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The Importance of Knowing Your Ending

There's a lot of talk in the writing community about "plotters" and "pantsers" - those who plan out every twist and turn of their novels and those who just go with the flow with no plan in sight. Both methods work for different people or on different projects.

(Hehehe. "Pantser" is a funny word.)

Ugh, grow up, Parenthetical Voice . . . Actually, you're right. It kind of is.

But I'm not here to talk about funny words. Despite leaning towards pantserdom myself, I want to talk about the importance of knowing your ending.  This topic has been on my mind a lot lately, between TV show finales, movies, and books. I'm realizing, not for the first time, the importance of a solid, stable ending.

(You're talking about Gossip Girl, aren't you?)

Shhh, Parenthetical Voice. No spoilers here.

And this isn't about any one show or movie or book. It's about endings.  For me, a good ending can make or break a book. I've read books with endings SO GOOD that it made me like an otherwise lackluster read. I've also read endings so bad that they ruined a book I thought I was enjoying. Endings are very, very important.

Which is why it's important to know where you're headed.

(But what if you're a pantser? Why would you know the ending if you're a pantser? Pantser, pantser, pantser!)

Okay, I get it. You like the word "pantser."

And I'm not saying every detail of the ending should be planned out. I'm just saying a general idea can really help when it comes to writing a novel.  For instance, say you're writing a mystery novel. You should really know who the killer is before you get to the end. Because chances are, if you decide who it is too late, you're going to end up with a plethora of plot holes. Because, oh snap! You have the killer across town when a murder happened.

(Well, that's a good alibi!)

Yeah, but a bad situation for the author.

Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of time to fix plot holes in revisions. But knowing a general idea of where you're headed can really help the writing process, even if you are a pantser, like me. Giving yourself room to change and veer in another direction is fine, but take precaution not to paint yourself into a corner.

(Even if I'm not writing a mystery?)

Yes, Parenthetical Voice. Even if you're not writing a mystery.

So what about you? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you know you're endings ahead of time or just let them come to you? Tell us about your process in the comments!

(Hehehe . . . Pantser.)

Kody Keplilnger

Kody is the NYT bestselling author of The DUFF, Shut Out, and A Midsummer's Nightmare, all from Little Brown/Poppy, as well as Lying Out Loud, Run, and the middle grade novel The Swift Boys and Me, from Scholastic. Born and raised in Kentucky, she now lives in NYC.

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  1. I wrote as a pantser for years. Then I had kids and my brain bandwidth shrank, so now I'm a plotter. But as either a pantser or a plotter, I always made sure I had an idea of what would happen at the Climactic Confrontation. They'd use the floating island to block the volcanic eruption. Or they'd have a huge fight on the edge of a cliff. Or the hero would die and the other hero would go back in time to save him. Or the villain would plant a timed bomb in the building the heroes desperately needed information out of.

    Once I knew what I was aiming for, I could weave the story threads in that direction and really ramp it up the closer I got. :-)

  2. I'm definitely a plotter. And in fact, the ending is sometimes the first thing I "get."

  3. I'm a plotter. I hate rambling, so need to know where my story is going. And I love having a good solid ending in mind.

    I just finished reading *Eve and Adam* (by Grant and Applegate) and I would definitely agree with the NEED for a good ending. The ending broke the book for me. So sad.

    1. Yes. Agreed. Very engaging read but that ending spoilt the book.

  4. Bit of a pantser-plotter hybrid really. Like to plan the major plot points of the novel but leave how I get from one to the other to my pantsing ways once writing. The end usually comes to me before I start writing or before I've finished the first chapter.

    1. I'm a bit like you Suzanne. I wrote about it in more detail on my blog -

      But, I do a little of both, I'm a "planster" if you will. But the ending I actually went with didn't come to me until quite a bit later in my writing, when I realized that not everyone in my book was who they pretended to be in the beginning.

  5. I am mostly a pantster. (See, I like the extra T in there. It's even funnier that way.) But I always know my ending. It's the middle that's shaky. And maybe the ending doesn't always come out exactly as I planned, because the characters turn out to be different from who I thought they were going to be. But it's usually pretty close to what I had in mind.

    And I agree with you about bad, unsatisfying endings spoiling a book, or a movie, or a television series. The ending of LOST made me furious. If they'd had a better ending (I wish they'd asked me, 'cause I could have helped them think of a better one.), I might have bought the DVDs and watched the whole thing over again. But not when I knew how lame it was going to turn out. LOST was totally ruined for me.

  6. I used to be a pantser, but turned into a plotter after reading through the first draft of my MS and going, "This doesn't make sense AT ALL."

  7. I'm mostly a pantser, too, but I do like to have an idea of where the story is going. So I have some inkling of the ending before I start writing, but it all sort of falls into place and works itself out as I go. The middle is where I tend to ramble and then have to revise the most.
    And, YES, a bad ending can absolutely ruin a great book, movie, show. Dianne, I totally agree with you about LOST. I won't even watch anything those guys come up with anymore because LOST was so disappointing at the end. Completely left us hanging.

  8. I am a hardcore pantser, but I am going to try plotting my next book. I'm sick of endless revisions. I usually have a good idea of where I want to start a MS and how it will end. It's the middle that needs the major pantsing. LOL

    I'm actually doing a series of posts on "plotter vs. pantser" on my writing blog by interviewing published authors, editors, and other writers.

  9. I'm a plotter all the way, but I still change the ending of my mss about 6 or more times before finishing.

  10. Long time pantser here! I love to let a story just come to me BUT! I do often vaguely know where it's headed, even if it's just who or what the FEELS will be. :)


  11. Some of you didn't like Lost . . . I couldn't even watch Lost because of the way Alias fell apart.

    I'm a big picture pantser. If I try to outline too much, I feel stifled. I usually have ideas for the ending of the novel as I write. I then retro-actively outline and look for plot-holes, etc.

  12. Some of you can't stand Lost . . . I couldn't even watch it because of the way Alias fell apart.

    I'm a pantser because I try to outline too much, I feel stifled. But I usually know what's going to happen in the end while I'm writing, although sometimes the story develops in a different direction. Creating an outline from the completed rough draft is helpful for revisions. Being a panster might create an extra round of revisions, but I'm okay with that.


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Item Reviewed: The Importance of Knowing Your Ending Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kody Keplinger