A lot of the time when an idea comes to me, it materializes out of thin air. I’ll be going about my business reading, drawing, cruising around the Internet, and it will just hit me like a ton of bricks. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always hit me all at once.
Some stories when they come to me come as complete, I’ve got my beginning, I’ve got my end, I sit down and fill in the middle easily. Most of the time though, I’ve got my beginning, my middle, and I don’t know how exactly the story will end. I’ll still sit down and start writing it, and just hope the ending will be there by the time I’ve got the rest on paper, like how you hope a puzzle has all its pieces when you start putting it together. Sometimes that works. Most times though, once I get really into I realize that at the rate I’m going the story’s going to be a full length novel before I can come up with a proper ending. Which is on its own is not a problem, but when I’ve got a short story due for my fiction writing class first thing in the morning and I’m over twenty pages in and not even a quarter of the way finished writing…that’s when things get troublesome.
I end up either ending on a cliff hanging or half assing a rushed ending, and my teacher and classmates can tell when that is. I recently had one story I was really excited about despite it’s cliffhanger of an ending, and my teacher asked my to try to wrap it up within five pages. At the time I equated his request with asking me to climb Mt. Everest. It seemed impossible with no ending in sight, and I remember thinking something like 'rest in piece story, looks like you're never going to get finished'. It can be frustrating, having an idea click with you so fast and then waiting for the ending to catch up with the rest of the story. I’ve put stories on shelves for months and sometimes I can’t even look at them, which used to make me feel ineffective as a writer for not being able to push through and finish what I’ve started.
But after the past few years, I’ve learned that the perfect ending isn’t something you can force. Trying to rush something when it’s not ready just turns it into a convoluted mess. It’s okay to slow down, to take a break from a project, and give yourself a chance to step back so you can look at things objectively. I shelved that story I had been working on for months and totally forgot about it when one day, it just clicked. I don’t even remember what I was doing—maybe I just woke up from a nap, maybe I was messing around on the internet or drawing, but it hit me like a ton of bricks, and I knew exactly how to end it. Like finding the last missing piece to a jigsaw puzzle, it’s a damn good feeling when everything clicks together.
This article comes from Rachel Nussbaum. She is a young writer and artist living in Hawaii. She loves experimenting with different genres, but her tried and true favorites are horror, urban fantasy, and science fiction. Her short story “The Deer Chaser” is included in the Blood Bound Books anthology Night Terrors III. Currently, Rachel is attending University, studying English, art, and animation. One day she hopes to write and illustrate her own novels and comic books.