The beginning of a novel is crucial. Without a good beginning, you won’t have a reader. But if the ending is unsatisfactory, it’s unlikely your reader will recommend your novel or read any more of your work. So which is more important?
What links the two is the beginning and end of a circle. Yes – I know there is no beginning and end to a circle , and that of course is the whole point. Hold that thought OK?
On a personal level I’ve recently been experiencing both endings and beginnings: I’ve left the UK, my country of birth, to return to Northern California, my adopted home where I spent more than 20 years of my adult life. It’s been a long journey, hence my absence from all things social media. Apologies for the gap in my blog, but it really has been a long 6,000 mile trip. I’d undertaken the same process, in reverse, ten years ago, so I thought I knew what to expect. And in some ways, similar to the way in which we develop the plot of a novel, I did. But like all good stories, there were unexpected, but necessary twists and turns. And like writing a novel, it took longer than I’d like.
We have our furniture unpacked, but not arranged. Most of my paintings seem to have made it in one piece, though are sitting facing a wall waiting for me to hang them. Again, like writing, it’s been a lesson in patience. Rush it and you end up with a really shitty first draft.
This blog is where life and writing collide. Endings and beginnings are significant stages in both. I was sad to say goodbye to my friends and family in the UK, but thrilled to be back in the USA and see old friends in California. New beginnings are always exciting – the promise of new experiences, new people to meet, new characters to write and plot arcs to develop.
Aside from friends and family, I will miss living so close to the sea, watching the quirky English weather.
And of course I shall miss the English countryside. From twee to wild, almost always green.
But sights I welcome back with open arms:
Northern California is an area of incredible natural beauty: the Pacific ocean at the Golden Gate spanned by the eponymous bridge, acres of vineyards, olive groves and stunning state parks, and centuries old redwoods as tall as the eye can see. Yes, things really are bigger in America!
Coming Full Circle
Let’s go back to my original comment on the beginning and ending of a novel, and the continuous circle they can present. Life and literature really are all about the journey, and that journey continues ad infinitum. The real challenge is to create a piece of work where the beginning and ending are so closely linked they form a circle. Every writer strives to achieve a scenario where the reader carries the characters with them, wondering what happens after the last page has been turned, and if appropriate, looks forward to the sequel. Beginnings are fun and the first essential step, but the real challenge is the ability to follow through and satisfy your readers once they’ve reached the end.
What do you think is the most important part of a novel? As a writer, do you struggle with the beginning more than the ending? As a reader, how does it color your impression of the book as a whole if it has an unsatisfactory ending?
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