Writing Tip: Break on Through

The last couple of weeks have been tough as far as writing. The book I’m working on has this awesome character and awesome set-up (I think so anyway, and every first draft is for ME). But for two weeks I’ve been struggling with the ending. The idea I had in mind, when I actually got closer and closer to it, seemed suckier and suckier.

Until finally I couldn’t write the story at all.

Instead I whined in my diary for approximately three hours every morning. “What am I doing, this ending is horrible. Maybe I should go herd goats in a cold remote country….”

Oh yeah, writing tip. Not long meandering whiny story.

Steps I took:

1. I read the YA Muses posts this week on endings (how timely!). Especially helpful was the guest post by Elle Cosimano, but really, all week, their blog has been like my own personal support group.

2. I listed 20 other ideas of steps my main character could take for achieving her ultimate goal. TWENTY. Don’t short yourself, because the best ideas are usually found in the last five. (I think I got this tip from a talk Bruce Coville gave at an SCBWI conference last April.)

3. I did some exercises from Donald Maass’s book, Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. I was saving this bad boy for after I’d finished the draft, but, seeing that nothing else was working, I did the exercises on Theme (specifically, “Alternate Endings,” (pp 200-201), “The Larger Problem” (pp 202-203), and “Same Problem, Other Characters” (pp 204-205)).

4. I made a list of what I thought made for a fantastic climactic ending in one of my favorite contemporary YA novels, The Truth About Forever, by Sarah Dessen. My list looked like this:

  • huge storm (sorta cliche/plot device, but works for story)
  • tons of people, Macy demanded everywhere at once
  • two guys – the one she wants & the one she must deal with first
  • needing to face her fear/hang-up and RUN for the guy she wants
  • overall: choices, weather, too many people, TONS of conflict

5. Then I made a wish list of elements I’d like for my own wacky wonderful ending (including, but not limited to, a brawl involving the strippers and this total Creeper McCreeperson).

6. Finally I had enough ideas to make a new outline for a new shiny ending that hopefully will not be so horrible that the very thought of it paralyzes my writing.

And I share these ideas with you, free of charge. (Because, yes, they might be worthless.)


  1. Jodie · February 3, 2012

    Good ideas and I just might need to use them someday.

    • Beth Hull · February 3, 2012

      Jodie, that would be wonderful if they can help someone else! Hopefully you won’t need them, though, because your fantastic endings will just flow out of your fingertips and onto the page.

  2. PB Rippey · February 3, 2012

    Good for you for being so proactive! Right on. Sounds like you’ve helped yourself out of a—hm. Mire. There we go. Synapses stopped firing around 8pm, sorry. Thank you for the tips!!!

  3. Sevennblue · February 4, 2012

    Great post! Creeper MrCreeperson!

  4. Beth Hull · February 4, 2012

    Thanks, PB and Seven! PB, hope those synapses are up & firing at full speed again…because next time I’m coming to you & Seven for help! Be warned.

  5. Maggie · February 4, 2012

    These are some good ideas. Glad you got yourself out of a tight spot!

    • Beth Hull · February 4, 2012

      Thanks, Maggie! I’m glad, too, because not being able to write was slowly killing me and turning me into a bitter and no-fun person. Just ask my husband.

  6. Elle Cosimano · February 5, 2012

    Thanks for the shout out! And thanks for sharing those recommendations under #3. I’m going to check those out this week. Stuck in my own middle of a new WIP and sometimes the monster seems bigger in my imagination. A few new tools might be just what I need.

    • Beth Hull · February 5, 2012

      Thanks for stopping by, Elle! I can’t recommend that Maass book (and those ending-saving exercises) strongly enough. Your & the Muses’ posts helped a ton, too! The cameraderie & support are invaluable. Good luck with your WIP!

  7. Vic · February 16, 2012

    Great job – pressing onward!!

    • Beth Hull · February 16, 2012

      Even when…every sentence…is so…hard. I finished it, though!

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