I blog about writing and writers. This post has a writing message, I promise.
The Girl Scouts of America set me up recently. When the girl came to the door, I asked if they had a new flavor this year. We had already purchased a box of Thin Mints from another girl who came by earlier. The second Scout smiled at me. “Mango Crème,” she said. And I bought a box.
This is the first time in my history as a loyal cookie buyer (and eater) that I am throwing out a partially eaten box.
The Thin Mints were—as expected—thin and minty. Those little wafers of deliciousness are heavenly. But the Mango crèmes? They don’t taste like mango. They don’t taste like cream. Don't get me wrong--they don’t taste horrible—just a meh indiscriminate sweetness.
I thought it was just me and left the box for the rest of the family to try. The new cookie variety got three mehs for lack of mango flavor. Scanning the ingredient list, my family was right. There is no mango in the mango crèmes. There is natural whole food concentrate of cranberry, pomegranate, orange, grape, strawberry and shitake mushrooms—no mango.
What does this have to do with writing?
I’ve read—and written—manuscripts with great beginnings and endings that somehow still fell flat. And it wasn’t just the lack of a creamy middle.
Why do I think some of these manuscripts failed?
Yes, the beginning and ending may have been great—separately. But the ending didn’t bring the beginning to a satisfying close. When I read/wrote the beginning, I expected X. But the delivery brought Y. It was a great ending—for a different story.
The great beginning set up expectations that weren’t delivered. I promised mango and delivered some other tropical sweetness (see!?) Books--and cookies--aren't a game of horseshoes. It isn't good enough to be close. They need to deliver what is expected.
In some cases, the solution for me isn’t to rewrite the ending. In the ending, I had delivered what I wanted. As Julie Andrews sang in The Sound of Music—“let’s start at the very beginning—a very good place to start.”
The good news is that I don’t have to discard either beginning or ending. I just have to write a new beginning and ending for each because I have two different stories frankensteined together that need to be dissected to work.
So, I’m heading to the rubbish bin to toss the cookie box. It was a good investment after all. I expected a delicious mango cookie and instead I got a jolt reminding me of good writing technique. I’d say that’s good value.
If you want to participate in a very informal and unscientific poll on favorite cookie varieties—leave me a comment sharing yours!