When I start with an interesting character or setting rather than a plot, sometimes the ending takes a while. Sometimes with a short story it helps to wait and get some distance. Sometimes it helps to analyze the story and see what are the important parts and then how can I tie that up best, or give the reader the most sense of completeness. On the other hand, I have 70,000 words of what is probably a 90,000 word novel done, and it's been percolating for two years while I've tested various endings. I haven't found a satisfactory one yet, so what do I know! My previous completed novels were plot based and time constrained (NaNoWriMo projects) where I didn't have this problem.
End it so there is a resolve but no definite future for the characters. For example 'your character is a detective and he solved the crime'... but now what? He solved the crime but the rest of his life is undetermined because maybe he still hasn't proposed to a girl or something. It gives the readers enough information so they are satisfied yet left wondering.
This is really interesting, I always found that I had satisfying endings.
I agree with Archangelx that the ending has to conclude the immediate conflict and yet leave another door open for the reader's imagination. What do you exactly mean when you say that the ending is "weak"? I am asking because I know some people who always like to write over-assertive endings. They love setting those dramatic mental fireworks! And those dramatic endings satisfy the writers, but not always the readers. It's not always easy for me to write an ending either, but when I get the rigth one, I know. I just know. This very specific feeling flourishes inside me and tells me that it's the rigth ending.
I've read several interviews with authors and it seems to me most authors have trouble with endings. One author said she wrote the ending and then the beginning. I haven't figured out how that works and not sure it's for me, but that's another way to do it. I let the story end where the questions are answered.
I can totally relate, one of the reasons I love flash fiction is because within the short word count it's easier to wrap up the story with an implied resolution, or just leaving it up to the reader.
I tend toward more ambiguous endings, not that don't resolve the conflict but that allow the reader to engage their own thoughts in the process. Sometimes trying to solve things too tidily leaves too little room for the reader.
I find endings really hard too. When I write, I'm more focused on the character development and setting than I am about the plot (and I usually have a hard time trying to figure out a strong linear plot), but I sort of try and visualize something I want to see in the ending -- whether that's a specific "scene" I see my main character doing or feeling, I try and keep it in mind as I write the rest of the story. I also like to think about what I like best/hate about the endings of my favorite stories and keep that in mind as well. The biggest thing for me, is avoiding all "cheese" and "dream" endings because I know, reading back over stories -- the ending is something I will always struggle with accepting, and if there's any hint at a cheesy ending -- it will be even harder to read later on!
Or think about your character(s) as much as you can and think about how you want them to progress and for me at least, that really can help drive the end of a story.
I begin most stories with a scene in mind. Then I try to answer the questions: how does a person arrive at that point and what kind of personality would take that journey? Sometimes the scene I started with is the story ending. Other times it's the springboard for an ending. But, I do agree, a satisfying end is as difficult to nail down as an opening paragraph.
When I come up with a story concept, I tend to write a scene or two to see if I think I can develop it, and then I figure out the end before I do anything else. Other times I write the story without knowing how it's going to end (sometimes the characters end up telling me as I go). I know how chaotic that sounds, especially since numerous writing books recommend having a solid outline and structure, but I prefer to handle the chaos on the rewrite. On the first draft I prefer not having a rigid structure.
I think it helps to know where you want the story to end first. Sometimes it might change or surprise you as you are writing, but I always try to plot out a little timeline or story structure before I write something.
I think endings are one of the hardest things when writing. I do agree that it helps a bit to have an ending in mind before starting. I also usually find that my endings tend to go a few lines too long, so I give it to someone to read and we talk about cutting the last couple lines to get a stronger ending.
Sometimes what I do with endings (whether poems or academic papers) is that I'll write all the way up to the end, then put "INSERT ENDING HERE", then I'll take it to the writing center and discuss with someone else how to end the piece before trying to write it on my own.
Endings are *terrible* to write. What I've found works for me is having my ending in mind while writing and working backwards. If my main character needs to go on a date and leave feeling like her entire life's been changed, I focus on that moment of transformation while I'm writing the rest of the piece and try to capture a tone I know will lend itself to the gravity of that moment.
Sometimes if I'm having problems with an ending I'll go back earlier in the story and add a new element that will help the ending.
I tend to end stories abruptly, so for me it was about learning to slow down and build the moment into something that allows resonance for the reader. At a recent workshop I attended, the speaker said that by slowing down you are showing that the character cares about the moment, that it matters. If your readers have followed you until the end, then they probably care about the character and will therefore care that the character cares. Does that make sense?
Yes, that does make sense. I've read some Raymond Carver and a lot of his stories end abruptly. With some of his stories, you don't get full closure or a happy ending but the stories linger and resonate in your mind which is the mark of a good storyteller.
All the time! Even though I'm no professional author I do run a writing blog about my short stories. And whenever, I think I'm done with a story I back out of it, thinking to myself "No it's too cliche, no it has no real plotline etc..." What I think is most important, is to yes check your writing once or twice but just end the story the way you want it to. You're the author and you get to decide the ending of said story. As long as you think it's good, nothing else matters.
I've found that the endings I originally intended for a story change after giving it some time to breathe a little but I agree definitely write the ending that makes sense to you.