Create a Last Line First

At the start of a piece of writing, it may be worth a writer’s time to take a few moments to draft the last line or two of the story, and to picture its closing image.  Consider these great last lines.

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.

He turned out the light and went into Jem’s room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.

First, taking the time to write last lines may help to avoid the dreaded one-third doldrums. Everyone has different rhythms, but it’s often at 1,000 words of a short story or 30,000 into a novel that energy lags. Knowing the ending can help power through.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby:

 So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Second, a great ending can save time writing the book at as a whole. We’ve many of us found ourselves writing an extra 30,000 words that may later have to come out. Of course, that extra 30,000 word (or more) expansion might also result in a twelve-volume bestselling series. But it can be pleasant to know how long the work ahead may take.

A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess:

And so farewell from your little droog. And to all others in this story profound shooms of lip-music brrrrr. And they can kiss my sharries. But you, O my brothers, remember sometimes thy little Alex that was. Amen. And all that cal.

Third, getting the ending written down at the start (although we reserve our right to make changes) allows us a view of the opening and closing images, and to judge how they resonate, before the energy-filled plot distracts from the pure and binary vision of a beginning alongside its ending.

Life of Pi, by Yann Martel:

 Very few castaways can claim to have survived so long at sea as Mr. Patel, and none in the company of an adult Bengal tiger.

I hope you’ll have another great week in your writing career. Cheers, Mel.

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and the Monument Studio Mysteries starring Frankie Ray, found in Issue 22 and  Issue 24. She is a founding editor of Pulp Literature Press.

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