Finish Well

One of the things I find fascinating about The Great British Baking Show (as it is known here in the States because of Pillsbury; it is The Great British Bake Off where it originated) is the fact that you can win the accolade of Star Baker—the best baker—in one week of the competition and be sent home crying in another. It’s what you do each week of the competition that counts—particularly the final week. (Don’t worry. I won’t give any spoilers.) You can see this scenario played out in any of the series on Netflix (or wherever you watch the show). So, winning Star Baker is not an iron-clad guarantee that you will win the whole competition.

A good motto for the show is, “What have you done for me lately?” On this show, you can’t coast on your laurels. You have to prove yourself every week to the very end.

This is the concept of finishing well. Haven’t you’ve seen Olympic runners tragically stumble before crossing the finish line, or a gymnast execute a perfect tumbling run only to stumble out of bounds—or worse—fall and injure himself or herself? And how many of us have mourned when our favorite sports team choked in the last minutes or the last game of the championship?

And who can forget the hoopla surrounding the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones—a show highly favored until the last season?

I’ve read book trilogies and viewed movie trilogies with endings that disappointed me to the point where I wished I’d never started the journey in the first place. Have you? Some of the trilogies I’ve regretted reading had endings that felt rushed or tacked on. In all fairness, the downside of some publishing efforts is that some authors spend years on the first book but are only given a matter of months to finish the second and the third.

And I know: art is subjective. The same trilogies I’ve disliked were liked by many people. You can’t please everybody! But there are some series with endings so satisfying, they have become regular destinations for me. One of those is The Lord of the Rings. Another is Avatar: The Last Airbender (the animated series, not the movie). (I realize that fantasy is not everyone’s cup of tea. 😀)

I’m impressed by the fact that the Avatar series creators, Michael Dante DiMartino (right) and Bryan Konietzko, knew the ending of their series well before that season ever aired. In Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Art of the Animated Series (Dark Horse Books, 2010), DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko explain what happened during a meeting they attended to discuss the show:

We pitched for over two hours, describing the four nations, the entire story arc—all three seasons’ worth (12).

So, before the show was ever greenlit, they knew what was going to happen. And the show ended pretty much on par with that pitch meeting. Many fans and critics agree that this series is one of the best animated series ever made. Ending the series took four episodes! But it was one of the most satisfying endings to a series I have ever seen.

 

Finishing well is definitely not an easy undertaking. If you’ve ever run a race, you know that your strength begins to flag before you reach the end. When my brother ran the Chicago marathon, he said that around mile 20, he was ready to quit. But he tapped into a well of determination to cross that finish line. (We enjoyed some great snacks when he did. 😄)

The road to finishing well begins with finishing what you started. But that’s just the beginning, especially in writing! For many who have written a story, an article, or any book, you know that finishing a draft leads you to the beginning of another journey—that of revision. But revising helps you finish well.

What do you do to ensure that you finish a story or some other project well? What series have you read that finished well?

Finish line image from the intentionallife.com. Mile 20 image from Wikimedia. Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko image from Toonzone. Avatar book photos by L. Marie.

43 thoughts on “Finish Well

  1. Ranger’s Apprentice finished well for me. Fullmetal Alchemist too. For my own books, I try to have at least a general plan for the ending. It can be adjusted as I go, but it gives me a basic destination. This ensures continuity and cohesiveness in terms of direction.

  2. Such great advice: I am impressed with the large number of examples you show here. Kudos to your brother for finishing the marathon well. A verse from scripture just popped into my head: 2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. My goal!

  3. Those are great questions. I suppose, off the top of my head, I’d say that to finish well I edit, edit, edit + proofread to the nth degree. As for reading a series of books, I read all the Miss Marples but they just kind of petered out as Agatha Christie aged. Food for thought with this post.

    • I love the Miss Marples. But I know what you mean, Ally. Christie wrote soooooooo many books. The plots were bound to be recycled a bit.

      I also revise, revise, revise. The only way I really get to know a story. 😀

  4. I think you hit the nail on the head of why The GBBS is so addictive! (yep, that was an intentional use of that word). I love that show!

    After my latest post on music score editing, I know you and I are on the same page (pun not intended) about taking care to attend to the details up until the very end! Whew – but it is worth it. It’s all about (he)artistic integrity IMHO.

    Interestingly, the first ‘series’ for me that followed through and ended well and strong is the series of books (that can also be read as stand alones) beginning with, “The Shell Seekers.” Then “September” ending with “Coming Home”. And while not related at all to the series, “Winter Solstice” seems familiar and does have some interesting connections to those stories.
    I am not a Romance genre follower, but these of Rosamunde Pilcher go way beyond that category though she is listed as a Romance Novelist….
    Anyway – soldier on with your own edits L. Marie!

    • Yes, GBBO is so addictive. 😀 And I agree about Rosamunde Pilcher. I remember reading The Shell Seekers ages ago. I think of her as a women’s fiction author rather than solely romance. But her books can be read by a wide audience.

      Artistic integrity–yes! Not easy to maintain in this fast-paced, get it done now age. But we try, don’t we? 😀

  5. I don’t like to start anything unless I plan to finish it, but that doesn’t guarantee I’ll finish well. 😜
    Hope you’re staying warm, L. Just got back from a walk with Max. The cobalt blue sky is gorgeous, but their is a brisk, cold wind.

  6. This here: “But revising helps you finish well.” I really hope that’s true. Sadly I have troves of half-done projects, particularly when it comes to writing. Right now I’m trying to revise a novel and the will is not there. But the longer I procrastinate, the longer before I can publish it. Ugh.
    Kudos to your brother on his marathon!

    • Marie, what is it about that novel that makes you procrastinate? Do you think it needs to take another direction? How do you think you can regain excitement for it?

      • Good questions. I think some of it is just my nature. I get bored. Although I can stay engrossed reading someone else’s novel, writing my own is a different experience. It becomes work. Having to check and recheck temporal details. Having to spend hours researching just to be sure that one sentence is accurate. The inner critic who insists that my novel is a pile of poop. (“Look how disorganized it is!”) Having to cram so much work into small bits of time. The fact that this novel has been around for at least 10 years. I’m just at a low point with it, but I get a bit inspired at times. What I need more than anything is writing time and that’s been in short supply lately.

      • It’s hard when you work a full-time job. I’m hoping inspiration comes your way.
        Have you tried freewriting–just writing scenes without any connection to the book to see what you can mine there? Or interviewing the characters? I know that sounds weird. But sometimes they have something to say.

      • I am including other narrative forms in the novel. The protagonist has access to letters, transcripts, affidavits and I “draw” some characters using these other forms. It makes writing the novel more interesting and (hopefully) fills in the backstory without the reader feeling like she’s going down a rabbit hole 😉

  7. I wouldn’t finish a marathon well, that’s for sure! I’d have to be carried the last twenty-six miles or so… but I’d happily help finish the after-race snacks… 😉

    • My sentiments exactly, FF! I was proud to eat the snacks along with my brother. Actually, I ate his snacks also. But he was too tired to chase me down and retrieve the snacks. Yes, I am a good sister. 😀 😁

  8. Most books I’ve read end “good enough.” And I’m satisfied with that. Occasionally a book has such a satisfying ending that I want to kiss the author. A great ending is like a miracle. A good ending involves hard work and an effort to finish well, not to give up. A great ending must have a little bit of magic.

    I envy those writers that collaborate on a film and have the opportunity to pitch to each other before they decide on the ending.

    • I do too, Nicki. And I am also finding that a truly satisfying ending is, as you said, miraculous. Perhaps that is why some movies today are struggling to find an audience. I can only name one movie I saw this year that truly satisfied me on all fronts. And I saw it earlier this year.

  9. Oh yes, “our favorite sports team choked in the last minutes or the last game of the championship?” Weren’t the Astros up until the fifth inning of Game 7 in the World Series (not to mention went home with a 3-2 advantage)? I agree with you that a great ending can take a book to the next level, particularly when being considered for lists and awards such as Best Fiction for Young Adults and the Cybils. Having been on juries, I can testify that endings tend to be what sticks with us through the debate process.

  10. Excellent post, LM. I often am more enamored of the beginning of a series ~ Elementary, Sherlock, even Harry Potter. Maybe it’s the “novelty” of it . . . but I don’t think so. Beginnings are often crafted more carefully with stronger writing, plot lines, etc.

    So (big admission coming) ~ I don’t always finish what I’ve started. I wrote a NaNoWriMo “novel” 9 years ago that got derailed when my mom had a stroke. I still haven’t figured out how to end it so it lies fallow in a file. 😉

    • Thank you, Nancy! 😊 What a hard time that must have been, having to tend your mom through that experience. I hope someday you’ll finish that novel, if it still holds your interest.

      I also like the beginning seasons of some shows–like Elementary and Sherlock. I often lose interest when some story arcs get too grandiose. 😀

  11. LOVE the Great British Baking Show and you are spot on about it. Have you seen the Kids Baking Championship? I don’t watch it regularly, but, do watch it when the grands on in. Interestingly enough, grandson Ezra likes it even more than that Keziah.
    Kudos to your brother for finishing the Chicago Marathon.
    You mentioned Ella Minnow Pease in a comment. I loved that book.
    It has been awhile since I read a series. I enjoyed the Jan Karon/Midford series which was, tragically, made into a tv movie. 😦

    • I love that series as well. It was made into a TV movie? Oh no! Based on your comment it must have been less than stellar. So sad. I don’t like when a beloved series is adapted into a movie that doesn’t do it justice.

      I haven’t seen the kids baking championship. Is it on Netflix?

  12. Yes, for me it’s important as well that I finish what I started. The problem with finishing well, as a perfectionist, is that it will take a long time to reach that “perfect” goal. Or, as a result, it might never be “perfect” and therefore satisfactory. That’s a lot of time and pressure invested for possibly… nothing, or for a writing project you aren’t happy with. Hmmm…

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