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In an interview in The Paris Review in 1958 Ernest Hemingway made an admission that has inspired frustrated novelists ever since: The final words of “A Farewell to Arms,” his wartime masterpiece, were rewritten “39 times before I was satisfied.”

From “‘A Farewell to Arms’ With Hemingway’s Alternate Endings”

When you write, the opening sentence and the closing line can feel like deal breakers. Ending your post shouldn’t feel like a trailing off, but a succinct closing that neatly ties together all that you’ve written. And as Hemingway’s 39 alternate endings suggest, sometimes it can take a few rewrites to really find what you’re looking for.

Previously, we wrote a few tips on how to begin your post. If it’s the ending that’s got you stuck, try to write out the main points of your post by hand or in a separate document. This can help reduce any mental clutter when trying to figure out the words you want to use to nail your ending.

In terms of a writing strategy, consider parallels. For example, if you start your post with a description of a place or moment, try ending it with a description as well – or leave your descriptive moment unfinished in the first paragraph so that you can finish it while closing out your post. If you’re looking to encourage comments or reader interaction, end your posts with a prompt or a quote. This gives your readers an extra nudge to go beyond hitting the “Like” button and comment on your post.

Above all, don’t let the ending keep you from finishing. If you find yourself getting up there in draft numbers like Hemingway, stop. Find one you’re happy with and move on. It will get easier as time goes on.

Which is the hardest part for you: the beginning or end? How often do you edit your final line?

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    1. I completely understand your feelings. Sometimes when I see that I had one visitor I often wonder what they liked, didn’t liked, but don’t worry. Blog because you like too and eventually you will get that one comment that makes your day

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  1. “When writing, the opening sentence and the closing line can feel like deal breakers.” This one IS a deal breaker, dangling participle and all;-)

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  2. The beginning and the ending are ones I rewrite the most. I want the opening sentence to pull the reader in, and I want the concluding sentence to be a satisfying end to the story.
    Some come to me more smoothly than others.
    Thank you for the tips.

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  3. I draft until it is right. The number of times through changes with each work. Working from a storyboard that outlines my beginning, meddle and ending, I write recklessly without editing. When the spine is there — the whole story — I go back, at times wearing the hat of the author or editor.
    My current work, the biography of the late Chef Tell Erhardt, was completed, before final editing by another editor, with at least 22 drafts. Release is likely in late 2012 or 2013.

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  4. The technique where you close a story in a manner similar to, or in continuation of the opening is called “bookmarking”, many movies, novels and feature stories use this technique. Compare this to the more newsy pyramid technique, where the most salient points of the—who,what, where, when & why, go at the top of the piece. Using the ‘how’ in addition, can also be useful to flesh out the work. If Hemingway had written a good synopsis he wouldn’t have needed 39 rewrites.

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  5. I have found that good endings come easily to me. Thanks to that liberty, I get to experiment with all kinds of finishes- curt, slow, sad, open, confusing, already?, finally! and so on. The beginnings come naturally. It’s usually when I get a great thought in mind, a superb line , that I start on a topic so that takes care of itself. But when it comes to the storyline, i find myself swinging so radically and so often between numerous amazing storylines that sometimes the piece becomes very different from what I had intended altogether. But I’m glad that mostly it runs to the better, and I’m just so lucky with epiphany! 😀 Couldn’t help but brag. (That’s an ending, see?) 😀

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  6. I write a weekly, human-interest newspaper column. The two most important lines are the first and the last ones. I always try to connect the two, with the closing line “the bow that ties it altogether,” as my editor once told me.

    Thanks for the helpful reminders.

    Bruce

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  7. I often post a five-day series, and usually end with “more tomorrow!” Not too inventive, but they do come back, sign up, etc. Sometimes the best path is the straight line, I guess.
    I usually do not rewrite much, but if I do, it usually is the beginning.

    I notice you end with encouragement and a question, here. I’ve found that to be a popular treatment, although I do not usually go that way. My site is usually rather content heavy and I go for the briefest wording, simplest expression, sometimes to the point of using tired expressions rather tongue-in-cheek, as in “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” 😉

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  8. I had to smile at “don’t let the ending keep you from finishing.” I picture someone just writing and writing because they can’t figure out how to end the story. 😀

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  9. The hardest part for me is often the end. It is a demanding prima donna, and often has high expectations for succinctness and intelligence without which the rest of the article may collapse like a cake whose baking has been ended too quickly. It has to be “just right” – nothing less suffices.

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  10. Sometimes the most difficult part is not having the right length of text for the ending or the beginning but it’s the best ‘LAST’ word. And it always depends on the mood and reaction you want to achieve…. do you want your readers, after navigating through your blog to be happy ( 🙂 )? puzzled (???) ? excited (!!!!)? surprised (!)? thirsty for more (….)? OR perhaps it’s all of the above. Either way, punctuation is always your friend…. THE END! lol 🙂

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  11. My beginnings are strong, and I sometimes struggle to make sure my endings don’t lose any steam. I’m all about maintaining the flow, and I’ll re-read my post several times before clicking that button to make sure my conclusion reflects the same clear and developed voice I started with.

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  12. Your friend is absolutely right! I’m always grateful to friends who suggest that I chop off the overstated last lines in a poem. In general, endings are harder for me. The opening sentence sometimes comes ready made but I have to rework endings a lot. Even if you have a synopsis, it doesn’t mean that the ending sentence is going to work out.

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  13. Why but what a cool discussion ensued on a thrilling topic! (uptempo beginning, hehe…)
    Now seriously, as a relatively recent blogger myself, I have often grappled with the question of whether to go on posting and how, for what may seem pretty rounded off in isolation could end up looking inadequate blog-wise.

    By the way, what I post is not commentary or diary but tales/stories and some of the poetry I have written over the past few years, both in English and Spanish (second and mother tongue, respectively). I do it for the sheer pleasure of sharing, once I overcame the ingominious shame of so doing. Everybody’s invited to have a browse and a read. Comments, sharing and whatnot welcome.

    Cheers!

    http://www.avadapalabra.wordpress.com

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  14. Do you find good writers who don’t do good beginnings or good endings? I love listening to the stories of Haruki Murakami; but to me they have no real start or end just a lot of great stuff in between 🙂

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