Ten Ways to End Your Story

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

I found the following suggestions for story endings in my Twitter Feed:

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Taking the Risk: To Live, to Write

I’m happy to welcome West Coast author K. L. Abrahamson. Today, Karen shares an inspiring post about risk-taking and her new release, Trapped on Cedar Trails.

Here’s Karen!

I used to work with young offenders. We’d worry about their ‘risk-taking’ behaviours—drinking, using drugs, unsafe sex, and so on. We wanted those youth to take fewer risks so that we could keep them safe. On the other hand, we often see overprotective parents remove all risk from their children’s lives. The result is children who have very little understanding of adversity or the skills to overcome it.

To me, a certain level of risk taking is normal and necessary to our human development—after all, so much in life requires us to take a risk. From leaping into the old swimming hole, to changing a job or career, to taking a chance on love—all of them require a certain level of risk. You put your trust in the rope swing over the pool, in the new job being better than the last, and you put your vulnerable heart out there.

I enjoy adventure travel and I usually go on these adventures alone. Every time, before I leave, I go through a few days of feeling a little sick to my stomach with trepidation. Am I doing the right thing going to a place I’ve never been? Inevitably my life has been enriched by each adventure. I just have to get through that period of doubt.

Writers take a risk each time they sit down at the computer (well maybe not Stephen King or Norah Roberts, but the rest of us).We might have a brilliant idea for a new story or novel, but the risk is whether we have the writing chops to pull it off. What’s the old saying? You need to write a million words before you start to pick the right ones? It’s a pleasure when things go well when we write, but we need to keep taking risks and trying something new or else we’ll find ourselves mired in a rut of safety, and writing the same old, same old, again and again.

Our characters also need to be risk takers because who wants to read about the person who chooses safety again and again? If the character does choose safety, then there must be consequences for that choice. I think of my decision to leave a well-paying government job after seventeen years. All of my coworkers said they wished they were as brave as I was, but they chose safety, a pension, and the grind of a job they didn’t love, while I got uncertainty and freedom to write and the ability to choose my own direction. Choosing to take a risk, or choosing not to, comes at a price. Our characters may take their risks with less trepidation than we do in real life, but we still help them take their big leap—because that’s where the story generally is. The price is what comes after.

With writing, unlike real life, when things don’t work out, we can simply throw the manuscript out. Or rewrite.

We don’t find ourselves halfway up a Burmese mountain dealing with food poisoning.

Of course I lived through that little episode, too.

Blurb

The discovery of a woman’s body trapped in driftwood off a small, west coast town turns a five-day photography class into a nightmare for Phoebe Clay, her sister Becca, and Phoebe’s niece Alice.

The specter of murder hangs over the family as they join the other students at an isolated fish cannery guesthouse. On their first night, Alice spots ghostly figures outside and on the first morning, Phoebe finds a dead grizzly bear with parts removed. She doesn’t want to get involved, but there’s something wrong at the Bella Vista Cannery Guesthouse, and someone is not who they say they are.

Against her better judgment, she begins quiet enquiries. When Alice decides to pursue her own risky investigation, events take a sharp turn, revealing an insidious plot that threatens all their lives.

On the run on the cannery’s treacherous, rain-soaked, night-shrouded cedar trails, Phoebe and her family will face brutal foes determined to ensure the family doesn’t survive to reveal the cannery’s secrets.

Available here.

Excerpt

From this position by the water, there was only the still water, the mountains and mist, and the blue sky above. Ahead, gulls squawked and wheeled and a huge bald eagle circled overhead, then swooped in low, scattering the gulls. The eagle disappeared around the end of the point and didn’t reappear, but the wind brought a whiff of something unpleasant.

Carrion. Eagles and gulls were both scavengers, regardless of the esteem with which the eagles were held.

Stones creaking and crackling under her, Phoebe approached the headland cautiously, not sure what she’d find and not wanting to disturb the birds. Out on the water a lone sailboat coasted the blue-black water ahead of the breeze, toward the white-capped peaks of Tweedsmuir Provincial Park.

She reached the point of land that was partially blocked by fresh driftwood and stepped up on a log to see what waited on the other side. It took her a moment to understand.

A flurry of black raven wings beat in the sun. The eagle lifted up from the shore and settled again on a huge hump in the sand, sending the ravens scattering.

Ravens.

The huge black birds also liked carrion.

Phoebe squinted against the sun’s glare. The hump sorted itself out into a furred mass of dark brown with tawny flecks.

Bear. Except that there was only a vacancy filled by ravens tearing at bloody flesh where the head should be. Another gust of wind brought the stink of rotting flesh and she swallowed back the rebellion of her stomach.

Author Bio and Links

West Coast author K.L. Abrahamson writes mystery, fantasy and romance. Her short fiction has been shortlisted for the Derringer and the Crime Writers of Canada Award of Excellence.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

When Nobody is Watching

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

On Fridays, I receive Hope Clark’s newsletter, Funds for Writers. Here’s a thought-provoking essay from a recent email:

You know the song. The one with the lyric, “Dance like nobody’s watching.” You get the meaning. Let yourself be the real you.

You know how you are in the car, alone, when the perfect song you sang to in high school comes on the radio. You belt it out, maybe even attempting harmony.

But when we post our writing online, we do so with the idea that someone is waiting to judge. Suddenly we become more homogenized with the others hanging out there, like ourselves, who are weighing what to say so that the audience likes us. We debate with ourselves on how to write something that will garner applause so that we fit in better.

We don’t want to run the risk of being too different. We often dumb ourselves down, when the crying shame is that there is a uniquely different person behind that screen, behind that pen, behind that keyboard.

The world is crying for sincerity.

The world thirsts for people who are themselves.

That’s not saying everyone should be their weirdest self. Just that they ought to be true to themselves, and that includes in writing.

We too often want to know what’s selling, what’s remarkable, what’s garnering the most likes before we put our own words down, when in fact we ought to do the opposite.

Somebody wrote the first vampire story. Somebody wrote the first sci-fi tale. Somebody dared take fairy tales and turn them into epics of wild creatures on human quests. Write like nobody will ever read it. Dare to bare on the page. Edit, for sure, but get the real you down first and see what remarkable material has been locked away in your brain for far too long.

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It’s That Simple and That Complicated

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

I highly recommend Courage & Craft: Writing Your Life Into Story by author and teacher Barbara Abercrombie. In this clear and insightful book, Barbara shares the nuts and bolts of writing essays, memoirs, poems, and fiction. Here’s an inspiring excerpt from the Introduction:

Whatever it is you want to write, it’ll begin with you sitting down and opening a notebook or a new computer file. There will be no bolts of lightning, no muse floating overhead to tell you that the moment has arrived, that now is the time to write your story. Your parents, your spouse, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your kids will not announce out of the blue that you have talent and beg you to begin writing immediately. You will always, always teeter between believing you have all these wonderful stories to write and worrying that the wonderful stories will not be very interesting. Nor will your life be in such pristine order that there will be endless worry-free hours in which to write.

You can sit around for the rest of your life dreaming about writing your stories, longing to bear witness on the page to every amazing thing you’ve seen or lived through, and wishing for a message from above, that bolt of lightning, some signal that will let you know now is the time to start being creative. Or you can just buy a notebook or turn on the computer and begin writing.

It’s that simple and that complicated.

Source: Courage & Craft by Barbara Abercrombie, pp. xiv-xv

When You Forget Why You Started

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

On Fridays, I receive Hope Clark’s newsletter, Funds for Writers. Here’s a thought-provoking essay from a recent email:

When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.” – British economist Charles Goodhart (Goodhart’s law)

This quote says that basically, when you set a goal, and you become hard focused in meeting that goal, you can easily forget what drove you to set the goal in the first place. The measure, so to speak, becomes the details in the goals instead of the original mission.

Metrics, for instance. When you set goals in terms of hours, dollars, sales, hits, reviews, and followers, and that’s what you get up in the morning to which to give your attention, you begin chasing the metrics. Your original goal turns murky.

In another instance, you may notice what’s popular and think, I can do that. That applies not just to books but also to short pieces, even journalism. You see what is getting attention, say on sites like Medium.com or popular blogs. Or in terms of books, you see the best-selling genres and shift gears to write those instead of what you originally started writing.

You are chasing success. You are trying to find the easier road, or at least the road someone else has cut out ahead of you.

My first mystery series is The Carolina Slade Mysteries. Many New York agents replied saying nobody wanted to read about an amateur sleuth like her, especially from the South, especially rural. Good writing, they said, but they didn’t like the protagonist enough nor her setting. I, however, loved her. I developed her, fleshed her out, and eventually I sold her, quickly learning that strong female mystery protagonists were my thing.

I’m so glad I didn’t detour and write about vampires.

Sign up to receive Hope Clark’s newsletter here.

Stories Don’t Die Easily

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

In A Year of Writing Dangerously, author and teacher Barbara Abercrombie shares anecdotes, insights, and solutions. Here’s one of my favorite stories:

Let’s say you’re growing tomatoes. Some of you will keep a very tidy garden, and you’ll secure your plants on poles with little wire twists, feed and water your tomatoes regularly, and be alert for pests who want to eat them. Finally, one warm summer day, you’ll harvest some delicious tomatoes.

Others of you will not be so tidy, and things might get out of control. Maybe your vines will creep where they’re not supposed to, the poles will collapse, a few evil green worms will appear and scare the daylights out of you, and you’ll have a tomato jungle on your hands. But tomato plants are hardy, and one warm summer day, you’ll harvest some delicious tomatoes.

This is not unlike writing stories. Stories don’t die easily, and we all go about writing them in our own way.

Source: A Year of Writing Dangerously, p.220

When It’s Time to Dig Deeper

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

In a recent post on the Writer Unboxed blog, author Jan O’Hara shared the following advice:

When we put a story out in the world, we are competing for attention with intrinsically compulsive media in a boundless landscape of fiction.

We are also competing with our own readers’ sophisticated imaginations. Readers understand story structure, if only at an intuitive level. They perceive the value of high stakes. They thirst for deep themes. And we must respect their skills and strive to be at our best, else our story will be overlooked for superior fan art.

Whether in outlining or in revision, at some point we must ask ourselves the following:

Do our characters want something meaningful?

On the path to their goals, do they face true opposition?

Will there be significant consequences if they fail?

If we can’t honestly say yes to the above, it’s time to dig deeper, using whatever tools best speak to our inner craftsperson, whether that means books or conferences, critique partners or beta readers, editors and agents—or all the above.

This is what it means to respect our audience. This is what it means to grow our skills. This is where our gratifying challenge lies—if we’ll but accept it.

Source: Writer Unboxed

In Praise of Obsession

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

Author Deanna Cabinian shares a unique perspective in a recent post on the Writer Unboxed blog. Here’s an excerpt from that post:

Sometime in 2007 I got it in my head that I wanted to run a 5K. I had never done well in fitness testing in school. In fact, I often finished last in the mile run challenge. I once ran a 14-minute mile. For most people, that’s walking. I was not fast, even though I played team sports. But a 5K goal seemed achievable. Most of my family and friends thought I was nuts. Why would I want to run 3.1 miles? And time it? To this day, I have no idea. But I became obsessed with this goal.

I read Runner’s World. I found a plan called 5 weeks to your first 5K. I followed the plan, 90% of the time. I found a running buddy. And it worked. I ran the 5K and didn’t finish last. I ran several more after that. At my fitness peak, I even completed a half-marathon, a distance I have no desire to run again.

Why am I telling you this? Because it’s similar to our journeys as writers. I believe every writer is talented but certainly there are degrees of talent. The one thing that sets writers apart from the rest of the population who aspire to write a book, essay, magazine piece, etc. is that they sit down and do it. The words might be garbage on the first draft, but they just go for it. Time and time again.

If writing is important to you, it doesn’t matter how talented you are. It matters how interested you are, how often you throw words against the page. Handwritten, typed, or otherwise.

It matters how much you persevere, even when you don’t feel like writing a thing.

It matters if you put words to paper, even if it’s just 5 words a day or 3 words a year.

You are a writer because you show up. Showing up is the action part of the obsession. Over time that obsession will manifest itself into talent.

It’s why I’ve sent hundreds of query letters. (I eventually got an agent).

It’s why I’m writing even though I don’t necessarily feel like it. (I’m recovering from a breakthrough case of Covid)

So go ahead. Obsess sometimes. I think a little obsession is healthy for all of us. Sometimes it even improves your cardiovascular fitness.

Source: Writer Unboxed Blog

Deciding to Follow-Through

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

On Fridays, I receive Hope Clark’s newsletter, Funds for Writers. Here’s a thought-provoking essay from a recent email:

Steven Pressfield (the author of The War of Art) speaks about the difficulty of pushing through and reaching THE END of whatever you are writing. It could be a poetry chapbook. It could be a memoir. It could be fiction of any genre or any word count. It could be a how-to on cabinetmaking or a children’s picture book. A lot of writers struggle with perfecting an effort and reaching THE END.

Why? Because that is the point where you let others read it . . . and get feedback. That is when you submit for publication . . . and get feedback. The feedback is the thrill and the agony of writing, and sometimes we feel safer just saying we’re still writing it, because that is the world in which we feel safest.

What are we afraid of?

-Being told it’s just okay. Or worse, that it’s bad, but frankly, once we hear it’s okay the meaning is the same.

-Prematurely releasing your darling in the world. But who’s to say when it’s premature?

-Learning after all that time invested that we really do not know what we are doing. It’s called being a phony.

Look across social media. When an author talks about typing THE END, or submitting to the publisher, or having a release date, a lot of the public admire first and foremost the fact that the author got to that point. You think it. I think it. Everyone thinks it.

There’s a reason that authors continually get asked the questions: “What is your work regimen?” and “Where do you get your ideas?” Successful freelancers get asked similar questions. The basic underlying question is “How do you make it all the way through . . . then do it again?”

It’s magic. It’s a genetic gift. It’s a unique upbringing.

No, it’s deciding to follow-through. And nothing on this earth gets in your way in doing this but you.

Sign up to receive Hope Clark’s newsletter here.

When the Writing Well Runs Dry

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

In a recent blog post, bestselling author Sarah McCoy shared the following suggestions for filling our writing wells:

Books. It is our marrow. I’ll be honest, I read very little fiction during my dry phase. I was drawn instead to nonfiction: famous persons autobiographies, biographies, science-based books even. I read new releases and books published sixty years ago. I gobbled celebrity tell-alls, chef memoirs, and everything related to British aristocracy. I highly recommend going old-school: head to your local library and bring home a haul of books. The beauty with libraries is that you don’t have to empty your wallet and you don’t have to read them all. If one topic doesn’t stir the well waters, close it, and move on to the next. The possibilities are endless.

Docufilms. One of my hidden passions. I watch at least one documentary a week. They are the precursor to today’s reality TV craze and vastly better produced, in my humble opinion. I’m a proud donor of PBS and a faithful subscriber to the TCM channel. These are my top two screen resources for historical films. I don’t adhere to a particular genre. I watch a forensic docuseries with as much gobsmacked interest as a docufilm about Oklahoman cattle farmers. Rags-to-riches stories pertaining to all fields are a particular penchant of mine.

Travel. Now that quarantine sanctions have lifted and we’re all safely vaccinating, the world feels shiny new and welcoming again. Simply getting outside of my comfort zones does massive good for the imagination! It allows me to be an anonymous observer—a third-person narrator of a new cultural experience. After all, isn’t writing simply a means of transporting readers to places, times, ideas, and people we want them to understand alongside us?

People. Be a listener. We’ve come through years of masking, self-isolating, and maintaining a six-foot distance. It feels wonderful to be close to people again. I have renewed giddiness standing in line at the coffee shop listening to the conversation behind me. So perk up those ears. Be curious. Ask questions. If you know someone who is an expert on a topic, get in touch! Be willing to talk on the phone, schedule a video call, or walk over to meet them. More often than not, an idea will come through a voice, a character, or a person sharing his/her untold story… because it needs telling.

Read the rest of the post here.