Writers Write is a writing resource and we have written this post on 14 things you need to consider before you write the end of your book.
The end is near…
Ending your story is often harder than starting it. You’ve made plenty of promises you have to keep. Let’s be honest. The most annoying / irritating / brilliant / devastating / terrifying / awesome thing about fiction is that anything, yes ANYTHING, can happen.
I am a great advocate of ‘know your ending’, while keeping in mind that ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN.
14 Things To Consider Before You Write The End
- Don’t screw it up. Ha-ha. Yes, it is an actual rule. There is nothing worse than spending 300 pages with an author only to feel robbed. We tend to spend hours, days, even months constructing the first part of our novel, but we tend to rush the ending. We want to ‘get it done’ or our deadline catches up with us then some of the careful planning gets lost.
- Do not introduce a convenient clue at the last minute. Set it up properly by going back to the beginning. If you can’t introduce the saving element sooner, can it. You need to find something that is already in the story to make it work. [Read: The Secret To Writing A Great Plot Twist]
- Your hero needs to be the hero. This is actually an important rule for writing kids’ books. Do not let an adult save the kid. The kid must save himself. The same goes for adult stories. Do not introduce some magic new character ¾ in to your story to save your hero. Once again, go back to the beginning. Your protagonist must get him/herself out of trouble.
- Theme and symbology. Repeat and conquer. Tie up your themes and use the elements/images that have come up in the writing. Repeat, but show the change. In White Oleander, Janet Fitch uses the image of a hand held up ‘to let the desert dryness lick through’. She ends it with a hand held against a frosted pane on the other side of the world. The same, but changed.
- The hero doesn’t have to win, but… It can’t always be cataclysmic, but it MUST still be good. Some books are gentler than others are. Some heroes don’t succeed, but they must still have gained or learned something that justifies the reader’s time.
- A bit of mystery is good, but be careful of confusion. I love books that leave you wondering, but the ‘WTF?’ feeling is not good. There is a thin line between wonder and confusion. That said, your reader is not stupid. Don’t explain everything. You should have done that already, without explaining it of course.
- Genre makes a promise. Keep that promise. If you are writing in a specific genre, make sure your ending suits the genre. When you watch a comedy, you expect to laugh. When you watch a horror movie, you expect to be scared. That is genre and that is your promise. Do not fail.
- Not too short, but not too long. Abrupt endings are fashionable, but give me something to work with. You know that feeling when you turn the page expecting, well, the rest of the book and there it is: The author’s note. And you think where did the rest of the book go? That said: Do not torture me with pages of conclusions and detailed descriptions of how happy or unhappy everyone is.
- There is no next book. I hate books that don’t end. Even if it is part of a trilogy, end the current story. If the villain lives on, I will be able to figure it out. See previous comment regarding reader stupidity. Even if the series continues, finish the current story. The hero and baddie will both be crippled and then they gather their strength to fight again. [Read: The One Thing You Need To Know About Plotting A Series]
- Don’t end on a sequel. Don’t start with the weather and don’t end with the weather. Especially sunrises and sunsets. I know I said symbology is good and Janet Fitch starts in the desert dryness and ends in cold, but spend some time thinking about this. Start with action. End with action. And stay away from clichés.
- The pace of the ending should suit the book. Some books meander like rivers, other crash like tsunamis. Try to keep the pacing of your ending in line with that.
- No loose ends. Make sure all the sub-plots and red herrings are tied up. It is not good when we get to the end only to remember that the love interest is still tied up in the jungle somewhere.
- Hope – give them hope. Sad endings are good, but try to give your reader hope. Even if the protagonist has an “I am not okay right now, but I am going to be,” epiphany, that will help.
- Write the ending first. I do not write in order. I have a plan so I can jump around without getting lost. Sometimes the ending is clear or I have a line of dialogue that would be prefect. I write the end so that I know where I am going.
It can all change or it can stay the same. Write five different endings and see which one you like best.