“The end is where we start from,” T.S. Eliot wrote in Four Quartets.
I’ve been intrigued by this line ever since I encountered it my sophomore year of college. I was a new transfer student, still recovering from bulimia and anorexia, anxious over starting classes at a secular university (a first for this Christian-bubble-grown girl). My art history professor assigned this poem, though I can’t remember why, and asked us to find the relationship between an end and a beginning.
Both endings and beginnings signal change in the status quo.
“What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.”
Often the very first page of the novel is connected somehow to the very last page. The author has written something—an image, a word, a phrase—that connects the two, joining the most important parts of any book. The first page sells that book, writers are told, and the last page sells the next book. But it’s not only sales. It’s also more satisfying if the last morsel of the novel confirms what we knew the first moment we tasted it: this is a great book. Like a fabulous meal, it’s memorable and satiating.
Enough about food.
I’ve been stumbling over the rough draft of this current novel. I’ve had a decent beginning, which I will cringe over later, and now I’m stuck in the middle. I’m a pantser, not a plotter. Though I have several scenes in mind that will occur at some point in this middle-muddle, I’m baffled how to get from Point A to Point B, never mind the various Points C-Z.
Then I stumbled over Julianna Baggott’s advice on Writer Unboxed.
“If you know the ending in any way, shape or misty form, write it.”
That way, no matter what, you have some destination in mind. It may be lousy; lousy can be fixed. But the important part is that the action is done. Completed. There’s no guessing about whether or not I’ll reach that end because I already have.
(It’s like reading Genesis directly after reading Revelation; the first reading will influence how I read the next one, which ordinarily I’d read first.)
It grants me courage. I don’t have to fear the middle—of my book or my life—because I know what happens in the end. I know who wins.
With all the little scene-snippets running in my head, I do have a vivid ending fixed in those brain cells. In this case, making an ending—the grand finale of the novel—makes a beginning because it throws light upon that dark path from the narrative hook, through the middle, and on to the end.
And so, I’m off to write the end of my novel.