A bit ago I discussed the pain of picking out a first line for a book. The first line is important, it reels the reader in. But you know what’s just as frightening to write? The last line. The last line is how the book will be remembered, it’s the last chance the author has to connect to the reader before the book is closed and the story completed. These moments before the end? It’s those that we live for.
For me, a last line can make or break a book. Sad isn’t it? I feel very strongly about last lines. I’ll adore a book, but if its last line is…meh…it loses some points. That’s not to say I’ve read a lot of books that have mediocre endings, I’m just, well, picky.
But it’s hard because we can’t all have “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” (The Sun Also Rises)
We can’t all have “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” (The Great Gastby)
(I won’t reveal other last lines as I don’t want to spoil books for you.)
So, there’s pressure. Lots of pressure to accurately sum up the book into one simple sentence.
The last line for TNWSY came to me in a migraine-induced haze. I don’t recommend this to anyone. I was lying on the couch with my eyes squeezed shut (lights hurt) and the last page, the last paragraph, the last sentence came to me. And I couldn’t not write it. So I let the light in, opened my laptop back up, and typed as fast as I could. And I was so happy with it. And even after edits and revisions, that one last line has never changed.
For TSWB, I hate my last line. Hate it. I’ve only done one round of revisions, so I can’t say much, but it just feels forced. I know something better will come eventually, but I felt the pressure to make it good. So I kept trying different things until I was moderately happy.
With Book 3, I just typed. I didn’t think about it, didn’t even know how the last page would end. I typed and poof it came to me. And it’s so incredibly cheesy, but I like it. I find it sweet and fun and sentimental and kind of like the book itself.
So in three attempts I haven’t found the best way to choose a last line. But i’m working towards it. Because if any of my books are ever published, I want that line to mean something. I don’t want readers to put down the book and go “meh,” I want them to high five it for its attempt at giving them the truths they were looking for.
How do you write your last line? Is it planned, or is it just improvised? What are some of your favorite last lines?
2 thoughts on “Last Lines”
I’m with you on the importance of the last line. I’m also with you when you say you know when it feels right. The fact that you can’t let it go speaks volumes of your attention to detail, which probably translates into a quality reading experience. What works best for me is to keep the scene slowly roasting in my mind. Like a rotisserie chicken, it spins an cooks until an idea hits. Give it time. Keep being picky, it’ll make your manuscript that much better. Good luck.
I love your rotisserie chicken comparison. 🙂