Hello everyone and welcome to a new series of blogs that I’d like to call The Write Stuff. It’s been way too long since I’ve written anything about writing and I thought it was high time now that I’m working on a new scifi series set in the same universe as my published trilogy The Shaedon Resurgence! So, what is all this about then? Well, writing of course with a focus on my methods and what works best for me. Which has always been my preferred method of writing blogs. I know different things work for different people and that’s why I think it’s important to add this little caveat at the start of this blog, so people won’t tell me my methods are rubbish (which they probably are, but somehow I manage). In this first blog I want to focus on what I always do when I start a story and perhaps this might sound counterintuitive to you, but to me it makes perfect sense. I always begin with an end!
Why the end?
Well, in order for me to tell a good story, I want to know where I’m headed towards. I often hear there’s a theory about two types of writers: Plotters and Pantsers. The difference between the two is that Plotters like to plot out their entire story, before beginning their work. Pantsers on the other hand are people who just sit down (presumably with their pants on) and just start writing and see where their imagination takes them. For me, that method doesn’t work, although I don’t consider myself a pure plotter either, because I never plot out the entire story, but rather take a few breaks in between, look back at the road I’ve travelled and then continue onwards, towards the ending that I already had in mind.
So, for me it starts with an end. In order to tell a good story I just want to know my destination first and as the saying goes, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey and that’s all the bits between the very first sentence and the ending. For my trilogy I always had the big ending in mind and given that the books have been out for ages now, I think it’s safe to say that this article is not spoilerfree! If you haven’t read my novels and you still want to, I’d advise to stop reading. If you don’t care, or already know the ending, by all means continue (still at your own risk).
Thinking of the end
Don’t you just love a good story? Well, I most certainly do and what can really make or break a story? The end, right? The ending can really ruin a story if it’s bad. Take Mass Effect 3 for instance, pre-patch. Man, that ending was bad. Or rather, endings, since you could choose between three and that was it. There were no consequences for all your choices that you had taken over the course of the entire trilogy. It was bad. This is one of the reasons why I want to think of the ending first, because if the ending is good enough to my liking, I can start working towards it and the best thing is that you can write pretty much anything before the ending and even add a little (read a lot) of plot twists in between to throw the readers off guard.
For my trilogy I had an “ultimate” ending, which was the ending for the final book The Xoron Redemption. At the same time I couldn’t just stop the other two books, so I had decided on a proper ending for them too. The first one would partly resolve the story arc with the discovery of the return of the Shaedon and end up with Netherea being freed, at least for now. The second one would end with Räz destroying an entire planet, so he could redeem himself in the last book. I also had in mind that two of the main characters, Räz and Grummus would find each other in the first book, be torn apart in the second and rejoin forces in the final book. I always saw them as two sides of the same coin. Two guys who had vastly different philosophies of life, but ultimately needed each other, exactly because of how their views differed.
Of course, coming up with a good ending isn’t really that easy. It involves a lot of thinking. Writing down ideas, thinking about the setting of your story. Is it a scifi, or a fantasy story, or is it set in this time, the future, history? Those are things you probably already considered when you knew you were going to write a story. You probably also have a rough idea of what kind of story you want to tell. In my case it’s easy, it’s just another boring ol’ quest type of story. Stories that have been done to death, but then again, what hasn’t been? It’s how you tell your story that makes all the difference and that’s what your focus should be on. And if you agreed with my theory that an end can ruin a story, then you better come up with a good ending first.
Yeah, great, but how do I come up with a good ending then?
If you have the luxury of knowing someone who you can use as a sounding board, please make use of them! But first, make sure they’re going to be absolutely 100% honest with you. If your story idea sucks, then they should be the first one to tell you, and not jump on the band wagon telling you everything is great, because bad shit and mediocrity comes from sounding boards who are actually Yes-people. Pitch your idea for an end to them and wait for their initial reaction. It really doesn’t matter how the rest of the story goes in this stadium of your novel writing. Just give them some basic info about your story and tell them how it’s going to end. Yes, they will be spoiled for your story, but that’s what sounding boards are for.
For me, personally, I have to do a lot of thinking about how I want a story to end. So, yes, it takes time. It’s not a matter of seconds, it can take weeks, months even before I’m satisfied with the ending for my story. Sometimes the ending needs a lot of reshaping and the final ending is nowhere near what I originally had in mind. This was the case for my second novel The Zar’aranos Deception. You generally have a lot of creative freedom when you’re writing the middle part of a trilogy, but you’ll still need an ending to set up the story for the final part. The story arcs’ endings for a couple of characters in it ended up being totally different from what I originally intended.
What’s most important is that the ending is something you’d love to see in a story, but haven’t seen before. It can be surprising, shocking, sombre, or any other words that starts with an s, obviously. But, as I said, make it an ending that feels worthwhile to you. It’s your story, make it your own!
Okay, so you have the end and then what?
This is where the fun begins, because now you have to think about where your story starts! And that’s something I’ll focus on in the next instalment of The Write Stuff. I hope you liked this little bit of insight into my writing style. It might be completely different from what you know, or what’s considered a “best practice”, but this is what I do and what feels right for me. I love telling a good story, I also love writing non-fiction, although I haven’t taken the time to write a non-fiction book yet. One day I will and it’s going to be awesome. I even have a title for it, so it has got to be written some day! But for now my focus is on my Kevar novels. I really hope to reveal more about them as time progresses. I will translate the manuscript to Dutch myself, so I know nothing will be lost in translation. So it’s sort of going to be a double whammy, them being my first new scifi novels in some time and also translating my own work. But I’m really psyched about them and now that I’ve finished this article, I can’t wait to continue reporting my characters’ adventures in the Perussan Empire and its neighbouring country Helianthica!
Eén opmerking over 'The Write Stuff #1: It begins with and end'
Jeffrey, It is so fascinating for me to read all you said about coming up with an ending first before writing a book, having read your trilogy, “The Shaedon Resurgence.” You had communicated somewhere that you knew the ending of the trilogy years before, so the ending was a big deal to me & the suspense built & built. But I never stopped to think that you went through the same process for the ending of the first two books. I was always looking to the end of the trilogy. To this day, the ending blows my mind. I remember having my wife Geri read the book to help me understand the ending. And then I was relieved that you confirmed that I understood the ending correctly. Your new series of blogs, “The Write Stuff,” is sure to be as captivating as this one! GOOD JOB, JEFFREY! Phil