing feels rushed at the end. I like the feeling of a more well rounded story.

    It can be hard to figure that end out though. Sometimes it’s a matter of figuring out how to end (something I’m currently trying to figure out).

  12. This is great advice! I can think of so many writers I would like to send this post too hahaha. I recently read a series that for the most part plodded along well and then I realised there was just a few pages to go and thought ‘what is going on here?’. I found out, basically the two main characters were in love, they killed off one and then left the other in depression. All of a sudden it is two years later and the guy is still depressed and so apparently has experienced no personal growth in two years (has not even scattered her ashes yet) even though he experienced massive amounts of growth as a character in the rest of the book/s. I was SO MAD! It sounds stupid, but I felt personally offended because I had spent quite a bit of time reading this series only to get a garbage ending to what was otherwise a decent series (well, mostly). To be honest I could not even see any reason for killing off the other main character, it did not advance the plot at all and because multiple characters were killed within the last 20 pages it just ended the book on, well… death… what an upper huh?! 🙂

  13. Totally agree. From a reader’s point of view there’s nothing more frustrating than to get to the last few chapters and then have it written almost in note-form because you can sense the editor and publisher breathing down the author’s neck. It’s something I am aware of whenever I write (not novel length yet) – pace and tempo should continue ALL THE WAY THROUGH!

  14. Sometimes I wonder if the beginnings of novels are edited better because they came first and received more time and attention than later chapters. It’s as if the author (and subsequent editors and beta readers) got tired of making every word count by page 200.

    As to planning, I outlined my first novel on paper, but my second was pretty much all thought out in my head. It amounts to the same method: outlining, just on different mediums. 🙂

    And about editing parts of your stories that others indicate are unnecessary I completely concur. My first reaction is, “But that HAS to be in the story!” Only to realize later that it in fact is essential to me, not the novel.

    Great post on this. It’s something I’ve noticed and thought about on a number of occasions and it really bothers me that books are published without being revised to their fullest potential.

  15. Thank you. This was the perfect read for this juncture in my writing (about 2/3 of the way through the story). Glad to know the timeline I worked on will come in handy – I mean, it already has, but this reminded me it is part of the answer to my current frame of mind. After the excitement of coming so far in the process, I looked at what I still had to cover and thought, “but still so far to go.” This helps me reinterpret the feeling of being bogged down – now looking at it as a final push in continuing what I started.

  16. Reblogged this on Pull up a chair and commented:
    This was the perfect read for this juncture in my writing (about 2/3 of the way through the story). Glad to know the timeline I worked on will come in handy – I mean, it already has, but this reminded me it is part of the answer to my current frame of mind. After the excitement of coming so far in the process, I looked at what I still had to cover and thought, “but still so far to go.” This helps me reinterpret the feeling of being bogged down – now looking at it as a final push in continuing what I started.

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