Rewriting endings

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Rewriting stories is always the hardest part for me. Editing your own work is always difficult. Not the proof-reading or checking the spelling – although there, too, it’s always difficult to read what you’ve written instead of what you intended to write – but the fundamental plotline or needing to know a character better (or less!). As a writer, you know a lot more than the reader needs to but communicating it, or holding it back, is a really difficult balance. There are other reasons for rewriting as well, one of which I’m working with at the moment.

I have a story that I wrote several years ago, about a girl and the way she viewed her relationship and her life. Quite dark and depressing, with a deeply ambivalent ending that a lot of people, when I asked their opinion, disliked. At the time I thought it was the only way for the story to end but in the last six months I’ve revisited it and although I think the ending works, I now want to experiment with changing it to make it less dark, less disturbing, and a little more hopeful. Is that reasonable? Should you spend so much time on the story and then go back and change it later? I guess that’s the question – is the ending you originally decide the only one that makes sense within the existing story. To some extent my attitude towards it has changed. I feel desperately sad for her and want her to have a better ending. It also reflects a change in me, I think, to being more positive and optimistic generally. Yet somehow, it feels almost like I’m cheating at a game by revising it. Then again think about many great novels* – there are multiple endings and revisions. In one version of Great Expectations, Pip and Estella meet and have quite a sad conversation about her abusive husband and her suffering, and in the other it’s strongly suggested that they will marry. Why shouldn’t you revise something after it’s ‘finished’?

I suppose the question I need to ask myself is: does the new ending fit the story as it stands, and is it seamless? If the answer to those is both yes, then I think there shouldn’t be an issue with it.

* I was going to write that I’m not comparing myself to them, but clearly I am and, to be honest, who better to aspire to?!

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