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Friday, February 10, 2006

Breaking Up Ain't Hard To Do

From beginnings to endings ... I've previously given advice on structure and writing for both news and feature articles, but there's one aspect I haven't touched on - the end of your story or article. So repeat after me:

Endings should not just be left to happen

What do I mean by this? That your story or article should have a point. When you get into a car and start the engine, you usually have a destination in mind. Use the same principle when crafting your article or story. Both you and your reader should know where you're going. That's so important that I'm going to repeat it, though with a bit of variety for the pernickety among us. Both your reader and you should know where you're going. That doesn't mean that the destination won't change while you're writing, but there should be no nasty surprises at the end of the journey.

What makes a good ending?

Only you and your readers will know. Your ending will fulfil the promise of the start of your story. To give a few examples:

  • If you're writing a profile of a company, you may have started with some new venture they're undertaking and followed that up with a bit of history. A good ending would either summarise the company's philosophy or talk about next steps in its development (or maybe even both).
  • If you're writing an individual's profile, a good ending may talk about plans for the future or may contain a quote that encapsulates how that individual thinks about life.
  • If you're dealing with an event, a good ending may briefly assess its significance in the context of similar events, or may speculate on where the event may lead.
  • If you're writing fiction, a good ending will tie up any loose ends. (Readers should not be asking: 'So what happened to so and so?')

This last example holds true for almost any kind of writing.

Now, please don't take those examples as a blueprint. They are just strategies that have worked in my own writing career. Since every piece of writing is unique, every ending will be too. So when you're writing consider this (with apologies to Bill Gates): where do you want to go today?

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