” The difference between writers who finish books and those who don’t– is that the finishers don’t stop writing until they get to : THE END.” – Brian Hutchinson, author of Writer’s Doubt.
That’s true for most things, isn’t it? Completing a task is the point of the job, right? Is it more true for writers than for other workers?
No matter what you are doing, finishing a job is not a separate “thing.” It’s the goal of every job I know of to begin and finish. There’s no job where “starting and giving up,” or “starting then getting bored and wandering away” is acceptable. Is it commonly done? Oh yeah. It’s also infuriating to have a half-done contracting job or an incomplete bathroom remodeling, or a delivery (as Fedex did just the other day) literally left near the driveway — in the road.
As for the end of a book? It depends on the book. If it is non-fiction, you have no excuse for not finishing. You may have some decisions to make about where the end should be, but you know what’s happening. One of the downers about reading history is you don’t expect happy endings. The end is typically death of your subject, or the ending of an era or something like that. There are no surprise endings in history.
Fiction is another matter. The end of a book can elude you. In fiction, the early chapters are easy. As a book develops, characters change. They develop personalities you may not have imagined when you began writing. Levels of complexity and the addition of more characters — and changes of mind by the author — can make an ending the hardest part of a book.
Should you force an ending if you can’t come up with one that feels right? You can try. I’m sure that’s what publishers do when authors fail to finish books on time and publication dates loom. It may work with some authors, but maybe not as well with others. For the rest of us who don’t have a publisher nibbling at our heels and lashing us with publication dates, we may never find the ending we want. It can elude us. Does that mean we should somehow “come up” with an ending?
Is “pushing through” the proper way to finish a novel? I wouldn’t know. In fiction, I’ve never gotten to that point. In my kind of work, I always finished the books I began. A couple of them got immediately rewritten because I didn’t like the first version.
I would never tell anyone writing a novel they “have to finish it.” Unless they have a publisher and a date to meet — but then, the publisher does the pushing. They surely don’t need my help.