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Smash writer’s block and find the ending

Sometimes writing comes easily. When characters are believable, motivated, and fun, they can seem to act on their own. This remarkable phase of writing leads to astronomical daily word counts as your characters navigate the challenges you’ve set up for them.

When things are going well, writing seems easy.

However, what happens when your characters have had a slew of adventures and found themselves tied up in the mess of consequences? They’ve created a bunch of problems, often in fun and unexpected ways, and now it’s on the author to figure out how to build a world that will let them close everything out in a way that’s satisfying for your readers.

Uh oh.

So how do you get through this writer’s block and find an ending that will satisfy everybody? What do you do when the first 90% of the story came quickly but you’re left with the final–and arguably most important–10%?

Kill your writer’s block with quantity

If you’ve got a persistent mental editor sitting on your shoulder telling you things won’t work, try overloading them with content. Give yourself some writing exercises and don’t feel committed to anything that you create. Simply lose yourself in the process, and review what you’ve done afterward.

One wonderful way to generate a lot of words is to start freewriting. Freewriting is the act of writing as much as possible in a set amount of time, such as ten or twenty minutes. To help eliminate the nagging critic in your head, remind them (and yourself!) that this is a way to generate fresh ideas. You might write a page of words that have to be scrapped, sure, but if you write a page of words, that’s still serious progress! You might try writing character backstory, you might put two or three of your characters in an odd situation, or you might just push ahead into the ending of your story. Whatever you do, let yourself write freely, and don’t stop writing until the timer goes off.

Another solid approach is to come up with twenty possible ideas for your ending. Just like freewriting, many of these ideas won’t work for one reason or another. However, one of them might be exactly what you’re looking for. If not, one or two might give you some new threads to follow toward the ending you need.

Get away from the story

Have you ever had a great idea come to you in the shower or in a dream? Even when we’re not writing, our mind is still working away on its own time. Stepping away from your writing desk to take a walk isn’t wasted time.

Many writing recommendations remind us to just sit down and do the work. When you’re really stuck though, sometimes the best advice is to step away from your work for a few hours, days, or longer, and coming back to attack with a fresh mind.

Find help from an external source

If none of the above works for you, it might be time to send up the Batsignal. Maybe your signal has the silhouette of a pen and notebook in the middle.

There’s a good chance that you have somebody in your network of friends and family who would be happy to lend an ear or a pair of eyes. Writing is often viewed as a solitary activity, but brainstorming is not. Reach out to someone you trust and see if they have any tips to get you back on the path to success.

And if you still feel like you don’t want to put your work in front of somebody else, you might try rubber ducking it. Rubber duck debugging is a term from software development where you get past a tricky problem by explaining it to an inanimate object (such as the eponymous rubber duck). By forcing yourself to say the problem out loud to a listener who won’t interrupt you, you can often allow yourself to find the stumbling blocks that prevent you from reaching your goal. Got a stuffed animal, pet, or plant nearby? Try bouncing your idea off them. You might be surprised!