Friday, August 31, 2012

Guest Post | Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

I have the immense pleasure to welcome newly published authoress Elizabeth Rose of Living on Literary Lane!  In honor of her novel Violets are Blue - published in May of this year - she has organized a month long blog tour, stopping at various wonderful blogs featuring reviews of her new work, interviews, and guest posts sharing her own heartfelt, incisive observations on the many aspects of a writer's trade.  I am deeply honored that she chose to culminate this brilliant event with an appearance here at Accordion to Kellie.  

"You can't get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me."  -C.S. Lewis
{via pinterest}
You've done the seemingly impossible. All those sleepless nights and countless mugs of tea are about to pay off in the next few moments. Memories of writer's block and the tears you wept over that horrid chapter fourteen are forgotten in the unmistakable glory of your success. Your book is finished. The plot is intriguing and creative, your characters are dynamic, and your dialogue flows with all the grace and ease of water over mossy rocks. You even have a creative title that evokes the beauty of your story in a few poetic words. You're soaring on cloud nine, singing at the top of your lungs, "I did not live until today!"

. . . Well, not quite.

Before you can start designing your book's cover and planning the movie adaption, there's one little matter to settle, and it comes right before those two little words: THE END. That's right — I'm speaking of your story's last few sentences. They could easily be called the most important part of a book, for they are the lines that stick in the reader's head long after the final page has been turned. You may have a general idea of where all your characters should be when the book concludes, but how are you supposed to draw it all together so effortlessly that the reader is given a feeling of completion?

There is an art in ending books well. As strange as it may sound, it doesn't take quite as much talent to ramble on as it does to neatly conclude your stream of thoughts. I discovered this when it came time to finish Violets Are Blue. Yes, I knew what was to happen at the end . . . but what was I supposed to say? 

There are several common errors that authors make when ending their books, and they normally fall into one of two categories. The categories are as simple as too much and too little.

— I shall say goodnight till it be morrow. 

This is the case of writing too much. You have a general idea of how your book is supposed to end, but since you don't know how to really finish a story, you keep rambling on about inconsequential details until the dramatic climax and falling action are washed out in a dull stream of unneeded information. Sometimes the rambling isn't obvious to anyone but an unbiased reader (another reason why it's always a good idea to have several trusted friends or family members read your manuscript before you pursue publishing). As Shakespeare wrote in his famous tragedy Hamlet, "Brevity is the soul of wit." Sometimes a brief denouement is just the way to bow out gracefully.

— O, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied? 

There is, of course, the other extreme, in which an ending is so brisk, so abrupt that it seems sloppy and ill thought out. There must be a sense of conclusion to your work, something to show for all the time you put into this novel. In other words, you must leave the reader with something to which they can cling. Having a few strings not yet tied up is mysterious; ending your book with no answers at all is foolish, and quite unsatisfactory for the reader. There are brilliant writers who can pull off a curt finish with ease, but it takes a great deal of talent and experience to do so, and it still is never quite so satisfactory as a graceful conclusion.

Surprisingly, the very traits that can swiftly ruin all the work you've put into a book can also help tie your conclusion together with a unique sense of style. Recently Abigail compared description to salt, stating that while a little improves the quality of writing, too much can spoil it. I believe the same principal can be applied just as easily to conclusions: you start to have trouble when you use too much. Finding the right balance may be tricky, but the results are euphonious.

— Like softest music to attending ears. 

A well-written ending should have the proper balance of conclusion and brevity. Most of the loose strings should be tied up by the end of the story, with just enough still dangling to add a nice element of suspense.  Many authors will open their stories with a brief description of the setting in which the book is placed, perhaps adding details about nature, i.e. "The waves lapped against the hull of the ship, carrying with them the salty scent of adventure." The rest of the book is spent telling a story about the fantastic cast of characters you have devoted your time to crafting. When forming a conclusion, drawing out those general details about the setting once more gives your book a feeling of completeness. The reader has come full circle since the start, and is filled with a sense of contentment and satisfaction.

. . . And now you can go design your novel's cover.

. . .

Elizabeth Rose is a follower of the Most High who seeks to live every day of her life in accordance with 1 Corinthians 10:31. She loves all sorts of books (the thicker the better), is convinced that Irish Breakfast tea is the closest thing this world will get to heaven, dances until her feet ache, stays up until all hours writing, wears pearls at every opportunity, and obsesses over Les Misérables and The Scarlet Pimpernel. Her debut novel, Violets Are Blue, was published in May 2012. You can find her on Literary Lane, most likely with The Count of Monte Cristo in hand, and ink on her fingers. 


  1. Endings are the bane of my writing existence. Essays, blog posts, short stories, emails... you name it, I have trouble finishing it. I tend to fall into either the extreme of way too many details or the slap-bang-there-it's-done method.

    So I'm bookmarking this post for future reference. Excellent advice as always, Lizzy dear!

  2. Great tips and post, Elizabeth. :) Love them all!

  3. I dislike writing endings. I feel like a horrible person, leaving my characters to go live on their own, after being with them for so long. :) But this is helpful! Methinks I will use this. :)


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