Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The End!

Walt Mussell, Missy Tippens, Debby Giusti
and Piper Huguley at the Georgia Romance
Writers meeting, March 16, 2013

Debby Giusti here!
I’m welcoming the first day of spring with photos of flowers I snapped in my local area. The beginning of spring signals the end of winter, and that’s what I’m blogging about today.

Not the change of seasons, but The End of our stories.

Lots of articles focus on creating compelling openings; few discuss how to end the story, yet  The End is important. Why? 

Because the beginning of a story sells the current book, but the ending sells the next book.


First, let’s define The End. I’m not talking about the climax. In a suspense, that’s the highly charged portion of the story where the hero and heroine are in imminent danger from an outside source, such as a villain or force of nature. Often one character saves the other in an emotionally charged scene that, hopefully, keeps the reader on the edge of her seat.

In a sweet romance, the climax pits the hero against the heroine, involves the black moment and revolves around two opposing goals that keep the lovers from coming together. Those barriers must be overcome to have the happily ever after, which is the portion of the story we’re talking about today.
         
For a suspense writer, that happily ever after can provide a significant change of pace. After struggling to stay alive, the hero and heroine are given an opportunity to express their love and luxuriate in each other’s arms. The dark clouds and stormy weather changes to blue skies and sunshine or moonlight and a star-filled sky. Everything that was not good just pages earlier is now perfect and peaceful and full of promise for a future together.


What do readers want?

The WOW Factor.
The ending should bring a smile to the reader’s lips but also a deep sigh of satisfaction. If she loved the story, she’ll want to read more of your work. 

The WOW factor works with agents and editors as well. They long for a satisfying ending and the promise of the next story being equally as well written. Pack an emotional punch into your conclusion. Don’t skimp at the end. Knock their socks off, and they’ll be dialing your number and offering you a contract.

A Secret Surprise.
Save a secret to be revealed in the ending. After the breakneck pace of the climax, the end is the perfect place to share something from the past, especially if the revelation leads to healing and/or redemption.

The Love Vibe.
The hero and heroine should declare their love in the final pages of the story. The promise of a future marriage proposal works if they haven’t known each other long, but even more satisfying is to write the proposal into the story. Allow the reader to become that heroine wrapped in the arms of her bigger-than-life hero. Let her feel the strength of his embrace as he pulls her close. She wants to gaze into his adoring eyes and experience the sense of connection that comes when two people—who your reader believes were destined to be together since the beginning of time—are able to overcome the obstacles that have threatened their relationship.

Tie Up Any Loose Threads.
The story needs to be wrapped up neatly with a bow that pulls all the loose ends together. The main plot as well as the significant secondary plot lines should be resolved. (Note: A less important aspect of the story can be left dangling, if the hero or heroine alludes to how it will eventually tie into the plot.)

Since I can’t use the villain’s point of view in Love Inspired Suspense, the ending often provides an opportunity to reveal the villain’s GMC and establish the motivation that has driven him or her throughout the story. If two villains work in tandem, the ending allows me to show that devious alliance between the antagonistic forces and even unveil more sinister threats that would have loomed if the hero and heroine had not intervened.


Declaration of Faith.
While the characters often turn to God during the climax, that acceptance of the Lord in their lives is solidified in the closing. Their newfound or renewed faith will be the bedrock upon which the hero and heroine will build their relationship and their marriage. The reader should be convinced that these characters will never again waiver in their commitment to or their love for the Lord. As devoted Christians, they will walk boldly into the future with Christ at their side.

To Epilogue or Not?
An epilogue is a glimpse into the future or a scene that plays out after a period of time. Everyone loves a wedding, and the epilogue is the perfect place to have the hero and heroine exchange their wedding vows, kiss and then leave the church arm-in-arm as they start their new life together.

Skip ahead even farther to show a pregnancy or the birth of a baby. The reader will love knowing about the blessings that have come to this heroic couple and their sweet family.

The Takeaway.
Offer hope to your reader. She too may have struggles and needs to overcome obstacles that hold her back from living life fully in the present. When your fictional heroine conquers her greatest fears, the reader realizes she too can tackle the problems in her own life. She may also realize she can trust the Lord and that He is a God of forgiveness and mercy who loves her unconditionally.

Milk the Emotion.
Give the reader time to enjoy the ending. In my upcoming September release, The Soldier’s Sister, I have a scene where the hero and heroine declare their love. I added an epilogue to bring the secondary characters together. The scene takes place three months after the story, set in August, ends. I chose Veteran’s Day in November—a perfect holiday for my military characters--to showcase the progress everyone has made with the physical and emotional issues that play into the story.


What do you like to see in the ending of the stories you read? Which endings have stayed with you as special memories you will always treasure? What points do you work into the conclusions of your stories and why do you think they are important to include?

I’m at The End of this blog, although the discussion will continue throughout the day. Take a short break from Speedbo and post a comment to be included in the drawing for one of my Love Inspired Suspense stories, winner’s choice.


Happy writing! Happy reading!

Wishing you abundant blessings,
Debby Giusti

Join me at the Barbara Vey Reader Appreciation Lunch on April 27th in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Mix and mingle with 37 of your favorite writers, including New York Times best selling author James Rollins. Each person attending will receive a tote bag filled with books and goodies as well as the opportunity to win one of the numerous author-donated baskets and book donations. Enjoy a delicious luncheon with each table hosted by an author, and take part in a private book signing following the festivities! Sign up at http://www.BarbaraVeyReaders.com
(Due to a glitch in the website, anyone wishing to sit at my table—which I  would love—needs to email that request to Barbara barbaraveyreaders@gmail.com.) Hope to see you there!

THE GENERAL'S SECRETARY

By Debby Giusti

Trusting the Wrong Person Can Be Deadly...
Lillie Beaumont's dark past has just turned up on her porch--fatally wounded. The dying words of the man imprisoned for killing Lillie's mother suggest hidden secrets. Criminal Investigations Division special agent Dawson Timmons agrees. He has his own motive for seeking the truth, and it gives Lillie every reason to doubt him. But even as they reluctantly begin to face painful secrets together, Dawson fears that a murderer is waiting to strike again. And this time, Lillie is right in the line of fire...

142 comments :

  1. One Epilogue that I actually remember because it was so different was Lori Wick's Who Brings forth the Wind (which also might be my favorite Wick book b/c it was so different back then) but the Epilogue is 23 years later. You might see a few 3-5 years later (for those babies) but 23?

    And what a wait that heroine had to go through for the spiritual resolve, but unlike most romances, gives hope to those long-sufferers.

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  2. How timely!!

    I'm at the black mmoment and looking ahead to the end. Gotta check off all the elements you mention.

    Coffee galore, since some are probably getting weary by now.

    Helen

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  3. How interesting, Melissa. I never would have thought about moving so far into the future to end a story.

    Guess that would only work with an historical.

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  4. Thanks for the coffee, Helen, and congrats on your push through to (almost) The End of your manuscript.

    I'm raising my mug in your honor!

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  5. I'm a hopeless romantic and love a HEA ending. If a story doesn't offer a satisfying one, I feel gypped. I don't want a rushed ending. I want time to enjoy those long-awaited declarations of love.

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  6. That final chapter usually takes longer to write. For me, at least.

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  7. I love the picture of you gals with Walt and Piper.

    I love the post.

    Don't forget if you go to the seekerville.net page you can download a pdf of Barbara's Luncheon info.

    Don't forget to let us know if you are up for one of these Speedbo prizes this week for inspy romance novels:


    First chapter critique -up to 20 pages
    First 5 pages critique
    One page synopsis critique
    Phone chat
    First page hook critique

    AND FINALLY -DON'T FORGET TO WISH MARY CONNEALY A HAPPY BIRTHDAY@!!!

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  8. Happy Birthday, Mary!!!!!

    I still want some books for a reading binge when I write The End.

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  9. Happy Birthday, Mary. May you have a blessed day! And Debbie I really wish thatbeverynauthor, especially those that self publish fiction would read the Seekerville posts this month! Some of the New York Times Best Sellers, too. Thanks for a chance to win novels

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  10. This is perfect timing! (I agree with Helen!) I just passed the 50K mark yesterday (*Snoopy dancing*), and I'm getting ready to write the final chapter and epilogue tomorrow or sometime soon. :) These are some great points to keep in mind!

    I do think that there are times when you have to pick and choose which things to tie up neatly. As a book reviewer, I can sometimes get annoyed when everything wraps up *too* neatly, because it might move too far away from reality. I think it's important to have that happily-ever-after when it comes to romance stories, no question!! But I don't think it's always best to tell where every character ends up and how every single element fits in. A reader likes to be treated as intelligent - we want the author to trust us to make obvious connections.

    Some stories require that certain characters' futures aren't completely explained due to sequels or potential sequels, where "all will be revealed" in due time. ;) And I think some stories should be light with the "takeaway" - again, emphasizing the message but not insulting the reader by spelling it all out in elementary ways.

    I guess it all depends on the type of story, too. There are certain expectations for certain genres, like sweet romances where a more complete, satisfying ending is required.

    Mostly, I think there needs to be a good balance between offering closure and allowing the reader room for his/her imagination to fill in certain things. Like the ending of the most wonderful movie North & South. (I will not say anything more than that, no worries! But if you have seen it, you know what I'm saying, right? How everything is utterly satisfying left at the exact right moment where closure and imagination meet?)

    OK, I'm done now, LOL! ;) Thanks again for the tips and the thoughts to ponder, Missy!

    ~Amber

    P.S. Happy birthday, Mary!!!

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  11. I love stories that tie up the main characters lose ends in a timely fashion. I read a book once that I loved so much I went out and bought all the authors books I could find on the shelf as I wanted to read them all. I jumped to soon. When I got within the last 3 chapters I thought, wow, there is no way he can bring everything together in such a cmall amount of time. Unfortunately, he did and the story's ending felt so rushed I didn't enjoy it at all. The other books? They sat on my shelf until I moved to Indiana and I left them in California for a friend to read. Sad.

    Everyone have a wonderful and prosperous day!

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

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  12. Coffeeeeee. Help.

    I LOVE that picture! So nice to see that lovely group.

    Okay Amber I have to ask...which North and South mini series. I can only think of the ending of one and it's perfect.
    (It was a long wait to see Mr. Thornton smile)

    Happy Birthday to Mary! Mary I also hope you have a warm sunny first day of spring to celebrate it with.

    Thank you Debby. I go through the book so many times I never dare write The End. I want to believe that all those great points you made are sinking in.

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  13. I'm a head taller than everyone else. Forgot it would come out like that. Next time I kneel. :-)

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  14. I agree, Keli. I want to enjoy The End to the full!

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  15. Happy Birthday, Mary Connealy. Birthday cake and helium balloons later, once Mary shows.

    Right now, the breakfast bar is open.

    Eggs, bacon, hash browns, biscuits and gravy, assorted pastries, fruit and grits.

    I'm heading to the coffee pot for another mug of Helen's brew. :)

    Thanks, Tina, for all the reminders! Enter, enter, enter! Lots of great giveaways on Seekerville today.

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  16. Marianne, we want everyone to read Seekerville so they'd all be part of our blog family. So glad you're here...now grab some breakfast!

    (Don't I sound like Ruthy?)

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  17. Happy Spring!

    What a great post. The one thing that popped out to me is to milk the emotion. I'm not sure if I've done that enough in my stories.

    You made so many great point, I've copied this.

    Thanks so much, Debby!

    Jackie L.

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  18. Happy birthday, Mary!

    I hope you have a great day!

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  19. Amber, good points in your comment!

    In a LIS, there aren't too many secondary plots to tie up so The End can provide closure in a light way. Often just seeing one of the "extra" characters with a significant other provides the answer readers may be seeking.

    Congrats on your Speedbo progress!!! Way to go, Amber!

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  20. No rushed endings. Good point, Cindy!

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  21. Are you saying a book never ends, Deb? I agree. Given time, I could just keep writing and revising, writing and revising, writing and revising. Maybe deadlines are a good thing after all.

    Hugs!

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  22. Walt, I thought I was tall. Missy's inches above me and you tower over all three of us. But that's good. :)

    So great seeing you at GRW. Plus, I heard fantastic praise for your submission. Yay, you!

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  23. Hi Jackie. I should have asked the birthday girl, Mary Connealy, for a pic of one of her cows to post when I mentioned "Milk the emotion!" :)

    But you get the idea!

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  24. Debby,

    Great post. I have the last third of my Speedbo project left to write, so I'm need to get that climax built for my dark moment.

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  25. Good morning, Debby. Excellent post! You nailed the important aspects of a strong ending! Definitely print worthy.

    If I can I like to make the ending bring the story full circle back to some aspect of the story's opening. That could mean tweaking the opening.

    I have no epilogues in my novels. I've tried but struggle to make them significant as the ending.

    Thank you for the gorgeous pictures of flowers on a overcast morning here!

    Janet

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  26. Thanks for mentioning the story coming full circle! Great point, Janet. Movies do that often. It's lovely in our books as well.

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  27. Yay, Rose! You're almost to The End! You go, girlfriend!!!

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  28. WOW, DEB ... after almost six years of Seeker blogs, you have come up with a totally new and unique subject that is SO very important to an author, an editor and a reader!!

    You said, "Because the beginning of a story sells the current book, but the ending sells the next book." DOUBLE WOW, my friend, because I never thought of this before, but if an ending falls flat after a great story, I often shake my head and think -- what happened??

    I remember this one book in particular by an author I love to read who hooked me from line one SO much that I turned to my husband and said, "Wow, this gal is good!" She had me through the book UNTIL the end, and then it was like this big, wonderful story just fell off a cliff. It was very disappointing for me, and I found myself rewriting the ending in my head.

    Of course, who's to say that readers aren't doing that with my books as well? But whether I actually succeed or not, like you, I try really hard to leave the reader with a final punch at the end, but I never REALIZED I did that until now!!

    Oh, and for a series?? Your blog today is CRITICAL if that series has any chance of hooking the reader into the next book, so thank you for some awesome tips to help series writers make that happen.

    Great points, Deb, great blog!!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  29. Great post, Debby!

    I never thought of the end that way, but it is certainly true that a satisfying ending can make readers want more or they can be chased away by a bad one!

    Shocked to see myself on the blog this time--I thought it would be for another post!

    Piper

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  30. Debby, I loved all the elements you shared to consider before writing "The End." I like the idea of a secret that isn't revealed until the very end. Do you ever hint at it earlier in the story?

    That deep sigh of satisfaction is what I'm aiming for in my books. I'm still figuring out how to bring it about. :)

    I loved this post today! Thanks for sharing your wisdom. :)

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  31. MOrning Debby. What gorgeous flowers. I imagine spring out your way is really lovely. We have orange blossoms which smell delightful.

    Loved GENERAL's SECRETARY. Great ending too btw. smile

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  32. Hi All,

    I haven't gotten to the climax yet, but close. A good post, and I admit I find a lot of endings rushed. I like to savor the moment.

    Happy Birthday to Mary and Happy First Day of Spring to everyone. It's my 20th wedding anniversary today. I won't be writing today. I'll be playing golf all day with my sweetie.

    There's a lot that goes on after the book's end.

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  33. Debby, I am so happy to see you write an article about the ending! I'm not sure I've ever seen an article about how to write a great ending. But the ending is so important! You could even make a case for it being the most important part of the book.

    I always tend to write an epilogue about the wedding. I don't plan to, it just always seems needed. And I'm always afraid of lingering too long on the ending. I'm afraid my readers will get bored after I've resolved everything, and I think I probably end up making my endings a little too short. This is a good reminder to let my readers linger a little while, basking in the happily ever after!

    I did have a few reviews for The Merchant's Daughter where people said they thought the ending was too quick and they wanted to know more about Annabel and Ranulf's happily ever after. Maybe I could have stretched it out a little bit, but part of me wanted to say to them, "Give the couple some privacy! Get on with your life!" Or "Use your imagination!" LOL!!! Is that just me being perverse? Maybe. Haha!

    Debby, you and Missy and Piper look so pretty in that photo, I was wishing I could be there!!! And I hadn't imagined Walt being so tall! Wow! How tall is he? I imagined him being around 5'8" LOL! (Sorry, Walt.)

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  34. Thanks for a great post. With the end in sight, I need all the help I can get.

    Peace, Julie

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  35. Happy Birthday Mary, and Happy Anniversary Elaine! Have a romantic day with your sweetie! I'm glad that you don't have to play golf while dodging the golf-ball sized hailstones that fell the other day!

    Melanie, you are right, Walt is a tall guy. I can attest to this since I'm towered over at home with my tall ds and dh (clearly the child got his height from his Daddy's folk)!

    Piper

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  36. Debby, this is good. I see some things I'm doing right and some that could stand improvement. Sometimes I wish contests and blogs would offer more than a critique of the first five, first 15 or whatever, but then again where would we start? Also, they would have to have backstory to critique it properly.
    Please enter me in the drawing, I don't believe I have read one of your books yet.
    Kathy Bailey
    Pre-pubbed in New Hampshire

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  37. ahh Debby a great post today, love all the pics of flowers, ours are blooming too in Ga.
    Happy Birthday Mary C, I brought a Strawberry short cake and hope you like it...
    Have missed the site lately and hope everyone has been keeping up with their writing and making their goals in my absence..This cheerleader want to see 100% winners as our end nears.
    Debby I always want to see a happy ending one that shows completion whatever the story might be about.
    Have a great Spring day everyone..
    Paula O

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  38. Love this blog, Debby. And your point about your end being the hook that might just sell your next book! That's so true for me as a reader. I LOVE my books and I'm loyal to my authors but I can think of two books in recent years that left me so cold I haven't picked up another book by either author.

    Both were books in a series and both didn't so much end as stop...almost mid-sentence! I think the intent was to tantalize the reader, leaving her begging for more. It had the opposite effect on me. I felt teased -- almost used by the authors.

    So for me -- even a series book has to have a satisfactory conclusion. There can be loose threads that will carry on into the next book, but I need to feel closure. I think Shelley Shepard Gray did a fantastic job of that with her The Secrets of Crittenden County mystery series. We didn't find out who dunnit until the very last book, but I never felt cheated at the end of any of the stories.

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARY!

    And I've hesitated to say that I'm interested in any of the Speedbo giveaways because I've already won a synopsis Critique (which I'm already angsting about!) But if you're short on takers -- I'd love to be included in the first Chapter critique -- but I'll confess that the first half of my first chapter has already been critiqued so I totally understand if you don't want to include me in that draw. :-)

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  39. Good morning, Debby! Great insight into writing a great ending!

    No doubt about it, the ending of a story is often the hardest part to write. So much hinges on tying up remaining loose ends and leaving the reader with the "aaaah" factor.

    In my romance reading, the endings I like least are the wedding scenes that seem tacked on only because this is a romance and of course we MUST have a wedding at the end. Once the climax scene is over and I know the H/H will end up together, I don't care to sit through a lengthy, detailed description of the marriage ceremony.

    UNLESS, as you said, Deb, there's a secret surprise revealed. Or, as Janet mentioned, something about the ending brings the reader full circle to where the story began.

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  40. Great points, Deb! I worry so much about the beginning, but the end is just as important! And thanks for the tips on Love Inspired Suspense. I've been working on one this month for the Happily Editor After Love Inspired pitch in May. :)

    Happy Birthday, Mary!

    And I would love to be entered for any of the following giveaways:

    First chapter critique -up to 20 pages
    First 5 pages critique
    One page synopsis critique

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  41. Thanks, Julie, for mentioning the book you read that fell flat at The End. Cindy W experienced the same situation and was equally as disappointed. I remember a NYT bestseller that left me wondering--at The End--why I had read the book.

    I always enjoy writing the final happily ever after scenes that are so different from the earlier suspense part of the story. Love the upbeat tempo of the romance at that point. Always makes me wonder if I should write a Love Inspired pure romance. :)

    Then I realize I wouldn't know how to start a story if it didn't have suspense. LOL!

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  42. Hi Piper,
    I know on SAT I mentioned sending the pic to Tina for the WE. Then I realized I could use it today on my blog!!!

    BTW, everyone, I got to sit with Piper at lunch on SAT! So nice to have that special time to chat!

    Piper is amazing. She spent all morning at GRW, and then she headed to Agnes Scott College to give a workshop.

    I'm sure the folks who attended were thrilled to hear what you had to say, Piper. :)

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  43. Hi Debby!I enjoyed reading your post.The ending of Saving Hope by Margaret Daley has stayed with me.In the ending of stories I read I like to see all of the points you made in your post,but especially the wow factor,and the takeaway.


    To everyone here including those participating in Speedbo never give up on your dreams!

    Katie N.

    Happy Birthday Mary!

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  44. I often go over and over the ending, trying to bring it all together. Trying to make it ADORABLE.

    Even now, with a book I just turned it, I'm wishing I'd gone over it one more time!!!!!

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  45. THANK YOU for all the birthday wishes. That's so sweet!!!!

    I will say this about tying everything up to neatly at The End.

    One of my enduring beliefs is that people don't really change. Not their basic personalities.

    They can find God and use there lives in a positive and good way.

    If they've got leadership skills they can lead people in good directions or lead them into trouble. But they don't change from being a leader.

    If they're shy and non-confrontational they're not all of a sudden going to be 'in your face'. Sometimes for a moment they'll rise about their shyness but still, basically, they aren't going to change who they are.

    So that's one thing I try to do with my 'The End' moments. Reveal that yes, they're better people. Yes they're going to get past their troubles and have their Happily Ever After. And yes they've deepened their faith.

    But they do all of this AS THEMSELVES. Not as some new and cool and better kind of person. And the fact that they are still themselves--only now a better, wiser, happier version--is something I try to reveal as part of the ending. Does that make sense?

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  46. Hi Jeanne,

    Yes, the secret needs to be foreshadowed earlier in the story. You never want to spring something new at the end without giving the reader a clue or two that a surprise might be coming.

    As far as providing satisfaction for the reader...if your characters have had to struggle with a significant internal conflict and if that internal conflict is resolved and they find peace and/or redemption, your reader will be cheering and sighing with satisfaction. In the same way, if the hero and heroine struggle with huge obstacles that keep them apart, your reader may wonder how the problem/problems can ever be resolved. When you provide that resolution to the conflict and the happily ever after, the reader experiences the WOW factor we're all hoping to achieve at The End of our stories.

    In a nutshell, the deeper you go into the internal conflict and/or the character's personal struggle in the story, the more satisfying the ending will be for the reader when those problems are resolved.

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  47. Waving to Sandra...

    We've got an overcast sky for the first day of spring, but the pear trees are in full bloom, and flowers are providing color in spite of the gray day.

    Thanks for your sweet words about The General's Secretary. :)

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  48. Happy Anniversary, Elaine!

    Enjoy your time on the links with hubby!

    FORE!!!

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  49. Melanie,

    Early on, I thought endings should be short as well. Now, I'm enjoying providing a bit more. My stories take place over a few days so I like to provide a later glimpse of what's happening in their lives.

    Plus writing about hugging and kissing is always fun! :)

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  50. Julie wrote...with the end in sight!

    Yay, Julie! Write on!!!

    Wish you could have been at the GRW meeting on SAT. It would have been a M&M 2012 reunion!

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  51. Piper, the hail pounded our windows the other night. I was praying the glass wouldn't break!

    Your ds is a doll! So handsome! So tall! So smart, too, I'm sure! :)

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  52. Hi Kathy,

    You're right about contests focusing on our first pages. Those openings usually shine after a few critiques. I've heard editors talk about stories falling flat on the later chapters that haven't received all the review.

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  53. Paula, thanks for cheering everyone on! I'm hoping to get more pages written later today.

    Love the strawberry shortcake you brought for Mary! Delicious!!!

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  54. Kav, you're in the drawing for the chapter critique and for one of my books. :)

    The idea of a book just stopping has me staring at my computer slack jaw. Really? What was the author thinking? As you mentioned, each story needs to have a satisfying conclusion, even in a series where some threads will be resolved in future releases.

    Long ago, I read a book that ended on a very tragic note, which I hated. I've never forgotten that story. I'm a happily ever after gal. If not roses and sunshine, I at least want the hope of brighter days in the future.

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  55. Thanks, Debby!

    It was great sitting next to you too! And I was very thankful to God that I was able to attend both GRW and the conference too. Praying for all those who must deal with the insurance adjusters this week (and grateful that we had no broken windows either!)....

    Piper

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  56. Debby, some excellent advice about endings! I don't think I've ever read a post about doing them. So good to hear your take on it!

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  57. Myra,
    I've only done a few wedding scenes...maybe two...and they were both short. One was a military wedding. I envisioned my own ceremony, the church, hubby in uniform. It was deja vu and fun to do! :)

    I try to pull something unique into each of my endings. Not that it has to be flashy, but just something that's new-to-me in the setting.

    Following the climax, I frequently write hospital scenes if my hero or heroine have been wounded. Most of us feel anxious when a loved one is injured and we're waiting for the doctor's diagnosis. Often it's a time of deep reflection, perhaps regret or wishing we could have done something more to have helped the injured. All that emotion plays into the story and provides an opportunity for the faith element to be strengthened as well.

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  58. Debby, this is FANTASTIC.
    It took a ridiculous amount of rewrites to get my ending right on my first MS and reading your list, I'm laughing inside because it met all but one criteria. So, YAY!
    Now I can print your checklist and tighten up the other two.

    I would so love to be in the drawing for one of your books (interesting LIS doesn't allow villian POV. I've read several of them and hadn't noticed. Not a shocker since I read for the hero, LOL). And if I could be in the drawing for a first chapter critique that would be cool too.

    Happy Birthday Mary! Yes, that does make sense. It's like Saul to Paul. Saul didn't become a new person. He was still no holds barred passionate about his purpose, but his purpose changed. totally get what you're saying there and glad you pointed it out. It irks me when the "come to Jesus" either didn't truly arise out of overcoming their internal and external conflicts or from a way integrated with the plot too. I'm a very demanding reader, though. I'm learning to treat books like I do artwork. Even if it doesn't personally suit my individual tastes, I can still appreciate it. Unless there's absolutely no redeeming quality and it just belongs in a burn-pile. =)

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  59. Debra M.,

    Yes - the BBC one! :) I can sum up the ending in one word: bliss.

    Debby,

    Thank you for the encouragement!! :)

    ~Amber

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  60. Good luck, Anna, on your LIS submission!!! Fingers crossed.

    (LIS hints from Deb: Keep the hero and heroine together as much as possible and place the heroine in danger throughout the story!)

    You're in the drawings!

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  61. Katie, thanks for mentioning one of Margaret Daley's books. She's a wonderful writer.

    You wrote: "Never give up on your dreams!"

    Great words of encouragement! Especially timely during Speedbo!

    Hugs!

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  62. Great points, Mary, about keeping the characters IN character, even in the ending.

    I do try to add something about the hero/heroine knowing problems will come in the future, as they always do, but with the "other person" at their side and with God's help, they'll be able to handle the bad times as well as the good.

    Birthday cake and ice cream on the buffet bar, along with the stawberry shortcake from Paula. Lots of helium balloons, steamers and party hats. Enjoy your party, Mary!

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  63. Hi Missy,

    Wasn't it fun seeing Piper and Walt this weekend? Diana Shuford and Lindi Peterson arrived later. Too bad we didn't get a photo with everyone included. Next time for sure! :)

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  64. Happy Birthday Mary!
    A calf with chrome
    A cowboy of your own
    Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!
    Happy Birthday Today!

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  65. Yikes, Nancy! I hope you don't allow Seeker books in your burn pile. :)

    Don't hold me to LIS not allowing the villain POV. I've never see it done, but I don't think there's an actual RULE precluding it. It's just that usually LI/LIH/LIS books have two POVs -- the hero and heroine's.

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  66. Hi Janet:

    “I have no epilogues in my novels. I've tried but struggle to make them significant as the ending.” Janet Dean

    “There are no second acts in American lives.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

    A different frame of reference:

    An epilogue is like the cherry on top of a hot fudge sundae. It doesn’t trump the story. It celebrates the story’s triumph. It’s there to give the reader a second helping of the HEA! It’s what they call ‘lagniappe’ in New Orleans.

    A romance without an epilogue is like a gourmet meal without desert. Indeed, most of us don’t need a desert, but, oh my, it sure makes the celebration official! A guilty pleasure. A ‘I shouldn’t but just this one time’ moment.

    Just a different POV.

    Love your books.

    Vince

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  67. Ah, bliss! A nice word, Amber. Makes me want to see North and South.

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  68. Vince, our poet laureate!

    You called epilogues a second helping of the HEA!

    Nicely said/written, Vince!

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  69. Hi Debby:

    I can remember some great endings. It’s easy because they just ‘pop to mind’.

    The ending of your “The Officer’s Secret” goes on with surprise after surprise as all the threads come to a conclusion: the suspense, the mystery, the inspirational, and the romance all finish with high drama and nature’s blessing.

    Julie Lessman’s “A Heart Revealed “ has the best ending I’ve read in years. I’ll never forget it because I was caught totally by surprise. I was convinced that this otherwise wonderful book would be diminished by what I saw as a mandatory cliché ending. That ending didn’t come. The ending that did come was like getting hit by lightning on a perfectly clear day.

    The most emotionally rewarding ending I’ve read is Julie’s “A Love Surrendered” which, if you’ve read the previous five books, offers eight HEA’s. (You should probably need to have a prescription this buy this book – it’s almost a controlled substance.)

    And for a perfect ending, where all the elements, characters and nature, come together for a dramatic cathartics, I like Myra’s “Autumn Rains”.

    As for being clever and keeping the reader guessing, and for being a very brave writer, I love Mary Connealy’s Christmas novella, “The Sweetest Gift”. This has an ending I read with admiration.

    When I think of the above books I always see them in terms of their endings. Yet the endings are all different in kind.

    In a way, I think great endings have this in common: they delight the reader and leave her with a long lasting afterglow of satisfaction. To do this consistently, I suggest writing the ending first and then finding a way to reach that ending as you write. With such a powerful ending, the ending becomes a shinning city on a hill with its welcoming lights showing you the way out of the sagging valleys of despair that you may encounter on your long, lonely trip to The End.

    Vince

    P.S. You don’t have to plot your novels to be heading for a great destination.

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  70. Always good to see photos, Debby!
    Thanks! Please count me in the drawing!

    Happy Birthday to Mary!!!

    jackie.smith[at]dishmail[dot]net

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  71. Goodness, Seekerville is hopping today. Just now got a chance to check in and there's already over 70 comments.

    First: Happy Birthday, Mary! Hope it's a lovely day for you.

    Second: I loved this post Debby! I'm working on my ending right now, trying to flesh it out and make it sigh-worthy. It's close, but it's still too short. Now that I've got my computer back however (YAY!), I feel like I can get on with the fleshing-out process. And I agree with Julie. Your statement the beginning sells the current book, the ending sells the next book rings true for me as a reader and a writer. I'm posting this by my computer.

    Third: The spring pictures are making me so jealous! The first day of spring in Missouri dawned a cool 19 degrees with snow showers. I've never seen the sun shining while it snowed though. It was weirdly cool. There's an old weather saying that if it rains while the sun is shining, it will rain the next day about the same time. Does that hold true for sunny snow showers? Guess I'll find out tomorrow.

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  72. Oh my stars, Deb, you've made such perfect sense here. The sigh-friendly ending, and all the components that go into it.

    I read a book not long ago, a NYT bestselling author and the book I read was beyond weak.... and loaded with 47,000 extra characters who were no doubt going to be all featured in books of their own....

    and interchangeable names (which made me think of Vince and my "M" name book, LOL!) and I saw the whole thing through a reader's eyes.

    And I wanted my $9.99 back.

    But what a good lesson to learn for $10...

    Don't short-shrift the audience to get an extra book in, or an extra week's vacation (more likely)

    God-given talent should always be treated with tender, loving care.

    Imagine if Michelangelo had HURRIED....

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  73. Vince, thanks for your kind words about The Officer's Secret. You're right to mention the other Seeker books. All the endings provided afterglow, which you noted.

    I've heard some talk about writing with the end in mind, kind of a take off on Covey. I plot out my entire book, but rarely know where The End will take me. I love having the freedom to follow the characters' lead by that time.

    Vince, don't you read the end first when you pick up a new book? Or am I confusing you with someone else?

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  74. Hi Jackie! You're in the drawing. Get some birthday cake and ice cream!

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  75. Clari, so glad you've got a computer again. YAY!!!

    Good luck writing the ending to your story.

    Sunshine and snow sound like a great way to end winter and begin spring...

    Not sure what you'll get tomorrow! :)

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  76. Ruthy, I'm seeing David...and Moses...and the Pieta. Time well spent on the creative process.

    Take it slow...except during Speedbo!

    LOL!

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  77. Happy BIRTHDAY MARY!!!!

    Oh Debby,
    Great post!!
    Satisfying endings are like dessert after a high-class meal, and they are meant to be eaten in slow, satisfying bites.

    Too quick or too weak and...WHAT??? I just spent $$$ for this?? ;-) or I just spent ____ time for this???

    The emotional satisfaction of bringing 'most' things to a close and seeing the culmination of two lives who've been through the ringer is worth extra care from the writer.

    I wrote an epilogue for the first time in my contemp romance (at the strong urging (aka bossiness) of Carol Moncado) and loved the process of showing how the h/h relationship had deepened because of their faith and love through the trials.

    YAY for your post! GReat way to END my lunch break ;-)

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  78. Debby--thanks for your answers and thoughts to my question. They're so helpful!

    Happy Birthday, Mary!! I hope it's a wonderful day! And I loved your thoughts about your hero/heroine not changing in personality at the end (i.e. shy to extrovert). Thanks for that.

    DEBBY: I'd love to be in the drawing for one of your books. :)

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  79. Oh, btw, Jules - I have to rewrite the ending in my head sometimes so I can get the 'good' feeling from the read.
    I do that with movies too.

    I think I've mentioned this before, but I even had to write a sequel to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein when I read it because I got to the end and thought "What? You're going to just float off on a piece of ice? Really?"
    I had to rewrite the end of the very first Spiderman movie too. ;-)
    Weird. Yes. I'm a 'need for closure' type girl ;-) LOL

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  80. Hi Debby late here was exhausted last night (and will be worse tonight) as didn't sleep much last night hence why im up early.
    I do like epilogues which wind up the story or give a glimpse into the future. I also like when they tie up the loose threads. I still remember a book (not the details now) but they put in an important piece of info which had to have a major bearing on the story only to never mention it again and I finished the book so disappointed wondering what it was all about.
    Another started with a prologue referring to an incident which happens at the end but I left still trying to work out who was running away and about to be murdered and who was chasing him. I even wrote to the author to ask but never got an answer. They did do a rewrite which I am told clears up the issues.

    Im of to a small city over the border today to catch up with a cousin I dont think I have seen for over 20 years and a little shopping before my trip. (6 weeks today I leave home and 6 weeks Sunday I fly out)

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  81. Hi Pepper,
    Thanks for stopping by on your lunch break. No doubt, the reason you mentioned dessert...or perhaps it was Vince's earlier comment or the birthday cake and strawberry shortcake for Mary's birthday! :)

    But it is true that an epilogue is that "extra" something special to savor, especially after a good story has tugged at our heartstrings.

    Glad you had fun making the most of your HEA! Good for Carol offering such positive inspiration.

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  82. Ps Happy Birthday Mary
    I hope you are having a wonderful day.

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  83. Pepper, I'm LOL about your "new" endings to movies and books! You instinctively turn lemons into lemonade, no doubt.

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  84. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARY!
    may your day be really blessed!

    Debby
    this is a neat post. a lot of the commenters are right, you get all kinds of advice on capturing a reading in that hook of a beginning - but not much on how to keep 'em at the end.

    no bad endings of books come to mind, but then, that's probably because i repressed the memory of them. i do know that all the Seekerville books I've read have given me more than satisfactory AHHHHHHS at their endings. (Mary's ending for Out of Control was so good I immediately purchased the two other books in the series 'cuz i just HAD to know all the brothers' HEAs)

    thanks for a great post on what to think about as one wraps up a story. oh, and anything Seekerville is offering, please include me as interested in receiving... i can use the help and/or entertainment.

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  85. Six weeks, Jenny! Won't be long.

    Enjoy your reunion with your cousin. How nice to be able to get together after all that time. Sounds like the basis for a great story...a reunion story, of course!

    Good to know you like epilogues. Sorry about that one book you read with the confusing prologue. That's something for writers to remember for their own work. Ensure the prologue is well defined within the body of the story.

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  86. DebH,
    Did you check the WE? Be sure to go back and look at last week's winners. Okay?

    You've proven my point about the ending selling the next book since you bought two more of Mary's stories. Of course you would. Mary's books are so, so good. :)

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  87. Wonderful post, sweet Debby! (another for my Keeper Files). I also enjoy a satisfying, unrushed ending, that leaves me knowing the couple will grow in their love for God and for each other.

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Mary Conneally!!

    If anyone needs a late-afternoon snack, please take a big helping of my Peach Cobbler (no surprise there, LOL). And this is fresh (not leftover from yesterday*wink*).

    Great photo of you all, and I enjoyed all the lovely flowers you posted, Debby. Springtime in the South---ahhhh!

    Thanks again for this post!

    Would love to be entered for a phone chat (since Tina said to let her know, LOL). Hugs, Patti Jo

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  88. Thank you, Debby. I want to use your idea of a surprise at the end...I need to think of something. I'm skipping around in my Speedbo project, so I've already written my epilogue--with a beautiful wedding. Now back to the main part to put in more emotion. Love the suggestions for THE END!

    I always hate for a book to end, so I like to read a hint about the minor characters becoming a book.

    Fun to see the picture of the group at the Georgia Romance Writers meeting. I wish an RWA chapter was closer than 200 miles from me. (Envy is not a good thing!)

    Please put me down for prizes.

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Mary! And HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, Elaine! Glad your COMPUTER is back, Clari!

    Happy Speedbo-ing and/or reading to ALL!

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  89. HI Patti Jo,
    You're in for the phone chat!

    Thanks for the peach cobbler! Always so good.

    I'm so glad everyone likes an unrushed ending with lots of time to see that HEA blossom...along with our spring flowers! :)

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  90. Mary, I relate! I always wish I had a little more time to polish the book. Guess writers are rarely satisfied.

    Janet

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  91. Happy Birthday, Mary!!! Hope you're having a fantastic day!!

    Janet

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  92. Happy Anniversary, Elaine!

    Janet

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  93. Hi Sherida,

    You took Vince's advice. Did you know he mentioned writing the epilogue first? (Check out his earlier comment.)

    I'm sure you'll find a nice surprise for your hero or heroine to reveal at The End. Remember to foreshadow it earlier in the story to keep the readers on the edge of their seats and wondering when they'll learn that special bit of information you've saved for last.

    Happy Speedbo-ing to you, Sherida!

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  94. Vince, thanks for cheering me on toward dessert. Fun to think of the Epilogue as guilty pleasure!
    :-)I'll try harder.

    Thanks for your kind words about my books.

    Janet

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  95. I like the loose ends to be tied up in mysteries, although if it's a Y.A. book the ending might lead you into the next in the series.

    Peach cobbler, yum! I make the kind with Bisquick and instead of using fresh peaches I use two cans.

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  96. I wish i was better at thinking up that "end secret" thing. Sometimes it just happens without trying but others - not so much. How about doing a more in depth lesson on that Debby?

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  97. Hi Debby,

    Love this post! Because I've read a lot of weak endings lately. Or ones that happen too quickly.

    I like to savor those happy moments, especially in a longer book, where the couple has been struggling for so long. To have it wrapped up in a few paragraphs just makes me feel gypped. We readers have been going through every high and low and need to relish the happiness.

    That's why I love epilogues - they prolong the romance. A lot of my books have epilogues.

    Endings are equally important as the opening, maybe more so because by the time you get to the end, if it's not satisfying, you'll likely never pick up that author's work again.

    Of course all the Seekers have AMAZING endings!

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARY! Hope your hubby can tear himself away from those calves to bake you a cake!!! LOL.

    Cheers,
    Sue

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  98. Enjoyed the pictures and the post.

    I am working on the black moment or transitioning into it, trying to tie up the lines so they join properly for the moment.

    I've always thought the ending was very important, and yes it can be had to write. You want readers to hold onto the story and perhaps even read it again.



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  99. Great stuff Debby and the timing is perfect! I always seem to get just what I'm needing here :)

    Happy birthday Mary!

    I would love to be entered for a phone chat. Seems no one else is ever going to call me. ;)

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  100. Oh and Happy Birthday, Mary. Hope you have a wonderful day.

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  101. One of my favorite movies ever is called Heart and Souls, starring Robert Downey Jr. Old movie. He was born during a bus accident where four people died. (weird premise) and those four souls somehow went into him so he had these four 'playmates' from the time he's born.
    Turns out all four of these people, because they went off with the baby, 'missed the bus' to heaven. (or some equally egregious twist on the afterlife).
    But they each got a chance, years later, to go again but first they had to put right something that went wrong, or a dream they never fulfilled, all with that bus trying to catch up with them, and Robert Downey had to do it for them sort of because they live inside of him.

    That sounds so crazy but the film has FIVE happy endings. One each for the four souls and one for Downey. It's really just about the happiest movie ever.

    And the Souls are famous actors, too, Charles Grodin, Alfrie Woodard, Kyra Sedgewich...one other.

    If you ever get a chance to see it, do it. After the first little bit of the movie setting it up just about an hour long happily ever after, not that easy to do with dead people, but they managed it.

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  102. Debby,
    Or just spice things up a bit ;-)
    I am a fan of lemonade, though

    Then I have a secondary problem.
    Melanie's books are SOOOOOO good, they immediately inspire 3 new stories each time I read them...and I dont' have time to write them!!!
    Plus, I'm "supposed" to be sticking with 1 (or 2) genres, and YA isn't on the short list.
    Sigh...
    I'm Joining Writer ADHD Anonymous

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  103. Michelle, your easy-peasy peach cobbler sounds good too!

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  104. A blog on secrets! Shhhhhhh. Don't tell!

    Thanks for the suggestion, Cindy!

    Actually, the secret needs to be part of that internal conflict or a portion of the main goal or greatest fear...it has to come from the story, rather than something that's added just to provide a punch at The End.

    Hugs!

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  105. Hi Sue,
    We agree! I like a lingering ending. Epilogues work too!

    Thanks for your praise of Seeker endings. :)

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  106. Tina, you're moving out. Almost at the black moment. Good for you!

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  107. Jamie, don't get discouraged! Your call will come. Keep working. Every day at the keyboard moves you that much closer to publication.

    Speedbo on! :)

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  108. Five happy endings in one movie! That's a huge WOW Factor! Thanks for the info, Mary!

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  109. i forgot to check the WE, well, i usually forget because of weekend family stuff... whoot! i get a phone chat with you after Speedbo? AWESOME!

    again. great post today with reminders for making the end as interesting as the beginning. Thanks!

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  110. Pepper, you are Super Woman. I have no doubt you can do it all.

    Hugs!

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  111. DebH,
    Be sure to provide your phone number. The email addy is on the WE. Okay?

    We'll talk soon!

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  112. Debby says "Pepper, you are Super woman"

    which is the nice SOUTHERN way of saying:

    "Pepper, honey, your brain is a sack full of cats. You are plum crazy, bless your heart."

    LOL ;-)

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  113. Hi Debby:

    It’s not me. I would never read the end of a book first! That’s like asking the comic to start with his punch lines. Also if one does that the book cannot be read as intended by the author.

    However, I will grant you this: if everyone read the ending first, there would be a lot of ‘last chapter’ contests and many more plotters in the world. I also think writers would get published much quicker. The way it is now, we have writers hooking 150 pound readers with ten pound test lines! (With the strength of the line being proportionate to the power of the ending. )

    Vince

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  114. I've been getting ads for classes via Writer's Digest. I look at them, then the price and think. hey I GET THIS STUFF FOR FREE ON SEEKERVILLE!

    And a big shout out to Piper. She'll explain later.

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  115. Great blog, Debby! I needed to read this because I'm closing in on "The End."

    I won't be writing tonight though because I developed a terrible headache mid-afternoon and just want to lie on the sofa with a heating pad. Since I had a shingle vaccination today and headache is a side effect of that vaccination, I'm going to presume that's the reason.

    Over and out for today.

    Marilyn

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  116. I *LOVE* that movie, Mary! I haven't seen it in a while. I need to watch it again because all the happy endings are so wonderful.

    Marilyn

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  117. I would never say that, Pepper.

    You are so precious. Bless your heart! :)

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  118. Glad to know you don't peek at the ending, Vince. My daughter does. I don't know where she got it from. Must have been from her father. :)

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  119. So nice, Deb. Thanks for the shout out to Seekerville and to Piper.

    I'm excited! Woot!

    Where is she? Calling Piper...

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  120. HAHAHAHAHA!

    A sack full of cats!!!!

    Oh my goodness, as usual, Seekerville comments make my day!

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  121. Oh, Marilyn, take good care of yourself! Sorry about the headache.

    Sending chicken soup and hugs!

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  122. Great reminders, Debby! The best books truly are the ones I never want to see end though :)

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  123. I smiled throughout your post, Debby! The sweetness of romance, even the black moment, the vows of love, the promise of a future together...and I love an epilogue that shows either the wedding or the addition of a baby to the blessed couple!

    I need to start copying and pasting some of these posts--including yours--into Word so I can refer to them since I've returned to writing courtesy of Speedbo.

    Please put my name in to win one of your novels! :)

    Melanie

    PS: Happy Birthday, Mary!

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  124. Waving to Virgina.

    I'm laughing with you!

    Oh that Piper!

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  125. Hi Eva Maria,

    I want to get to The End, but then I don't want the story to End! Funny, eh?

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  126. Melanie, we're so glad you came back to writing!

    You're in the drawing. :)

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  127. Hey Seekerville,

    Every Wednesday night, I'm usually participating in a chat or writing and using a check in with Seeekerville as a reward. This Wednesday night, I had to work, thus the late check-in!

    Thank you to everyone for your good wishes and prayers! I appreciate all the support for Seekerville. I will use all of the good thoughts and prayers to do the best job that I can.

    Love to all,

    Piper

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  128. Piper, are you going to share your good news? Please?

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  129. Oh, Debby, forgive me, I'm new to these things and don't know the protocol!

    I placed second in the Great Expectations contest and received a full request from the editor at Thomas Nelson! That's my news!

    Piper

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  130. Woohoo Piper! We had an editor from Thomas Nelson participate in a workshop for our RWA chapter a few years ago. Fingers and toes crossed for you.

    Marilyn

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  131. Yay, Piper!!! Congratulations on the final and request! Super fantastic!

    So happy for you! Whoo-hoo!!!

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  132. My favorite endings are the ones that bring the story full circle back to the beginning. Maybe even put the characters in the same situation they faced in the one of the initial scenes and show how they are different, how they are healed.

    I'd love to be put in the drawing for any of the critiques. I think I'm too shy for the phone chat, lol.

    I'll be saving this post, Debby. Full of juicy tips for that perfect ending!

    I'm ticking toward the crisis, but some of my scenes seem too slow, and may end up going in the second act instead.

    700 words away from my Speedbo goal and, for shame, I haven't written a word today. No excuses. I'm too close not to. Hitting the keyboard.

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  133. I don't always need the HEA, but I do want a satisfactory ending. I want the story to feel complete.

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  134. VINCE SAID: "You should probably need to have a prescription this buy this book – it’s almost a controlled substance.)"

    LOL ... oh, don't I wish!! ;) Thanks, Vince -- you always manage to make my day better, my friend!!


    And, CLARI ... I just now realized you live in Missouri ... or maybe we had this conversation already and it seeped through my colander brain long ago. At any rate, I am delighted to know you are a Missour girl like moi!! Where abouts??

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  135. I love the way you gave us the different styles of endings and the epilogue was perfect! I had been waffling if I should do one and you convinced me. Thanks so much for your wonderful help!

    Jeri

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  136. Thanks for the giveaway and God Bless!!!
    Sarah Richmond
    sarahrichmond.12@gmail.com

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  137. Thanks, Debbie! Not only for the good advice; but, also, for the pics of springtime. I really needed them! I feel like I'm living in Alaska; winter doesn't want to leave Indiana. One of the most important things I have to remember as a writer is "Don't rush the ending." That's where I am now and it's so tempting to just tell the reader instead of letting them be involved to the very end. I'm way over on words; hopefully, I'll trim a lot of excess during the rewrite.

    Happy Belated Birthday, Mary. You share your birth date with my grandson, Evan - he's 10.

    Thanks, tina, for the reminder to state a preference of prizes, should I be so lucky. I'd love any of them, but could really use a first chapter critique or a first 5 pages critique.

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