AM local Zulu

Quite honestly, while a valid technique, it is also a bit of a lazy one. I used it because my stories shifted so quickly to so many locations, across numerous time zones. The Zulu time is Greenwich Mean Time, which is used internationally to keep people in different time zones on the same sheet of music time-wise.

One thing I have learned about using headers is that often readers don't read them. Quite frankly, they are a not a particularly good way to start a new scene. I try to back up the header in the first paragraph by letting the reader know where they are at and when they are at and which characters they are with. For my last half-dozen manuscripts I've stopped using headers.

If you don't use headers—and odds are you won't—you really must make sure you orient your reader quickly, usually in the first paragraph. If the reader spends too much time wondering where and when they are at, then they will start losing interest in the story.

If you are writing suspense, there is usually a 'clock ticking' in the story. A deadline approaching adds suspense to a story and gives your story a definite timeline.


The end is the conclusion of your beginning, the climax of your original idea. But remember all that expository information that you worked into your story? You must also close out all your subplots by the end, which sometimes can be quite difficult to do.

Study endings as much as you study beginnings. Why did the author use an epilogue? How did he explain all the hidden details that bring the conclusion together? How many chapters did the author write after the climactic scene?

The "end" line on the diagram in the chapter on the beginning is not as flexible as the "beginning" line. When the end comes in your story it comes. Because you have all those pages prior, you have lost some degree of control over your ending. It should be a natural conclusion of the story itself. Sometimes I'm asked how long a manuscript should be and I always say long enough to reach the end.

The end should answer the question posed in your original idea to the satisfaction of the reader.

I believe it is important that you have an idea what the climax of your book is going to be before you start writing it, as that is where the story is driving toward. Some writers don't want to do that—you have to find what works for you.

I think we have all read books where the ending rang flat or disappointed us. The question you should have asked yourself, as a writer is why did that ending disappoint?

Some writers work from their ending backwards. By this, I mean they know in their mind how they want the story to end and they write the entire book with that in mind.

I think you should have a good idea of your ending when you start writing because if you don't, your writing may tend to wander. It all goes back to outlining and whatever you feel comfortable with. Another problem with not having an idea of your ending is that if your plot is complex you might not end with an ending at all as everything simply unravels—or, more likely, you can't tie together all the loose threads to end the book succinctly and in a satisfactory manner.

Stephen King says he doesn't have a clue what his ending is when he starts a book, but I think he is the exception rather than the rule. And he's Stephen King. And recently he's changed that opinion.

The most important thing about the ending is to close out your main storyline and all your subplots. Don't leave the reader guessing.

Also note that in the narrative structure the climax is not the same as the resolution. The climax ends the crisis. The resolution explains how the crisis is over and also lays out the effect on the characters who must now go on.

Series and Sequels: I often see unpublished writers trying to pitch trilogies or a five book series. While later in this book I talk about how you will almost always get at least a two book deal if you sell one, that does not mean you can sell two books in a series or a book and its sequel.

I think the first book you try to sell should stand alone, but it should also potentially be the beginning of a series.

There is a difference between writing series and sequels. A series consists of books that have a link such as the same main character, but each book stands alone as far as story goes. Sequels are books that flows out of the ending of the previous book and really don't stand alone.

THE LORD OF THE RINGS are sequels.

Sue Grafton's novels are series.

The reason you should keep in the back of your mind a series, is that a publisher might want some continuity beyond simply your name on the cover.

"If I knew then what I know now—" My first book contract was for three books. I had two manuscripts in hand, but they were not part of a series. The publisher said they wanted the books to have the same character. So I rewrote one of them to have the same main character as the first one. But the mistake I made was to not title them so that the reader would know they were connected.

Think how brilliant Sue Grafton has been with her alphabet series. Don't count on your publisher to think of something like that for you. I'll discuss this more in depth later in the business section. The thing to remember at this point, as my agent just told me last week after he read my latest manuscript: "Don't kill off your hero."

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