Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Wrap Up or Fall Flat

After five years of stop and go writing on my historical novel I’m nearing the end chapters. It’s rather intimidating. The ending involves the reuniting of a homestead mother with her family. The way I have presented the conflict is that there is some ambiguity of whether the mother left the family due to the grind of daily life as a pioneer women or if she wandered away due to fever delirium.
Here’s what I need to figure out:
-Is the husband readily accepting her leaving the family and not returning once she was better? (He’s a good guy overall, but was left with six children ages 3-15 to raise in her absence)
-How will the daughter (her POV) feel about her mama at this point? Anger, relief? This girl took on the task of raising her three ornery brothers and packed up her petticoats and put on pants to do so in order up keep up with them.

The right grab really counts… image:


Reaching the end chapters is a lot like rock climbing. A cadence is developed in both–the reach and pull up towards progress. Just when the top is in sight, flat is sometimes hit, meaning no handholds and no way to go up. Finding a new path is sometimes the only direction left. Then again a risky move can be tried and what a sensation of exhilaration when it leads to success and pulling over the top.

Write now? I’m at that looking for a move that will pull me over the top.

So, writers–what do you do when you hit flat when the top ledge is in sight? Do you press on or look for a new route?

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8 thoughts on “Wrap Up or Fall Flat

  1. I just heard an author talk about how if he gets to the end and the end isn’t working, he doesn’t just keep rewriting the end to make it work. He goes back to the beginning and sees if there is a thread that can be changed that will make the ending work or some other permutation of an ending. Just a thought. I have found this to be true as I look across the body of my work.

    Similarly, in a class about indeterminacy awhile ago, I came across a quote that said something like, if you have a cause and a result that seem to contradict each other what is needed is not just more experience that will force the truth but a widening of the possibilities that allow for both to be true. Does that make sense?

  2. Is there someone to whom you can articulate your ending propositions/doubts – not for them to give you answers but because the process of telling someone the story out loud can bring fresh ideas to the surface.
    Or you could draw a circle for each character with the options for their reactions around them, and see which they pick – maybe not ones you thought of.
    Or you could ask yourself if there isn’t quite another ending. For instance do you need to show the actual reunion? – you could build the mother’s expectation and fears and hopes as she nears her destination. This intercut with the family dealing with the kind of tensions and difficulties that they’ve grown used to without her. Possibly slow recognition/ disbelief on their part…There’s room for irony here, and a sense of transcendence that is suggested rather than rendered? Just throwing out notions here. Good luck!

    • These are excellent suggestions and helpful. I have a writer’s group who are helpful in their comments as well. I will keep writing in the direction I’ve launched out in and we’ll see what happens! I think that’s the growing aspect of writing–the trial and error.

  3. It depends. I usually give the manuscript a little time to marinate and allow it to tell me which way to turn.

    BTW: Congrats, Cricket, on your almost completed novel! Woo! Get to the summit! You can doooo it!

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