Well, NaNos, you’re almost there. Nine more days to go in your monthlong flurry of creativity. At this point, it doesn’t matter if you’re behind or ahead–although hopefully it’s the latter–you’re probably just about ready for this all to be over.
But as November comes to a close, you have one more obstacle to overcome in your quest for novel-completion: the ending.
Now, it is generally acknowledged that 50,000 words falls a bit short of standard novel length. So unless you’re penning the next Old Man and the Sea or you’ve been crazy prolific, you probably will have some extra work to do after the month ends. (We’ll talk about that more next week.) I’m going to say now: that’s okay. It’s still possible to create a satisfying ending for your project, even if it’s not, strictly speaking, finished. You don’t have to just stop on word number 50,000 mid-sentence–unless you really want to.
Some options for ending or pseudo-ending your NaNoWriMo novel:
Finish with a scene you love. You know that scene you’ve been anticipating all month? The one where the hero gets the girl or the heroine gets the guy–or whatever gender arrangement best suits your story? When the mystery becomes clear? The big battle? The terrifying twist? As you’re approaching the end of next week, let yourself write that scene. Go out with fireworks and a full symphony orchestra. You’ve earned it. And in January, you can fill in the skeleton leading up to that scene.
Leave us wanting more. If the idea of skipping to the good parts doesn’t appeal, why not set up the world’s most tantalizing cliffhanger? Let yourself imagine that scene, that great big wonderful resolution, and stop just short. Love ’em and leave ’em. Don’t knock down the dominoes. Give yourself something to look forward to when you get back to writing in a few weeks.
Resolve a conflict, not the conflict. So, yes, your big historical fantasy epic isn’t anywhere close to finished. You have what amounts to Section I. of an eight-part novel. That’s okay. Do yourself a favor and pick one thread–just one–to tie up before the end. Maybe Prince Englebert realizes that the beautiful peasant maiden really is his sister or Count Yrk’s dastardly plot finally comes to fruition. Give yourself a little resolution.
Stop at the fork in the road. Not unlike the “leave us wanting more” option, this alternative lets you quit in the middle of plenty of action. However, it might not be so rife with drama. You have a decision to make; your protagonist has a decision to make. Let’s just leave it there. You’ll probably return to it with more clarity if you pause now anyway.
End on something ridiculous. Maybe you haven’t written a comedy. Your novel is a serious, existential exploration of what it means to be human in 2014. We won’t knock that. But it’s been a long month and you probably deserve a laugh. Remember those aliens that landed last week? Let’s go back to them. Descend into absurdity. Embrace it. It’s a first draft and, therefore, your right.
Do you have any suggestions for ending your NaNoWriMo novel? Leave them in the comments–and happy writing!
About the Author: Julia Patt
Julia Patt, Contributing Editor, from Chestertown, MD, is a graduate of Sweet Briar College and the MFA program at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, where she was a fiction editor for The Greensboro Review. Her young adult novels—i was a fourth grade zombie slayer and Through Waterless Places—were both shortlisted for Mslexia’s 2012 Children’s Novel Competition, and her short fiction has appeared in publications such as Surreal South ’11, Stymie, and PANK.