Figuring Out the Ending

Edith north of Boston and nearly ready for Christmas! And I have a giveaway as a holiday gift to one commenter here today.

I’ve been working on Country Store Mystery number six, Strangled Eggs and Ham. Next year holds so many book deadlines for me that I’m really trying to write ahead. I’m happy to report that yesterday I finished the first draft of the book that isn’t due until April 1. Which is good, because it means I can actually relax over Christmas with family and friends and cats.


But…last week progress had slowed to a crawl. I was getting close to the finish line but couldn’t seem to keep the story moving forward. How was I going to end it? Could I come up with new and fresh suspense to keep readers on the edge of their seats? Was I going to be able to convince my readers they really wanted to read just one more chapter rather than going to bed?

I’m not a plotter by nature, but I had set up four suspects with plausible reasons for wanting the victim dead (yes, by strangulation…to fit the title, which I adore). I’d decided early on which of the four did the deed.

With the excruciatingly slow progress, I began to suspect myself – that I had picked the wrong villain. Could it be possible? It had happened to me before, so yeah, I knew it was a thing. I took a couple of long walks and another look at what I had written so far. And magic happened – another suspect was revealed as the actual murderer, although the person I’d thought was the villain stayed as a serious aider and abetter.

And bingo – out flowed the words! My relief was so palpable it Biscuits and Slashed Brownsalmost needed its own driver’s license.

To celebrate, I’d love to send one of you one of my last three ARCs of Biscuits and Slashed Browns, which is book #4 in the series. Because, as Barb says, we should never be left at release date with an advance review copy in our possession. And release date is January 30!

So, Dear Reader: Tell me about when you second-guessed yourself, or changed a plan at the last possible minute. Did it work out the way you hoped, or not? (Or maybe I don’t want to hear about the “or not” cases, LOL…) And make sure you check back tomorrow (and check your email) to see if you won!

76 Thoughts

  1. A few years back Steve and I were going to stay home for New Years Eve and have a few friends over. Then on December 30th his friend from Minneapolis called and asked us to come visit for a few days. Go to a jazz club. A New Year party. Snow. Talk. Drinkies. We didn’t hesitate. We were on our way the next day. It was great. Talk. Jazz club. Food. Party. When we got home Steve asked why I didn’t ask his buddy about courtroom procedures and about DA stuff? Huh? Next time!

  2. Oh, congratulations, Edith! Isn’t it amazing that when you change gears the “right” answer floats to the top of the thought process! I like to be open to the flow so following an instinct is second nature, and I find when I listen to my instincts, it works out fine.

  3. I liked the statement about your relief almost needed its own driver’s license. I had written a story and I didn’t like the ending. The two different endings were not a positive ending. I couldn’t see how the ending could be changed. I left it. Then the muse offered an ending. It was a positive ending. On to the revision process. Not! 🙂 The muse was busy. They suggested a what if. I Laid out the idea and the muse was satisfied for about five minutes. What if? So the idea came out and finally the muse was satisfied. When I asked the muse how to resolve one of their scenarios, the muse said you’re the writer, figure it out.

    What could possibly be three books is in the works. I agreed with the muse that I like their what ifs.

    1. I have just had my own “EUREKA!” moment. I’ve finally come up with an interesting pitch that tells the essence of the story. The pitch has gone through many revisions. It’s really Nice when you get your Zen moment and the ideas come and make you wonder why it was so hard in the first place. 🙂

      It’s Santa’s present a little early. 8:43… time to get ready for the new day. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays to all!

  4. There must have been something in the air, because I struggled so much with my last story. I knew the ending, which I think was the problem. I had a beginning and ending and no clue how to get bridge the gap! But it happened, with the help of our favorite nun.
    Happy holidays, Edith! Enjoy the family and some down time.

  5. Second guessing one’s self. Hmmm. How many times have I done that? Egads!! I love to make things. Mostly in cooking and needlecrafts of various types. Usually things worked out well. But. I changed my mind last week about the treat I was going to make for the girls. Bad decision. I cooked the first batch of cookies. And immediately decided I did not like that idea. So I made a batch of peanut butter fudge instead. They loved it! I’m always tweaking recipes. Usually they work out okay and the fudge was a hit. The cookies? Welll. I stuck the bowl in the fridge to take care of later. Later. and Later. And latest. I remembered them this morning. They are probably dried out by now. (eye roll) Yep. You guessed it. With the help of this comment. I remembered. Sigh. I hate being wasteful. My motto has always been use and reuse and reuse.

    1. If the dough had been in our house, it would have been gone. We LOVED cookie dough, cake batter. Five kids and my mother had to make sure we all got an equal amount. 🙂

  6. In my WIP (all of three chapters long so far, plus a lot of scribbled notes), nobody dies, but I’m still not sure how I’m getting to the end. I know what I want to happen, but there a lot of murk between now and the end. Except for little single ideas that keep bubbling up on their own. Eventually they’ll fit together–I hope!

  7. I turned 50 last year and really wanted to travel to various parts of NC and celebrate in a “Jimmy Buffett looks at Fifty” sort of way. However, funds were short and I had to cancel my arrangements. I told my dear friend who lives in Topsail that I wouldn’t be coming. Two days later, I received a phone calls telling me not to worry–they had made arrangements for me and to leave in the morning!! So blessed to have a network of wonderful friends who made the journey possible.. Reading cozies along the Carolina coast as the sun rises and sets.. Speaking of cozies, I’d love to win a copy of “Biscuits and Slashed Browns.” Thanks for the opportunity!

  8. Way back when, I thought I was going to write a cozy mystery series featuring a male amatuer sleuth with his brother for his sidekick. But then I wrote an observation piece that was supposed to be my impressions of a scene when I realized it wasn’t in my voice. It was some other female’s impressions of my backyard. Then, a short while later, I wrote a short story and as I wrote it that same voice returned and she was the protagonist. By the end of the story I knew that my male former main character was her husband and she was going to be my amatuer sleuth.

    There are now three books featuring Emory Crawford that will be getting re-released this spring under the new series name of The Can Be Mysteries, with book four coming out next fall.

    Characters really do have a mind of their own! 😊

  9. Edith, your blog today is wonderful! My book club is often insistent that the writer must plot out the story to the end. I don’t ever agree. I heard so many varieties plotter vs pantser at CrimeBake that it confirmed my love of process differences.. So glad to hear your dilemma turn to a greater ending than you first imagined

  10. I teach and am a volunteer ESL instructor. A few years ago I was asked to help with an ESL class forming at a church, along with three other volunteers. I must admit that I took this rather lightly as I had taught before and there were four of us. I even arrived late. The pastor was very nice and asked if I was ready for my students. I asked which ones were to be students, and he said the whole congregation. I was stunned; there were over 50 people! Some quick shuffling and direction, and we were all off for a rewarding experience, but I learned a lesson about being always prepared for more than you expect.

  11. Edith, that sounds like me. I always start a story thinking I know “whodunit” – and I’m very rarely right. But somehow, the story always turns out better for the change.

    Merry Christmas!

  12. Years ago I changed jobs. When I showed up for the first day at the new job the manager had forgotten I was starting that day. They had nothing set up and had to scramble to get someone to show me around. But the job wound up working out OK.

  13. I learned many years ago that nothing is ever set in concrete, so I’ve just learned to go with the flow of whatever happens is another new adventure in life. I loved this post, Edith. So very informative & funny.

  14. Oh my, Edith! The power of your brain in recognizing what didn’t fit and what did. I love when unexpected things like this happen and it only makes our work better. PS The title is so fun! vb

  15. I’m doing well just to remember to do what I set out to do. This is the second day in a row that I have failed to make the turn to go to the recycling bins. At least I was correct that breakfast group is taking the NEXT two Thursdays off and not today.

  16. If you still have an ARC available for Biscuits and Slashed Browns I would be pleased to read it, especially as your ARCs tend to have far less than the usual dozen typos. Merry Christmas.

    May you have a blessed day. Barbara

    On Thu, Dec 21, 2017 at 4:25 AM, Wicked Cozy Authors wrote:

    > Edith Maxwell posted: “Edith north of Boston and nearly ready for > Christmas! And I have a giveaway as a holiday gift to one commenter here > today. I’ve been working on Country Store Mystery number six, Strangled > Eggs and Ham. Next year holds so many book deadlines for me that I” >

  17. Congrats on finishing the draft! And congrats on surprising yourself. I bet that means a lot of readers will be surprised as well. Love that title myself.

  18. What a fun and enjoyable sounding book. It is fun to think a diner along with a vintage cookware store. It would be so fun to have a copy to read.

  19. I’m not much of a second guesser. I guess I’m too stubborn to admit I may not have made the best choice or, seen more positively, I’m confident in my first choices. Either way, I make the best of whatever choice I’ve made. And if I really made a bad choice, I admit it, do what I can to change it, and get on with life. In writing, one sometimes has the opportunity to take a little longer to mull over the choices and, one hopes, make the best decision. You, Edith, do a great job of producing wonderful books. I would love to win the ARC.

  20. (I already have an ARC, reviewed on Goodreads and will add others when they allow. Whoever gets one will be VERY happy. Hmm, if my name should be drawn, please give to Reine, if allowed 😉
    I think being open to change makes the writing more authentic, and authenticity makes us care more about the characters. Ralph Waldo Emerson — ‘A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds . . .’
    So many changes of direction in life, and since I like where I am, it must have been okay. Today I decided I would go to tomorrow morning’s carol sing at Crooked Tree Coffee House, whether or not anyone wanted to join me there. Minutes after I set the alarm, a message from a friend . . . sometimes decisions bring confirmation, sometimes one must just have faith. Hugs <3

  21. I have second guessed myself too many times to hold one in memory. Usually I start second guessing the second guess. Seems like when I get into that cycle, whatever I chose, it is the wrong one!

  22. Edith, I have no story to tell, but I would love to win an Arc of your next book. I do have it on preorder for my kindle.

  23. I try to trust my instincts, they rarely lead me astray. I second guess myself when I feel like I have taken too big a leap! I’d love to win an ARC of your new book. I love this series! Thanks for the chance to win!

  24. I’m happy you found your villain. Especially since your country store mystery series is one of my absolute favorite series. I was just thinking earlier today that I’m going to be featuring When The Grits Hit The Fan on a future throwback blog post of mine. Anyway…
    I actually just revised a plan a couple of weeks ago. We were supposed to go to a favorite vacation destination in Myrtle Beach, SC. But at the last minute two tickets became available to a place up in Warwick, NY that we’ve desperately wanted to visit. We changed gears at the last minute and went to NY. It was the coldest and snowiest week in NY when we went, LOL. And we had the absolute best week EVER!! I’m so glad we went with our instincts. It all worked out perfectly. ( :

  25. I think the most serious second guessing on my part was to trust a man again. Life experiences had brought me to a point where I didn’t trust men – any man – well other than my Daddy. Few years later a man I had known for a few years showed me that not all men can be painted with the same brush and that some wounds can be healed with the help of a GOOD man. Believe me there was a lot of second guessing on my part. Should I try, better not, try?, NOPE, give it a shot, won’t work – before I got to maybe and gave it a shoot. Now, I look back and think “WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG?” and realize it was the best decision I’ve ever made. Here 34 years later, I’d do it all in a split second. Love him more than life itself. He is the most unselfish, giving man on earth, always putting me first. I kind of like the pedestal he’s put me on. The view from up here is full of love and admiration for my man. <3

    Thanks for the chance to win one of the ARCs of Biscuits and Slashed Browns. I’d love very much to read it!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. I went through a similar thing 44 years ago. I’m more deeply in love with my husband now than I was then. I so happy for you!

  26. I have a habit of planning out my days and what I’m going to do each day. I found out that the best days and times are the ones that are unplanned and spontaneous.

  27. I am a weird one, but I hardly ever second guess myself. I go with my plan of action and be danged. I adjust if I need to, I zig if it is called for, but I just go with it whatever works. Now this is not how I have always been at all. As I got older, got hit with some tough bumps in life, I changed. I live my life as happy and uncomplicated as I can. I have to say, it rocks! Hope you all have a very delightful and Merry Christmas or whatever holiday you happen to celebrate

  28. Wow what an interesting story ,your I mean. I decided against an abortion many years ago and it was the right thing.

  29. I’m a real planner, and I’m having trouble coming up w/ an example of changing my mind at the last minute. The times I stuck w/ my decision actually caused things to work out really well.

  30. Your dilemma rang bells with me! My first mystery, Planted, which debuted at Crime Bake 2016 had too obvious a killer, as my beta readers pointed out. I needed a twist that revealed the true focus of the prime suspect and the evil manipulation by the prime villain who was the killer.

  31. Edith…so glad your story ending cane to you this week so that you can relax a little over Christmas.
    As to second guessing. I think that happens a lot to most people and all the time with me. But one that has a long long track record is that in 1963 my hysba day and my family thought my husband and I were too young to be getting married. Despite being responsible, mature and having a well thought out future plan, we did wonder too in all honesty, but we knew it would work!!! Well, 54 years have gone by and we are very happily married with two grown children and three precious grandchildren and they have made all of the ups and downs so totally worth this amazing journey. We are so blessed second thoughts and all. Happy New year everyone!! ❤️

  32. I very seldom second guess myself because I’m so impatient that the deed is usually done before I’ve had a chance to come up with a second alternative. However, last year I had an appointment with a dog rescue to meet some beagle puppies to adopt. I saw 3 puppies and was having a hard time choosing—and then I saw a scared little adult dog hiding in the corner. It was love at first sight—-I didn’t get a puppy as planned, instead I took the scared lady dog home. After having her a year, she has finally come out of her shell and is a wonderful addition to our family.
    Happy Holidays!

    1. Bless you, Suekey, for taking in an animal in need. Special people like you are rare.

  33. My husband got sick so we had to change our plans from going to Disneyland on his day off. A real bummer, but we will play cards instead.

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