A while back, I read a quote on Twitter about knowing your endings before you start writing. I unfortunately did not screenshot or favourite the Tweet, which, is now lost among the thousands. Anyway, the point was something about knowing your endings before you start, otherwise the stuff you have written will be wasted time, wasted pieces. Now this, I had to disagree with, even though I understand where the author was coming from. Having an ending can help you set out your plot, manipulate your readers, give them punchlines, mystery, and purposefully deceive them and so on. If you have a plan, it is easier to get things done as it avoids you falling into the abyss of maybes, possibilities and overthinking. It can drive you on towards completion and basically help you write the whole thing, right?
Personally, I wouldn’t know. I’m someone who has never ever had their endings in sight while writing. Hell, I don’t even have them in sight until I’m quite a bit of the way through. ‘How does it end?’ is a question asked regularly at writing workshops and by general readers, as though the whole thing HAS to surmount to something in the end rather than throughout the whole thing. (Insert cliche about the journey that matters: of the character, of the writing.) As it is the first one I can think of, let’s take Zadie Smith’s, NW, for example. I would wholeheartedly say that the novel doesn’t have an ending. Something does happen, but is it an end? I would disagree. Infact, that novel could have continued for me. Maybe I’ve taken the word ‘ending’ too literally and traditionally, in terms of thickening of the plot> climax> resolve that I remember being taught as a kid. Yet increasingly, novels and short stories have moved away from ‘endings’. I’ve finished reading many novels thinking, ‘is that it?’ because the endings didn’t feel like endings to me.
I guess what I mean to say is that there should be less of an emphasis on endings, and that all the writing done leading (or not leading) up to them should not be dismissed as time/words/ideas wasted. Especially not for young writers like myself. Because on one level, you are writing, something you are meant to be doing regularly anyway (guilty). On another, the ideas can always be developed, merged or changed into something else later. The piece could simply be something that you tried and didn’t work for you. Was it wasted time? No. It is a lesson learnt, a writing muscle used in the moment, and something to refine and do differently or better in the future, or avoid altogether. Therefore the words are definitely not a waste. (Unless you’re Kim K and you’re talking about your contour technique or something).
And to me, the best writing groups/workshoppers/feedback givers/reviewers/editors/mentors/agents etc. are the one that help you shape your ending. That recommend you to readings and other ideas that could further your imagination and mind, which leads you to that ending. I don’t have experience with agents, editors and whatnot, but I was very lucky to have a mentor/lecturer who understood my work throughout my two degrees and helped me by doing just that, along with a small group of friends and readers. Otherwise, I don’t think I would ever write a word knowing that I didn’t have an ending!