Beginning with the End


I started writing as a hobby when I was a hospital social worker a looong time ago (think typewriter and carbon paper. ugh). I thought that working on a novel, the idea for which I’d had in my mind from the time I was twelve years old, would be a fun pastime. After about six months, I decided to take an adult class on novel writing so that I could do a better job with my “hobby.” The class was huge–probably thirty or forty people, all working on the story of their hearts. At the first meeting, the instructor said “I’m going to assume that all of you are here because you want your books to be published.” Wow. It changed the way I felt about my little hobby. Then he gave us our first homework assignment, and it took nearly all of us aback: write the end of the book. It didn’t have to be neat and clean, but we needed to know how the story would end. I’d never thought about the ending of my novel before, and once I did, I understood why he’d given us the assignment. Suddenly, I had a focus for my story and a goal to aim toward. 

Fast forward about a zillion years. I was working on the outline for my work-in-progress this morning, struggling a bit with the “flabby middle,” when I suddenly realized I didn’t know my ending. I spent a half day thinking about it, and voila! Everything else fell into place. If you’re working on a novel, I highly recommend starting at the end. You’ll be amazed at how it focuses the rest of the story.

However, I do have a teeny tiny problem. After zipping through the draft, I came up with an entirely different way of reaching the same ending. Entirely different. Now what? One approach to the story would be more “suspensefully emotional”. The other more “emotionally emotional”. So I think I’m going to write it up both ways and see which moves me more. Nothing like doubling my workload!


  1. Joann on October 23, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    I want suspensefully emotional. I always tell my friends my sister’s books are about relationships but usually with a mystery inside. I love them and you. (It took me a while to figure out why the cow’s patoot was facing me. I get it!)

  2. Kathryn on October 23, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    I first picked up CeeCee Wilkes in a thrift shop, in perfect condition. The cover was what drew me in, it reminded me of Jodi Picoult’s books. I could not put the book down. I had to know what happened with CeeCee. Diane, you write amazing books, and I am so happy I found your books. You have a lifelong reader now.
    Thanks again

  3. Denise on October 23, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    I agree with your sis; I want suspense and relationships. That is why I love you and your books so much, Diane.
    I think that writing the ending is a fantastic idea (particularly for new writers), and I never would have thought of it.
    Love the photo you chose for this blog entry. Lol!

  4. Denise on October 23, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    Kathryn, you picked up CeeCee for the very same reason I spied it: the cover appealed to me. I, too, could not put it down!

  5. brenda on October 24, 2008 at 6:17 am

    The first paragraph and the last paragraph are the most difficult for writers…my students tell me that after so much editing (cutting the fat) and revising, they are sick of the work by the last paragraph-often weak conclusions…so what a great idea!!! The ending first…wow…
    As far as emotionally emotional or suspense…I don’t care…I am rereading one of yours now–I need a pick me up…

  6. brenda on October 24, 2008 at 6:19 am

    On another note-just started Susan Wiggs’ latest…hardback-from library…what intrigued me–it is about a woman trying to get pregnant-she took CLOMID (I took that when I had my children…) Isn’t it odd what will cause us to want to read a book? I never, though, care about the covers…

  7. brenda on October 24, 2008 at 6:22 am

    Diane, Have you used the name “Sandy” for a main character? I can’t remember, and I love that name for a protagonist…it was the name of the girl in the novel I wrote-that I later got rid of because it was so boring…Jimmy was her love…I am sure you know the names are from my childhood-no one in particular-just common during that time…

  8. NSGee on October 25, 2008 at 5:42 am

    What a great idea. I love the beginning of my work-in-progress but couldn’t get to the end because of the saggy middle. I’m going to write the ending and will let you know how goes it. I know all techniques don’t work well for all writers, but I’m giving it a shot. Thanks, Diane!
    PS I was so honored to have you visit my site.

  9. Diane Chamberlain on October 25, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Brenda, I checked my handy-dandy name list and see that I’ve used Sandy twice for not-very-important characters. I do believe I had a male Sandy in Private Relations, which is my first book and not reflected on the list (because I only have my own copies of it and Lovers and Strangers, and they don’t leave the house). I like the name a lot.
    NS, do let us know how that ending works out! Hope it helps.

  10. brenda on October 26, 2008 at 10:58 am

    Diane-we are dying…to know…something…about the WIP…

  11. Diane Chamberlain on October 26, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    Brenda, I’d love to tell you something, but it’s impossible because I haven’t yet gotten the go-ahead on a specific idea. I know it’s been going on a while now, but all I can say is, welcome to my world!

  12. Trina Allen on October 27, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    Thanks for this Diane,
    I vote for suspensefully emotional, but I love thrillers. I can’t imagine writing the story twice.
    I haven’t been to your blog in a while and I’m enjoying catching up.

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