A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
That is the question.
Well, it’s one of the questions you’ll face when writing a novel anyway, but it does feel like a pretty important one – do you know (or even, do you want to know) the ending to your story before you’ve written it? The tricky thing is, there’s no clear cut answer. It’s like almost everything in writing – each person will work a certain way, not to mention each book will work a certain way. There’s no right or wrong. There are no hard and fast rules. (And now I’ve realised just how hard writing a post on this topic is going to be. Yay!)
For me, all my stories start out with the hazy ideas of a beginning, middle and end. Beginnings are usually easiest – characters come bursting in, tempting plot lines unravel, settings blossom to life. A million shimmering concepts all shimmy and sway for my attention. Then I have some faint idea of what goes in the middle – scribbles of scenes, snatches of conversation, new characters dancing into the fray. And after that, lurking in some back corner of my mind behind a fog so opaque I can barely see it – the hint, the merest echo of an ending.
It’s definitely scary writing into that fog, not really knowing where you’re headed. But you know what else it is? It’s exciting. Part of the beauty of writing is discovering your story as a reader would. I love that sense of unease, that flirting on the knife-edge of danger, when all you’re doing is writing into the fog with a few characters by your side and quick, tantalising glimpses of what’s ahead when the wind shifts and the mist lifts. For me, I find this way works best to let my story evolve as naturally and authentically as possible. I am more observer than guide – my characters are the real ones in charge. Even if I try and steer them in a certain way, chances are they’ll forge their own route, and all I can do is follow them and trust they know what they’re doing.
As I said though, I usually start off a book with the rough shape of its ending in mind, and I’ve found so far that despite unexpected plot twists and character revelations I never saw coming, my stories still seem to find their way back to that original idea for the ending. I think this has something to do with knowing the theme of your book when you start. You might not be aware that you know it. You might have an inkling. Most of the time, I don’t even think about theme until after the first draft. But if you have a strong sense of your characters and some of the concepts you want to explore, the theme, the heart, the very core of your story will always be there, an instinctive energy in your fingertips as your write, and it’ll help lead you through the fog to the right ending for you.
Natasha Ngan is a writer and blogger represented by Nicola Barr at Greene & Heaton. Her debut novel The Elites is out now from Hot Key Books. Natasha is also a social media freelancer and co-owner and editor of the popular fashion blog Girl in the Lens. If you’re interested in fashion or photography (or just like looking at pretty pictures), why not check it out!