Tying Up Those Loose Ends

Posted: October 5, 2012 in Discussions, On Writing
Tags: , ,

When writing a story, whether it’s a short one or a novel, it’s easy to get caught up in the story line and the numerous details and forget to wrap something together nicely and put a bow on it. As authors, we must tie loose ends. Not doing so, can ruin a story, in most cases. (Of course there are exceptions.)

But how do we go about doing so?

I have two quite obvious, but nonetheless important, tips for you: rereading, and sharing your work with others. While rereading is the most obvious, it’s often the least successful. Why is this? For me, it’s because when I reread, I know the story already, it’s fresh in my mind (remember my post about putting your work away for some time?) and I find I’m able to gloss over any issues, including loose ends. This is why I find it EXTREMELY important to allow someone else to read your work. I know I have posted about this at least once before, but I cannot stress to you how important it is.

For example, I recently finished writing The Sick Man, the ghost story I’d posted about some time back. I broke my editing ritual this once, and was quite happy and surprised with the results, and got insightful feedback. Instead of writing my second draft before sharing, I handed over my first draft, spell checked, to my Mom.

As I’ve mentioned before, I know that I can trust my mother to be objective and honest about my work, simply because I know that she would not want me to send out a story that isn’t the absolute best I can do. She pushes me to make my stories better, and that’s why I can trust her opinion.

I’d asked her if she read the story yet last night, and she said she had it right then and was about to. I asked her to let me know what she thought when she finished it, but to take her time, no big hurry. I wanted to make sure that she gave it all her attention.

This was the text she sent me about her thoughts on my story: “That story is totally fricken awesome! I only have ONE question. You didn’t answer it in your story. Why was the house cold? Was the heater out? If it was the poltergeist, you need to make the couple a bit leery about why it was cold…like everything was checked out by the heater guy, but was fine. Or tapping the thermostat to give the impression that something was funky. You know? Beautiful story tho! I loved it!!”  (Word for word, that is exactly what she wrote in her message.)

Then I asked her if there were many grammar mistakes that she caught, to which she replied: “No. It flowed very well.”   (Yay! =])

Now, you could imagine my surprise that I would get such a reaction from a first draft. A FIRST DRAFT?! Yea. You guys might think that maybe my Mom glossed it over a bit, or made it sound better than she really thought it was, but, because you don’t know her, I have to tell you all that she understands that to do so would be to sabotage my writing.

My point being that you have to find your own person (like my Mom) in your life to objectively read and give opinions on your work so that you can tie up those loose ends, like the cold house in my story. If it wasn’t for her reading the story and pointing it out to me, I probably would never have thought about it because as I was writing it, it seemed to explain itself to me. I know now that I should detail a little more on why the house was cold, since it raised a question with my reader that was unanswered.

Tying up loose ends ensures that the story doesn’t leave the reader feeling disappointed or unfulfilled after reading. Think about the last story you read that left something hanging (figuratively of course). How did you feel after reading it? What would you have done differently to achieve the effect that we all want as authors, for the reader to enjoy the story? Doing this, analyzing how loose ends effect a story can not only help you to see the importance in making sure no stone is left unturned but can also help you to notice the holes in your own work.

How about that D-list character you introduced in the third chapter of your novel? Where is he now? What is he doing in the end? How was/is he important to the story? How can you resolve the character within the story without seeming tedious or straying from the storyline? Remember all your characters, situations, and all points raised. Hell, write them down on note cards (that’s what I do when I’m working on a novel), that way they’re easy to access and a great reminder for anything you may have forgotten to address.

Tell me, do you have someone who helps with your editing process, someone who helps you tie up those loose ends?


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