The End, as Jmo sees it

This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end…

I know. I stole that from the Doors, but it applies. It also happens to be the perfect lead in for my last blog on Writing the Jmo Way. Just like you only get one chance to make a good first impression, you only get one shot at leaving a reader either breathlessly wanting more, or saying to themselves, ‘I wasted three days of my life reading this drivel for that!’ I’ve been there and said it, so know it’s true.

So how do you write that one amazing ending that totally leaves jaws dropping and with that eternal of I wonder what happens next burning a reader’s lips? There is a simple answer to that. It ain’t easy!

Too many factors go into the equation to give a pat answer. Each book is different, with its own set of problems. If you’re working on a single book, it narrows the field. In Romance, we strive for a ‘happily ever after’ most of the time. Other genres might not be so forgiving. Or, giving, as the case may be.  I write series. Series gives you the option of continuing the story so you can draw out that HEA. In the case of Love Bites and Bite Marks, I get to play with the best of both worlds. You get the individual happily ever after of my hero and heroine for that book, while you get to keep wondering what happens next as the plot that runs through the series keeps unfolding.

Why a continuing plot? Because, I hate to turn characters loose. Savannah and Donatello kicked Love Bites off. I loved them so much, I wanted to keep visiting them. They’ve popped up in nearly all of the books. Not only do I get to glimpse inside their continuing and growing relationship, the reader does as well. With Book three’s hero and heroine, I found something special. Deme and Dela have a specific role to play with their continuing and definitely growing relationship. And, no, I’m not telling you what it is. If you’ve been reading the series, you know. If not, consider that a tease to make you start reading. This is a writer’s blog after all. Just a spoiler, Book Two of Bite Marks will mark a big event in their relationship. Ebil ain’t I?

Back to what this blog is all about. The End!

What goes into crafting an amazing ending? First and foremost, it has to be satisfying — and true to the heart of the book. That last bit is the important part. The most important part! If you slap a kiss and a walk off into the sunset at the conclusion just because you think that’s what readers want, you’re cheating three sets of people. Yourself. Your readers. Your characters. Sure, you want your characters to have that, but is that the end result of what they’ve experienced? Some relationships take more that the span of a single situational experience to reach an ‘I love you forever’ moment. They might get to the ‘I love you,’ but realistically does every book deserve the wedding, and horse drawn carriage to end it. It’s an easy fix, but is it always the right fix?

In my Southern Werewolf Chronicles, Were Love Blooms ends with the I love you, but I hold off on the I love you forever. The characters feel it, but I leave room for them to explore their relationship before thrusting either of them into a big wedding and a future defined by the heat of the moment. I, personally, as the author went into the first book wanting to write a story about two people who find each other, then get into discovering if the ‘I love you’ means they can spend their lives together. Because love does not always equal compatibility.

Each book, there’ll be three, has a different theme. Were Love Blooms was finding true love. Were the Moon Don’t Shine was about what you’d do to keep true love alive. Book Three, which is still brewing in my head, will be about those two people discovering if they can survive all those little irritating things that all couples have to work through. To me, that’s what love is all about. Not the heat and passion, but the ability to love someone enough to stick around and let that love grow in spite of the constant nagging that someone left the toilet seat up again. It was the cat, and I’m sticking to that story.

Another key ingredient to a satisfying ending is remembering to tie up all those pesky loose ends. Subplots can get lost along the way. In the rush to finish a book, it can be easy to forget that you left Timmie in the well or whatever. A first draft is the race to finish. A second draft is the jog to finish well. Third draft? Well, that’s the slow walk to finish grammatically well. When we inevitably fail on that last one, we become an editor’s headache before we become a reader’s comma spliced migraine. Okay, maybe I need to reverse that. Editor’s migraine does sound more to the truth. The thing is as an author we need to remember what we’ve set in motion and make damned sure we finish what we start, no matter how small that might be. The devil, or in my case, the werewolf is in the details.

Even though my worlds are paranormal and exaggerated comically in nature, I attempt to base them on the real world. What each of us has gone through, or are going through, every single day of the week. In that way, I hope readers can relate to what I’m peddling. That means when they close the book, the end might be the end, or the end for now. How satisfying that is, I leave up to them to decide. For me, it’s as satisfying as I can make it limited to my observations of the human condition.

That’s the thing. Books are only as good as an author makes them. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I’m left wondering what I did there. That’s the reason we do multiple drafts, and if we’re smart, have people in our lives who read it before it reaches the online bookshelves. If it doesn’t satisfy them, then we know we need to go back to the drawing board. In this case, honesty is the best policy, so surround yourself with people not afraid to hit you where it hurts. Egos are made to be bruised. From personal experience, that drawing board can crack down the middle before we finally get what we want. Nay! Need.

All this basically means this. The End is hard work. It isn’t something that just falls into place magically. It should be the first thought you have when you type out that first line. Where am I going? How do I get there? How does all this lead to where my characters need to be? Hey, what happened to my bag of Oreos? Those are some other good questions you should ask yourself throughout the course of writing your book. Especially that last one. Those bags come up missing an awful lot.

To sum up this whole blog series, writing isn’t about telling a story. It is about totally immersing yourself into a story from beginning to end. For me, if you’re not living the story as much as your characters are, you’re not doing it write. I’ve probably said this before but it bears repeating. Writing is acting on paper, or its modern age’s equivalent, on the screen. I am my characters. I cry when they cry. I bleed when they bleed. Most of the time, I snark when they snark. And, when it’s all said and done, I’ve told the best story I’m able to. If I didn’t think that, I’d be even later on my deadlines than I already am. Because, for me to send a book to my editor, I have to honestly believe I couldn’t do it any better. If you can say the same, when you type out ‘The End’, then you’re not a writer, you’re an author.

Thanks to everyone, who has taken the time to stick with me through this drawn out process. I hope I’ve imparted some knowledge to you, or kept you mildly entertained. Either way, have a great day, and happy reading!

The End,

Jmo

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