“Great is the art of the beginning, but greater the art of ending.” So said Longfellow. He was talking about stories, of course. But Longfellow’s sentiment may be even more applicable to life in general. A year feels like a chapter of life. The 2010 life chapter is about to end and the 2011 is about to begin.
As far as stories go, I’m not sure I agree with Longfellow. Is the ending more important than the beginning? It’s been said that Hemingway rewrote the ending of A Farewell to Arms 33 times before he felt he had it right. So endings must be important. But if the beginning doesn’t entice the reader to journey into the book, the reader will never see the ending, no matter how brilliant it may be. On the other hand, the ending can’t be neglected. The beginning persuades the reader to read this book. The ending persuades the reader to read the author’s next book. It’s obvious that both are important if the author is to have a career in writing.
So what makes a good book ending? Actually, it may depend on how the book began. Readers usually want to see how the protagonist and/or the world of the novel have changed, so the ending often echoes the beginning. Some endings touch on all the main threads of the novel, usually very subtly, showing the reader how one thread wrapped up, how a different thread did not, a tip of the hat to the issues and characters that played major roles. Select some of your favorite books. Read the first couple of lines, then the last couple. See how the author wrapped up. Were you satisfied? Why or why not?
As for life, there is also an art to ending a year: Forgive others and yourself. Leave the 2010 baggage behind. Set your sights on the year ahead. Turn the page and begin a new chapter. Happy New Year!