End There

Monday, June 6, 2016

As I mentioned in last week’s post, one lesson from the SCBWI Wild Wild Midwest Conference told me where to begin.
Another told me where to end.
If the action climaxes halfway through the book, something is wrong. Either I haven’t added enough obstacles, or I have a multiple-book series. No author should drag a story on simply because it is too short or the writer has more to say.
Actually, this lesson reinforced what I already knew. It was a lesson originally learned while writing Desert Jewels.
Regular readers to this blog know that Desert Jewels tells the story of a Japanese American girl who lives in California when Japan bombs Pearl Harbor. My early outlines split the story into four parts: (1) Berkeley, California before Emi was incarcerated, (2) Tanforan Assembly Center, (3) Topaz Relocation Center, and (4) Chicago, Illinois after Emi’s release.
As I reached Part IV in the drafting process, I had two problems. First, I was already at the maximum word count for middle grade fiction—at least for authors who weren’t named J.K. Rowling. Second, I had trouble coming up with ideas to make it more exciting than what had come before.
That’s when I realized that I didn’t need Part IV. Why not end it as Emi was heading toward freedom in Chicago? So I saved work for myself and boredom for my readers by cutting Part IV out. I did add a short epilogue, but it was a single chapter.
So if your story drags on, ask yourself if you need that material. If not, cut back to the story climax and add a resolution.
Then end there.

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