Instagram Creative Writing Class: Beginnings & Endings

5 Jun 2020

To watch past creative writing classes on Instagram go to @psychologiesmagazine’s account (Click on ‘IGTV’). These creative writing classes are free and happen Live on Fridays at 1.30pm (UK time)

How to Begin

People will tell you the opening line of a novel must be amazing, startling, completely original, but trying to do this can lead to you sound desperate or overwritten. BUT opening lines do need to make the reader perk up.

GOOD Openings: Give us the sense that we are on a journey. We don’t need to know exactly where we are yet, but we need to feel we’re going somewhere, and want to go somewhere with the author.

KEY INGREDIENT for all openings: INTRIGUE . To do this, your opening needs to raise a question (maybe more than one).

Other ingredients

-A strong, distinctive voice
-Detail – anchor us, make it feel real and immediate
-Strong sense of place or character

Do you need to know where to begin before you start writing?

NO! Beginnings might change as you deepen the novel. Flexibility can be key, especially if you aren’t a planner.


-If the beginning poses a question, the ending answers it.

-If an ending fails to answer it in some way, the book can fail

-In really good novels you get the feeling that the ending grew organically out of the opening.

-Endings bring a sense of completion BUT can leave some room for the reader’s thought process – for the story to continue afterwards.

-If you tie up the loose ends too soon then just continue to waffle, the ending falls flat.

Tip: You don’t need to know your ending from the start

If I’d felt I needed to know the ending before I wrote, I’d never have written a novel. My endings evolve as the book gets written.

4 ways to open a novel:

1 With a feeling/setting/theme (Jane Eyre ‘There was no possibility of a walk that day’)

2 With a question.

3 With a crisis.

4 With dialogue (Muriel Spark’s Ballad of Peckham Rye: ‘‘Get away from here, you dirty swine’ she said.’)

With a statement   (‘It is a truth universally acknowledged…’)

5 Ways to End a Novel:

1 Circularity – you’re back at the opening, seeing things in a different way.

2 Echoing: you bring back an idea or theme that appeared in the opening

3 Surprise: you end on a twist or shock

4 Reflection: you survey what’s happened, and feel sense of completion and of having learned something about life

5 Open (ish): when you don’t tie everything up neatly and the reader is left to fill in the blanks.

Try this: Take your 5 favourite novels, read beginning few pages and end few pages. What’s the writer done? Why does it work?

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