How To Write Satisfying Endings

How can you write a really satisfying ending to your story?

TRANSCRIPT:

Hello, folks. I’m getting to the final few chapters of this first draft, and that’s when I tend to find that my daily word count starts to drastically go down. Why? Well, up to now, I’ve been getting ideas down on the page, putting my characters into tricky situations, given them terrible dilemmas. And they’ve all made choices with consequences. And it’s all been driving the story forward. But sooner or later, that story has to end and endings are hard.

Just ask George R.R. Martin or J.J. Abrams or anyone who’s had to wrap up a story with a neat little bow. So the creativity brakes tend to start screeching as you realise that you just can’t keep piling on story. If you see my previous videos, you’ll now I’m big on using theme as story fuel, and that’s definitely worked for this first draft. Having a thematic argument has really helped give me focus on how to make things work and I’ve never found myself stuck or blocked.

And just for reference, my thematic argument for this story is: Are we better off working alone or working with others? And I always like to pose it as a question. And I’ve enjoyed this as a thematic argument because there are times when it’s worked for both my protagonist, antagonist, and all the supporting characters. But the problem with a thematic argument is that you have to resolve it. That doesn’t mean you should come down hard on one side or the other.

Ideally, what you want for your resolution is some kind of synthesis. So if you think of your protagonist as the thesis of your argument, they stand for this thing here and your antagonist represents the antithesis over here, then your ending should resolve into a synthesis of both, or something new and unexpected. And that’s what makes for a satisfying ending. Think of The Godfather. So the argument is: can Michael be part of a crime family and maintain his moral high ground?

Well, Michael starts the story essentially disowning his family, but the family’s business tests him, and by the end he’s running the family the way he wants it run, but he’s also defending it with violence by ordering hits on the other families. A synthesis of ideas there. Raiders of the Lost Ark. Can a grave robber prove himself worthy of a great prize? Indy starts the film dismissing the Ark as superstitious nonsense. But by the end, his growing understanding and belief in its power is what saves him and Marion.

And don’t come at me with that Big Bang Theory crap about Indy not affecting the outcome of Raiders. Those people are confusing plot with story and are completely missing the point. Finding Nemo: Marlin, the overprotective father. He crosses a dangerous ocean and finds himself proven right again and again. Yes, the ocean is a dangerous place, but he realises that he has to let his son save Dory. Pixar, frankly, are masters at this kind of thematic storytelling.

Take the time to watch a few Pixar “making of” videos and you’ll get all this good stuff in great detail. This thesis/antithesis stuff is all horribly simplistic, of course, and easier said than done. But keeping this in mind, as I write these last few chapters, has really helped me figure out how to bring my story train to a stop and keep it on the rails and hopefully give the reader a really satisfying ending. Of course, the tracks behind me are a complete disaster, but, hey, that’s what rewrites are for.

OK, till next time, happy writing.

Quick, Quick, Slow: What have been the technological changes in publishing this year?

I’m part of a panel for the online London Book Fair looking at how technology has changed things for publishing and bookselling in the past year. I’ll be giving the perspective of a writer, and I’ll be joined by Simon Appleby, director of Bookswarm, Hermione Ireland, MD of The Académie du Vin Library, and the panel is chaired by Justine Solomons of Byte the Book. We’ll be looking at how Zoom has changed meeting culture, our favourite apps, selling direct to readers, and the future of publishing.


Come and join us on Wednesday 23rd, June, 1:30-2:30pm.

Byte Online: Book to Screen & Back Again

Come and join me talking about writing films and books and turning books into films and films into books and all that jazz…
https://bytethebook.com/event/byte-online-book-to-screen-and-back-again-with-mark-stay/

Author Talk with Kent Libraries

I had great fun chatting to Simon at Kent libraries about the books and authors that changed my life…

The End of Magic By Mark Stay

First of all I would like to thank the author Mark Stay himself for being so kind and gifting me a copy of his book in exchange for a fair and honest…

The End of Magic By Mark Stay

Signed Book and Chocolate Giveaway

Giveaway time! For your chance to to win one of five signed/dedicated copies of The Crow Folk and a special bar of chocolate simply sign up to the my newsletter here at the Woodville Village Library... https://witchesofwoodville.com/#library

Ends 5pm GMT, 28th Feb 2021 Ts&Cs here: https://witchesofwoodville.com/woodville-newsletter-giveaway-terms-and-conditions/

The Crow Folk Book Trailer

Thanks to Kai Newton for the camera and edit, Dominic Currie for the music, Emily Stay for directorial assistance, and George Stay for putting on the costume in such stifling heat. And apologies for my scary lockdown hairdo…

Transcript (or click on the Youtube CC button for subtitles):

“England June 1940. Three bickering witches are the only thing standing between us and the evil forces of the supernatural. Oh, and there’s a war on. The Witches of Woodville chronicles the wartime adventures of three witches. Faye Bright is an apprentice who learns about magic from a book left by a late mother. She’s helped by the prim and proper Mrs Teach and the enigmatic Miss Charlotte, and they all live in the village of Woodville, deep in the heart of the Kent countryside. The village is besieged by the Crow Folk. Living scarecrows led by the charismatic Pumpkinhead. Faye must unite the Witches of Woodville,using her magic, wits and some aggressive church bell-ringing. The witches will argue and drive each other mad, but they will remain resolute as our last defence against supernatural evil.”

And here’s where you can order it in paperback and eBook (audio will be coming too!)…

Waterstones UK

The Book Depository for free international postage and packing

Support your local UK indie bookshop and order from The Hive

Blackwells

Amazon UK

Kobo

Apple

A note for readers in the USA and Canada:

We haven’t sold the North American rights yet, so your best bet is to order via The Book Depository. They offer free postage and packing worldwide.

Stay tuned for more reveals about the book soon!!

4 Million Words Written

You may recall that we started a thing on the Bestseller Experiment podcast in January called the BXP2020 Challenge. This came from my co-presenter Mark Desvaux, who had struggled to write much under very difficult circumstances. As a single working dad of three kids, he rarely had the time or energy to write, but he found that by using a variation of the Pomodoro technique, he was able to get back into the habit again.

Just 200 words a day, maybe 15-20 minutes in the morning, and he was writing more than ever, but also coping with the everyday stuff with his life and family.

What really made it work was being accountable to others, which is why we added the “banking” feature to the challenge. Don’t just write the words, tell the word about it. That has been embraced by every who has joined in with the challenge (follow the #BXP2020 on Twitter and you’ll see) and I’m blown away to report that one of our challengers just banked our four millionth word.

I can also report that it’s worked in our house, too. Claire started on Jan 1st and is now 60,000 words into her debut crime novel. And me… I finished writing a screenplay through Jan and Feb, and then Covid-19 came along and took all the wind out of my sails. After a couple of weeks of writing precisely bugger-all, I decided to use the challenge to start writing again. 200 words a day, has become 500+ words a day and I’ve not only completed one short story, but I’m halfway through another.

It really works.

Give it a go. You can start whenever you want, and it’s completely free… https://bestsellerexperiment.com/bxp2020/

The End of Magic challenge finale…

On 9th July 2019 I made a big ol’ public declaration to sell a thousand copies of my fantasy novel The End of Magic by Christmas, and I promised to keep folks in the loop with the ups and downs of sales and marketing with a weekly update.

A few caveats…

  • I can only do this in the USA… Unbound have the UK rights and I have no visibility on sales other than the twice yearly statements.
  • I’m going to stick with Kindle and Kindle Unlimited.
  • I’ll be counting both Kindle and Paperback sales.
  • Here’s the big finale!

So this is Christmas, and what have you done? Sold a thousand copies of your book? Er… no. Let’s have a quick recap since my last update, and then figure out what worked and what didn’t.

You may recall that I had a bunch of promos booked for the run-up to Christmas:

And here’s how they did…

BookRunes and BookRaid – 22nd November:

Bargain Books – 4th December, then Fussy Librarian – 5th December:

The Librarian turned out to be a little too fussy…

E-reader News – 16th December:

Book Barbarian – 24th December:

Quite disappointing in the end, it has to be said. I was hoping for bigger spikes than that, and in between the promos I was running Bookbub ads to maintain what little sales momentum I had. Here’s what the daily sales look like since my last update…

Which gives a not-so-grand total of 286 copies sold since I embarked on this challenge!

A mere 714 copies shy of my target. I’m not completely sure how much I spent on ads, but it was in excess of £700… So what went wrong?

It wasn’t a series:

Something I realised very early on was that this kind of promotion is most effective when promoting a series of books. Book one is your loss leader, and you upscale with the subsequent titles in the series. All I had was a loss leader! Fellow author Ian Sainsbury summed it up here in this exchange on Facebook…

I only had one territory:

Because Unbound have the UK & Commonwealth I could only run this promo on Amazon US, and that can really hamper the effectiveness of the promotions you run. You’re much more likely to be chosen for a Bookbub newsletter promotion when you tick the “International” box, for example.

Real life happened:

I took a holiday in July, and for seven weeks between September and November I was heads down on rewrites of a screenplay and a new novel and let the marketing slip and the sales dropped to nothing. Only myself to blame, but you can’t be a writer unless you write and these are both important gigs.

Too Few Reviews:

For much of this experiment I only had six customer reviews. They were good, but most casual customers will need more convincing than that. I did change strategy to get more newsletter promotions and boosting my mailing list, and then in December Amazon decided to merge the UK and US reviews, so I now have 27 ratings with a 4.7 average.

I might be too British:

I’ve definitely had a stronger reader response from my fellow Brits. I have a writing style that’s quite wry and ironic and Brits generally enjoy that, and Americans can often find it a little baffling (this doesn’t just apply to The End of Magic, I’ve known this about my writing for a while). Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams and even Monty Python have cult followings in the US when compared to their profiles in the UK, and my writing owes a lot to their influence, so I guess I’m in the same boat. I take some solace that there are plenty of writers who never cracked the States who make a very good living. I do love you, America, but it seems it was not to be (at least, with this book)…

I still don’t know who my readers are:

I can’t tell you the number of reviews that start with a variation of “I don’t normally read fantasy, but I loved this…” Here’s a few recent examples…

Knowing who your readers are is the key to driving sales. I’ve experimented with ads for fans of Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch and they’ve been very hit and miss. Nothing has made me think: that’s it! That’s my readership! So it’s entirely possible that The End of Magic falls between the cracks: not grimdark enough for Abercrombie fans, not funny enough for Pratchett readers. If anyone who’s read the book has any thoughts do please let me know!

And here we are at the end of this great experiment. I’ve learned a lot and have even more to contemplate, but thanks to everyone who’s joined me, encouraged me and — most importantly — bought and read The End of Magic. If you haven’t so far, then you can find it here.

And if you’ve just stumbled across this and want to see how it all began, here’s the first week of the challenge and there are links to the subsequent weekly updates at the end of each page.

The End of Magic challenge, week 18 – Spend, Spend, Spend!

On 9th July I made a big ol’ public declaration to sell a thousand copies of my fantasy novel The End of Magic by Christmas, and I promised to keep folks in the loop with the ups and downs of sales and marketing with a weekly update.

A few caveats…

  • I can only do this in the USAUnbound have the UK rights and I have no visibility on sales other than the twice yearly statements.
  • I’m going to stick with Kindle and Kindle Unlimited.
  • I’ll be counting both Kindle and Paperback sales.
  • Here’s week eighteen!

Last week, I announced that after a long lull in activity the only way I can get anywhere close to this target is to go on a bit of a spending frenzy. I started by running some ads with Bookbub. My old artwork needed a bit of a spruce-up, and I asked the BXP Group for a recommendation and Bookbrush came up again and again, so I had a little play…

Don’t bother trying to enlarge these as they have to be weeny as per Bookbub’s criteria.
The free account on Bookbrush gives you three free images per month, but you can upgrade to an unlimited account if you wish (and I think I will).

I started with the James Barclay ad, and lo and behold, I got a few sales…

I started running ads at $10 per day, following the guidelines in the David Gaughran’s excellent book on Bookbub ads, alternating between the Abercrombie and the Barclay. Sales weren’t stratospheric — a couple a day — but they were moving again.

I also have to thank the gang on the BXP Team for recommending various book promo sites they had used in the past. Astonishingly, I’ve not tried any of these before, so I’ve really gone for it now, booking a bunch of them in the run-up to Christmas:

The first one of these ran a few days ago with Bookrunes and Bookraid on 22nd Nov. I stopped all Bookbub ads in order to see what effect the promo had on sales (drumroll, please…)

Meh…

Well, it’s better than nothing. And there were a couple of sales the day after. There’s also a charge per click…

No profits to boast of, but we knew that didn’t we? I’ve still not resumed the Bookbub ads to see if the promo has a longer tail, but nothing so far. I’ll think I’ll spruce up the artwork again and resume the Bookbub ads until the next promo with Bargain Booksy on 4th December.

The BXP Team also recommended Kindle Countdown Deals, but because I had already discounted the title before applying I don’t meet their criteria. Besides, Amazon have had enough of my money already.

Jack Logan also got in touch to recommend using Etsy, which hadn’t occurred to me before, but might be a good way to shift a few signed copies of the paperback before Christmas.

Here are the sales since last week…

Y’know what, that’s not bad. The best week since I started… and all it took was a ton of money. Hmm. Of course, I need to be doing these sorts of numbers on a daily basis to meet my target — there are 29 days till Christmas, I’ve sold 171 copies and need to sell 829. That’s 29 per day!

If you would like to help, then please do any of the following:

Buy a copy here in the US, or here in the UK

Tell your friends about the book (especially on those big fantasy reading groups on Facebook, please!)

Leave an honest review on Amazon or Goodreads.

Until next time…

HERE’S THE FINAL WEEK – DID I DO IT??