This Is Probably Why You Hated the Ending to That Book

Why is it so hard for some people to appreciate a book for its positive qualities even if the ending did not meet their expectations?

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Too many times, I have found myself trapped in book discussions with people who do not seem to grasp the concept of writing to the emotions.

Maybe at some point in my five years of studying English at the undergraduate level I missed something about the purpose behind writing books. Writing can inform and it can entertain. Regardless of the tone or style, at least from what I understand, every story has a message. A point. And writers, the majority of the time, use pathos, emotional appeal, to get their points across.

Yet in these discussions, I often find myself sitting quietly listening to readers complain about how dissatisfied they were with a book’s ending. How the story “shouldn’t have ended that way.” I stay quiet, usually, because I don’t really always know how to respond to that. Did I miss something … or did they?

What I suppose many don’t seem to understand about storytelling is that it is not a writer’s goal, nor is it in their job description, to please their audiences. Granted, if you write a “bad” book, you aren’t going to be very successful. But there’s a big difference between writing a not-so-great book that can’t hold anyone’s interest and writing an amazing book that some people wish would have been written differently.

A few stories specifically come to mind here, but in general, when someone doesn’t like how a book ends, they feel the need to rant about how terrible the entire book or book series was. They (in extreme cases) sometimes even start calling out the author and criticizing her choices, which no one should ever really do when we’re talking about something as simple as the ending of a fictional story.

Okay. We get it. You hated the way Allegiant and Mockingjay ended (just examples). You were supposed to. These stories weren’t supposed to have happy fairytale endings. They were supposed to make you feel things. They were supposed to wreck you emotionally. That doesn’t mean the series as a whole were awful. It doesn’t mean the authors “gave up.” In fact, just the opposite. It’s brave, not to take the easy way out and give your readers the ending they want. It’s risky. It’s refreshing.

You hated the ending because it made you feel something. You’re probably not angry at the book or the author. You’re upset by the events in the story, which is EXACTLY HOW THE AUTHOR WANTED YOU TO FEEL.

Some books play on your emotions on purpose. Maybe you don’t like that, and that’s fine, but I’m really interested in knowing why. Why is it so hard for some people to appreciate a book for its positive qualities even if the ending did not meet their expectations? As a writer, having written stories with endings even you don’t always love, is it any easier for you?

These are the things that keep me awake at night. For some reason.

Image courtesy of Sam/flickr.com.

How to Say Yes to Your Ideas, and No to Your Need to Control Them

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Not all writers bear the Type A label, but if you’re a writer who loves to-do lists, you know how hard it can sometimes be to carry a new idea from start to finish.

It’s not that you can’t finish it. Sometimes you do. It’s just, in your mind, never going to be exactly what you want it to be. It’s never going to be the best story, the best dialogue, the right wording, the perfect ending.

The key to creation is to let your ideas take the lead. You are the writer; you need to maintain some control. But you need to share it.

Here’s how to say, “Yes!” to your ideas, and “No” to full control.

Deep breaths. It’s okay. You can do this.

Repeat This Phrase: “There Is No Such Thing as a Dumb Idea”

There are, however, ideas that don’t work out, ideas similar to ones that have been carried out recently and ideas that are great, but not for right now.

You’ll never know whether your idea is one you can work with or not unless you let it begin to unfold in front of you. Sometimes an idea that makes you feel uneasy at first can turn into the best short story, poem or book chapter you’ve ever written.

If it doesn’t end up working out, that doesn’t mean it was a “bad” idea: it may just need to undergo a little metamorphosis before it’s ready to come alive.

Greet Your Idea the Second It Pops In to Say Hello

Okay, practically, this doesn’t always work. You can’t throw down a project at work and pick up a notepad or stand up in the middle of a lecture and proclaim your idea to the overhead projector.

Well, you could. That would probably be counter-productive in more ways than one.

If you’re in a place where it’s possible to open up a Word document or the Notes app on your phone, jot down something that will help you remember your thought. In general, if a new idea comes to mind and you’re already in the middle of another side project, let the idea start developing. Don’t ignore it. While it needs time to come to form in your mind, it also needs attention: neglect it for too long, and it won’t be easy to coax it into cooperating with you later.

Get Ready to Work Hard and Be Terrified

Tape this sentence to your wall: Writing is hard. For some, writing sentences comes easy, but putting those sentences together in the form of a “good” story is not something anyone can do in a day. It’s challenging—but so, so rewarding.

Successful writers work hard. Even if they don’t tell you that, they do. Not only is it hard work: a good idea can actually be scary. It’s the “this is a cool idea other people might like it holy crap what am I doing I never write stuff like this” feeling, a feeling very easy to close yourself off from. Don’t.

You’re not calling yourself the best writer who ever wrote just because you have an idea that makes your heart race. Crave this feeling. Let it carry you through the tough writing days. If your idea is a great one, it will pull you along, not the other way around!

Your ideas are yours: they are special because they are unique. Just like your identity as a writer. Treat your ideas the way they deserve to be treated: nurture them. Let them make their own way in this world (with your constant supervision, of course). Have faith in them. Have faith in yourself.

Say yes to your ideas. Give up your control, and watch them take flight.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Tales of a Highly Caffeinated JulNoWriMo Enthusiast – Day 30

 

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This box represents a vast number of things in my life right now. It represents the celebratory act of opening a meaningful treasure as a reward for finishing finals on Thursday night. It represents simultaneously the celebratory attitude I will already have due to having reached a 50,000 word goal by tomorrow at midnight. And it represents the idea of waiting – waiting for school to end, for a break, and then for it all to start back up again.

I am currently “stuck” at a little over 40,000 words, but the 10,000-word gap does not frighten me too much. If I can crank out 5,000 words today and another 5,000 tomorrow afternoon, I’ll be good to go. Where will the motivation come from, you ask? Many things: love of the story, adoration of the characters and my bucket list, of course.

It says I want to win five consecutive JulNoWriMos. And this will be my fifth. Just in case you were wondering.

Will it be tough? Yes. I will have to give up my much-appreciated relaxing time and probably some sleep, too. But personally I think it’s worth every sacrifice, to be able to enter that last word count and have my screen name in bold on the stats page. It’s always worth it. I just don’t think it has ever been as worth it as it will be this summer.

Despite all I’ve done my best to take on, tackle and conquer in the past few months, this has remained toward the top of my priority list. It’s not my greatest priority, of course – I have school to think about, plus an internship (and now an editor boot camp – talk about overloaded finals week!). And then there’s, you know, family and friends and cats who meow consistently for attention at the most inconvenient times.

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Will finishing this goal be easy? No. Is writing a novel easy? NO! Neither is being in college or being a good friend or even just trying to make in this world as a writer in general.

If life were easy, we would never in a million years strive to accomplish as much as we do now.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Tales of a Highly Caffeinated JulNoWriMo Enthusiast – Day 15

I don’t know how I could survive without running. Running shoes, Gatorade, accidentally eating my hair if it’s not tied back away from my face – you may not think sweat is glamorous, but I thrive on the combination of adrenaline from a morning jog and the caffeine that comes in liquid form from a coffee maker in my kitchen. I mean, when you’re trying to squeeze as many things into one summer as I am, you really don’t have a choice.

I suppose I could potentially do without the coffee and run on endorphins, adrenaline and sleep like normal people. But I guess I just don’t want to give it up. So there.

The good news is, one class of four is officially complete (until I actually get my final grade, I guess it’s technically not, but close enough), so I can focus all my attention on anatomy and physiology for the next three days, then on microbiology and accounting for only two more weeks after that. Then I’ll be a free woman again.

Of course, once finals are over, JulNoWriMo will be, too. But whatever.

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Today marks the official halfway point, and unfortunately I’m a little behind where I wanted to be by this morning. I am at a pretty solid 21,000 words or so, though, so I’m sprinting slowly toward the finish line. I’ll do my best to catch up this weekend between my last class Thursday night and Sunday, when I won’t be doing much of anything other than eating cake and trying to limit myself to how many books I’ll let myself buy from Barnes & Noble.

One. Can I limit myself to just one? Heh. Probably not.

Once July 31 comes and goes, though, I might keep writing. That doesn’t usually happen, but I really like the way my story is starting to adapt from the few episodes of the TV series I started attempting to write a few years ago (I still pretty much suck at dialogue, but I really don’t mind all that much). I’m able to add a lot more than what I had to squeeze into fifty pages of script. I’m still trekking through the pilot episode. Technically, not even half a day has passed as far as time in my novel’s universe is concerned.

I kind of like that.

Love&hugs, Meg<3