I have to admit, my protagonist Juana Maria, woke me up at 5:30 a.m. this morning, scratched at my forehead and wanted me to get on with her story. I tried to sleep but I wanted to get on with the story too. So I sat for a few minutes looking at the blinking cursor. Then I made the deadly mistake and clicked on Internet Explorer and delved into la-la land where I did mostly nothing for 30 minutes. then it hit me, why don’t you try finding out how other writers finish the last chapter. There’s another 30 minutes spent looking here and there. But I did find something that perked me up faster than my vanilla bean World Market coffee. Someone was nice enough to post their thoughts on how to write the ending of a novel. So I’m presenting this to you, with credit to the writer, in case you’re ever awakened by a rude protag at 5:30 in the morning.
No I didn’t finish the ending, but I got my fingers working and started on my way.
How To Write The Ending Of Your Novel
There is plenty of writing advice about the first 10 pages, the importance of hooking the reader at the start and making an impact in the first paragraph.
If your ending sucks, it can leave a bad taste in the reader’s mouth. Here are some tips on writing endings for your fiction novels:
- Don’t cheat and suddenly have everything work out fine. This is lazy and the reader isn’t fooled. For example “And Jesus lived happily ever after”. From ‘How Not To Write A Novel.
- Link the story to a larger theme to end on a high note. This is one of the great tips included by C. Patrick Schulze in this article on writing endings.
- You can surprise the reader but you must also satisfy them. There should be more than one possible ending to a book, so the reader doesn’t just give up as they know what will happen. It’s worth foreshadowing this ending with hints in the rest of the book though so that they are surprised but it is not entirely out of the blue. Paraphrased from Holly Lisle. This is also covered by the disappointment of twist endings at Kim’s Craft Blog.
- Don’t use sappy extraneous contemplation. This is the big problem with the ending of Dan Brown’s ‘The Lost Symbol‘. The last chapter or two is just watching the sun rise and thinking about the experience. Boring and pointless.
- Some genres have an expected ending that you can’t mess with. If your genre is romance, they have to get together at the end. There’s no getting around this unless you want to change genres! You also need to keep some characters alive if you have a series of books planned.
- Don’t forget to end the book (or explain it is a trilogy!). I recently read ‘The Passage’ by Justin Cronin, a very chunky post-apocalyptic, majorly hyped novel. I enjoyed it but was hugely disappointing in the ending which basically didn’t end. There were so many loose ends so I went onto Twitter to see if anyone else felt the same way. A wonderful fellow tweeter pointed out that the book is first in a trilogy! However, this doesn’t excuse the feeling of disappointment as the brilliant ‘Hunger Games’ by Suzanne Collins is also the first in a trilogy and wraps the story up and yet still leads onto the next book. It’s definitely a balance.
- The resolution comes after the climax. The ending does not have to be in that last action/adventure scene. It needs to be after the climax so the story is rounded out. In film, “the audience can catch its breath, gather its thoughts and leave the cinema with dignity” From ‘Story’ by Robert McKee