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It's not you, it's me

I'm in the middle of revising/gutting/rewriting a novel I wrote a long while ago and only recently gave to my critique group. I've already rewritten the beginning, and I like the new version a lot better, and now I'm considering how much I want to change the ending.

This reminded me of my (fairly recent) experience reading Perdidio Street Station, by China Miéville. I think China Miéville is a wonderful writer with a huge imagination and a real gift for description and characterization, but I hated the ending of that book.

A lot of folks stress the importance of the beginning of a book, creating a hook to draw the reader in. And it's quite true that if you don't draw the reader in, you won't have any readers! Established writers may be able to get away with slow starts, but “new” writers don't have the luxury of assuming a reader (especially an editor or an agent) will stick with a story that drags at the beginning. But even with that, the ending is every bit as important.

Reading a book is a bit like establishing a relationship with another person. You feel each other out and decide if you want to be friends (i.e., keep reading). When the book is over, if the ending satisfies you, you're still friends. Maybe you'll read the same book again, and maybe you won't, but you will probably have positive feelings for the author. On the other hand, if the ending lets you down, you are much less likely to give that author another chance, just like a bad break-up means you're less likely to want to see a former Significant Other. I feel that once the book is over, it's the ending you remember most. How did you feel when you finished it controls a lot of how you feel about the book.

Of course, endings are, like plots themselves, personal. What works for one person doesn't work for another. Obviously, the editor or Perdido Street Station liked the ending enough to buy the book. So now I'm deciding what part of the feedback about my book's ending do I agree with. I want something that works better than what I've got now, but not something that doesn't satisfy me as a reader as well as a writer. I have to like my own damn story!

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( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 17th, 2010 03:50 pm (UTC)
How did you feel when you finished it controls a lot of how you feel about the book.

SO TRUE!!! Great post, Karen!
Jun. 17th, 2010 05:01 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Jun. 17th, 2010 09:19 pm (UTC)
I felt the same way about PSS. I think he gets much better at endings after this -- The Scar was pretty satisfying, I thought.
Jun. 18th, 2010 02:06 pm (UTC)
I got THE CITY AND THE CITY as part of the Hugo packet so he will get another chance with me (I'm sure he's worried about it!).
Jun. 18th, 2010 02:08 pm (UTC)
I loved that book. Hope you do too!
Jun. 18th, 2010 01:54 pm (UTC)
If only readers were less picky about wanting good openings, entertaining middles and great endings, writing would be so much easier :(
Jun. 18th, 2010 02:05 pm (UTC)
No kidding! And they want those pesky characters to seem real instead of cardboard. Picky, picky, picky!
Jun. 18th, 2010 04:48 pm (UTC)
I know, and they wonder why only 95% of the population want to be writers
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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