Monday, February 22, 2010

What It Means to Begin and End Well

Hello Reader.  When writing a novel, if you're not pretentious you look to other authors' works in the hopes that you can somehow better your own.  Especially the endings and beginnings of any piece of literature.  Seeing as how I've been working on and off this novel for sometime now (five years!) I've gone through a lot of blog posts and websites about exactly this same topic.  And I've learned that the trick to having a great start and end to a novel is luck.  Sheer dumb luck.

There's absolutely no pattern!  To any of this writing business.  What clicks with people is so random, and frustratingly so.  The beginning of many of the Harry Potter books are really confusing, and in the first novel alone Rowling throws so many different character names at you in the first couple of pages that I remember as a kid I gave up on reading it.  But now I've made it a tradition to attempt reading all seven of her novels during winter break.  I absolutely love, adore, and cherish those books.

Then there's "one of the best beginnings of any novel ever" in A Tale of Two Cities.  "It was the worst of times, it was the best of times..." (I might have gotten that backwards).  I hated this book, I completely revile it.  And yet it has one of the most celebrated beginning lines of all time.  You see what's going on here?  There isn't a ruddy pattern!

In all honesty, I think I've got a great beginning line.  But who knows if that translates to a great book?  And my ending?  I think it's powerful.  Is that a powerful closing to a fantastic book?  I'm completely insecure about the answer to that question.  This is the deep plunge that I take as an author.  I stress over the bookends, and yet I'm still so unsure about the actual content between.

Which brings up a great point.  What does it mean to begin and end well?  Nothing.  After five years of worry, I've figured that if I don't have a great beginning but if my content is going to blow people away then I'll be satisfied.  If my ending is lackluster, I can learn from it later so long as readers enjoyed the ride.  Because at the end of the day, I remember when Ron pulled out Gryffindor's sword and crushed the locket containing Voldemort's horcrux.  I can forget completely the epilogue of Deathly Hollows.

So my weekly question is this:  What beginnings of ends of novels totally blew you away?  And did they lead to an awesome book?  Or was the content of the novel a dud?  You can leave your comments below.

This is a short post, uncharacteristic of me I know.  I have midterms and a banquet to plan so I'll be harried and frenetic for a while.  But I love this blog and I'll do my best to update it as frequently as possible.  Until next time then.

1 comment:

  1. Great Beginnings: Catcher in the Rye, Moby Dick, Pride and Prejudice

    Great Endings: Moby Dick (again), A Light in August, The Origin of the Species, Great Gatsby, No Country for Old Men (just for you...)

    I also really like the beginning and conclusion of Native Son.

    I'm sure you can read a lot of literary theories about how novels begin and end, but I think you're right: it's about confidence. If the beginning and end make sense to you, the readers you are aiming for will probably enjoy it to.