I am a sucker for a happy ending, but in novels, movies and shows it is a difficult balancing act to write an ending that is both happy and realistic. When I was writing the Elven Quest series I had a vague idea of how I wanted the story to end. That is, I could imagine what Isobel and Mauve and the others would be like when they were older long after the conflict with Madeara had ended. But, I did not necessarily know how I was going to reach that ending. The ending came along on its own as the story developed. However, I knew that the Afterward was a happy one, but I also knew that in life, things do not always turn out the way you want them to and they do not always turn out happy.
Being a huge Potterhead (aka Harry Potter fan), I was of course devastated when major characters in the Harry Potter stories died, (spoiler alert), like Dumbledore, Lupin, Fred, Sirius, Snape, even Hedwig’s passing made me cry but did that make me put down the books and stop reading? No, of course not because I held faith that the book would end happily and JK Rowling didn’t disappoint.
Keeping all of this in mind, I was torn at times with what would be too cheesy or unbelievable to put in the book and what would be believable to add. So, I guess in terms of advice I have to be vague here and say that it would depend on the author, the story, and the writing style whether or not the book that the author is writing should have a happy ending. My advice would be not to over think it too much. Let the story and the characters talk to you and tell you what they want their ending to be. I know this might sound crazy but for me at least, this is the way it is writing a novel. The characters literally talk to me. They are like real people and as I type, their story just comes out. I hardly have to think about it at all.
My biggest issue with writing stories is not so much trying to write the story but more what to edit out after it is written. That for me was very difficult. When I originally finished the first novel it was over 480 pages and I knew that it was way too long. So the question then became what do I cut that would not hurt the integrity of the story? I started with repetition anything that I thought had been said before that really did not need to be reiterated I cut out. Then I went through it again and tried to decide what else was necessary. I also asked advice from family and friends that had read the book. I spent over a year editing the book. Some of you may think, “Isn’t that what an editor is for?” and yes, to some degree that is true. But the business of being published is an extremely competitive one so before you even begin to send out query letters to agents or publishers you want to make sure that your manuscript is the best you think it can be. An agent and/or publisher can tell just by the first 20 or 30 pages whether you have done any editing work and if they receive something that is full of mistakes or has too much content or will be too much work to edit they will most likely pass. I know this because when I first started sending out my book I had not edited much other than running spell check over it. I received quite a lot of rejections, fifteen in fact and more no answers.
When the no’s poured in I knew it was just a part of the process, but I also wondered if that meant that I needed to do some work on the beginning chapters so I edited them some more. By the time my book was accepted by my publisher and went through the actual editing process, the time it took the editors to go through it was fairly short in comparison to other authors I have heard of. One author wrote on his blog that his manuscript took three years to be completely finished with the editing process after it was accepted and he had signed the contract. My book was edited and set up for E-book format within three months, quite a big difference for wait time. Whether that was due to my previous editing or whether that is due to my publisher’s style and standards of operation I do not know, maybe it was a bit of both. But I do know that it never hurts to make sure your manuscript is in the best shape it can be when you are trying to get it published. Don’t just rely on others to do the editing work for you, that is lazy, take some responsibility yourself. When you do, your characters will have a happy ending and hopefully you will have a happy ending too and become a published author. Until next time remember, writing=happiness ;).