There are many things to think of.
There is so much story."
I read this earlier this morning. The Book Thief, by Mark Zusak. Death had just given away a huge plot point, and that was his excuse for it. It got me thinking (uh-oh) and I realized he is absolutely right. It's not about the big booming, softly sighing, gut-wrenching finish, but all that leads up to it that makes a story great. The coolest plot twist in the world isn't going to atone for a mediocre build-up. And while a great build-up attached to an otherwise lackluster ending sucks royally, at least the author has entertained long enough to pull the reader to that ending. Of course, the reader might never pick up a book by that author again, but that's another post entirely.
We've all heard the term "muddy middle." It's that part of the story not the beginning we're all excited about writing, not the ending we all can't wait to get to, it's that middle part that has to tie the fun beginning to the exciting end. For some, it's the hardest part, and now I understand why many hit that wall: Getting a reader hooked is hard, Keeping them hooked is harder.
I've picked up books because the opening hook is fantastic, only to give up on it thirty pages in. Maintaining the momentum is crucial, no matter how difficult it is to one-up your beginning. We can't all get away with giving up our big finishes the way Death (and Mark Zusak) can. It has to fit. It has to be part of that build-up, or it comes off as contrived. How ever we do it, we have to make our middles as fabulous, more fabulous than the bookends of our stories. That's how we keep readers who cheat and read the end of the book first. (You know I'm looking at you.) Like Death says, it's the machinations that wheel us there that aggravate, perplex, interest and astound.
What about you? Can you forgive a so-so story for a big-boom ending? Vice-versa? What's the hardest part for you to write? Beginning, middle, or end?