Monthly Archives: August 2013

Writing Do’s and Don’ts: Beware of Dead Ends

Endings Can be Tricky



Everyone always emphasizes how important the beginning of a story is—you need to catch the editor’s eye and the reader’s interest. This is true, but endings are vital to the integrity of a story.

This becomes apparent when the ending just doesn’t satisfy. Some endings seem rushed as if the writer had a deadline and just threw together something that would be okay. Other endings may feel too wide open—that the author copped out of creating a conclusion. Or others just don’t seem to fit—you feel the author should have left well enough alone and ended it before.

This last is true of the novel, The Light Between Oceans. The book, excellent by the way, has a lyrical, other-world feel. I felt it should have ended at chapter 36, but author M.L. Stedman writes a wrap-up chapter that is unnecessary. Worse, it takes away from the whole narrative.


Which way to go?

Which way to go?

DO know that endings are super important. When I wrote for newspapers and magazines, I knew my last paragraphs could be cut if there wasn’t enough space. Accordingly, my last paragraphs were written to be expendable. Fiction or Essay are a different story. There is a significant build up from Beginning and Middle to End. While I was never upset when the editor cut an article, I would have been if she took the end off of one of my humor pieces. Often, the end was the whole point. The only time I have had the last paragraph deleted from a short story was when my “Her Father’s Daughter” was published. That time I was upset because the story turned on the last line.


DON’T listen to advice about the end of your work unless it makes sense to you. When I finished The Light Between Oceans, I had this feeling that Stedman’s critique group told her she should explain more of what happened. So she wrote a final chapter, but it didn’t grow out of the narrative thread. Sometimes when I finish a story and my husband reads it, he’ll say, “But this isn’t done. What happens?” I do favor open endings, but sometimes I’ll add more for him. This worked well in the “Anniversary Waltz” short story, perhaps because the main character is a lot like my husband.


Don't get sidetracked.

Don’t get sidetracked.

Writing Aerobic: At the end of …

Sitting back and Letting the World Go By

I haven’t written anything for a while. I’ve been on a staycation, even in my brain. The Urban Dictionary defines this perfectly: A vacation that is spent at one’s home enjoying all that home and one’s home environs have to offer. With no thoughts attached.

Welcome to our home.

Welcome to our home.

This is exactly what we’ve been doing and it’s been so FUN that I am happy all day long—well, mostly. There are always little glitches like the two smoke detectors going off and the freezer breaking and the car battery dying. But we handled everything with aplomb. We had the time to do it.

We’ve been on the peripatetic merry-go-round of the babyboomers—traveling to distant places before we need walkers to tour, and also visiting our two children and families—one in Chicago and one in Seattle. This has left us little time to be at home.


Thank God for cell phones. At least people can reach us almost anywhere. Usually the person starts the conversation with: “Where are you? I never know where you are.” My usual response is: “Me, either. Let me check.”

My husband likes this kind of rolling stone lifestyle. I’m much more a homebody. I like to putter around the house instead of far-flung golf links. I like to be around to grow vegetables and flowers. I like to do the laundry at 10:00 in the morning instead of at 10:00 at night. I like to go to the grocery store and buy green bananas, knowing I will be around to see them ripen. I’m just funny that way.


I have been somewhat of a Pollyanna these last few weeks. I leap out of bed, excited about my day, everyday. It may be an early morning walk before I hit the grocery store, then unpacking the groceries while watching The View and putting through a load of laundry. Or the day could be getting to The Do-It center to buy 40-watt light bulbs and plant food, then working in the yard. Or it could be cleaning out the garage, Goo Offing some labels  or checking my Facebook Page before midnight.  I even fit in the Nordstrom sale this year. All of it has made me equally happy.

One day last week we drove down to Malibu—we hadn’t done that in years. We took the 66 Mercedes convertible that had been my father-in-law’s. My husband has had restored inside and out—it’s got Sirius radio and a corvette engine. I think my husband was in HEAVEN as he took the S-turns down 23 towards the ocean. (I wished I had taken a Dramamine). Once down on PCH, we went exploring. We ended up at Nobu, early enough to get a table for lunch. The Pacific waves hit the rocks right at the restaurant’s edge, while pelicans coast on the wind currents in front of you until they plunge straight down into the water for their prey.

“This place is really busy,” my husband said, looking around.

“It is probably one of the most chichi restaurants in the…” I paused to think and for effect. “…in the world!” I finished.

He looked around again. “It’s a great location,” he said. Chichi means less to him than a Chi chi.

When we came out to the parking lot after lunch, his old classic was parked near the Bentleys and Ferraris—that impressed him. It made his day…perfect.


This week LIFE is cranking up again. Appointments made must be kept. But I’m ready. I’ve replenished and recharged. What a wonderful invention staycations are.