I heard Henning Mankell, the author of the "Wallander" mysteries, interviewed on an NPR program this past week. He made some far-reaching claims about the essential nature of the creative process that many would dispute, but one happened to be true for me as for him. He said that he always knew the endings of his stories before he began writing them, that he could not get anywhere without knowing the ending; it was like wandering around without a map. Elements may be discovered along the way, of course, but without a known destination, he can't well begin.
I work like that, too. I need to know a story's heading. My ancient December 1998 FK novel "Fireweed" could have been '96 vintage, except that I forgot what the ending was supposed to be, and had to drop it in the middle; I couldn't pick it up again until a conversation triggered my memory of the planned endgame. I'm presently feeling a bit of that wading-through-mire with my 2011 fkficfest/fkficfest story in somewhat the same way, as I did on my most recent oldschoolfic story, and I diagnose myself as mapless. I need to spot the ending.
What endings "pay off" best? How, or why?
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