Guest Blogger: Christopher Waltz

Unexpected Endings

As a rule of writing, we generally have the whole ballgame planned out in our heads or on paper before actually putting our fingers to the keyboard. (Wow, did I just use a sports reference?) I personally spend weeks or even months planning out every detail of my stories before I actually start writing them.

And then that plan falls apart.

It never fails, really. We spend countless hours making sure our stories make perfect sense and that no detail is left out, but when it comes time to actually write, things just don’t work out. I find this part of the process like an uncomfortable breakup between myself and the original plan. “It’s not you, it’s me. Things just aren’t going the way I thought they would. I swear, I thought this would work out…”

But it doesn’t work out and we’re left with partial ideas floating around in our heads and maybe even sitting on our computer screens. We blankly stare at them, hoping the rest of the story will materialize all by itself, but it doesn’t. And even if we had an ending in mind from day one, chances are, that’s not the ending we’ll, well, end up with.

That’s where the unexpected endings come into play. I’ll openly admit I both love and hate the double-edged sword aspect of them. At first we’re so frustrated, as writers, because we knew exactly what would happen, how it would happen, and how we felt about it… And then it changes. But, of course, it changes for the better, or so we hope.

The truth of the matter is that no matter what ending we come up, we never know how our readers are going to feel about it until they read it. And putting it rather bluntly, it really only matters what they think, because they’re the people we’re writing for. Of course, some form of satisfaction comes from liking the endings ourselves, but we write it so other people will like it, enjoy it, and want to read more of the stories we need to tell.

So, we break up with our old endings, spend time brainstorming for new ones in what I can only pathetically describe as writer bars (I don’t know, just go with it; I’m trying to stick with the imagery here…), and then choose a new ending, or mate, we’re, at least for the time, pleased with.

Most recently, I went through this process with my novel, Ivy League. Way back in 2010, when I started drafting and writing the novel, I knew exactly how it was going it end. I wrote the novel, loving every second of it, but as I came closer and closer to ending, I knew something wasn’t right. I couldn’t end the story this way because, the more I thought about it, the more I felt ripped off by my own ending. And if I felt ripped off by it, how much worse would the people who read it feel?

So, I scrapped the ending, left Ivy League alone for a few days, and then wrote a new one. Of course, I’m not going to ruin that ending because I really want you to read the book, but I will say that the feedback I’ve gotten has been generally positive, though some people have asked why I didn’t write a happy ending for the story, to which I reply with a smile, “actually, I did.”


Where you can find me:

my blog is
Ivy League can be purchased here:
and my twitter handle is @Christoph_Waltz


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