Writing a novel isn’t an easy process. There’s challenging elements to tackle, such as research and navigating plot, character development, and conflict. However, the most difficult part of the writing process is the ending since it must resolve your plot while leaving a lasting impression while satisfying readers.
There’s nothing worse than a subpar ending that doesn’t do justice to an excellent novel. Story conclusions can be anxiety-inducing because there’s so much dependent on them. There’s a lot to juggle, from wanting to satisfy your readers to ensuring the ending isn’t hollow. The following tips on how to write an ending are sure to help make the process more manageable.
1. Understand That Every Genre Is Different
There’s no such thing as the “right” or “wrong” ending. However, it’s essential to understand that different genres require different levels of resolution. For example, a romance novel may require a “happily ever after,” but the expectations are very different regarding realism. Similarly, a psychological or crime thriller may require a fully resolved ending, but this isn’t the case for other genres. How to end a book depends on the genre and the audience’s expectations. Both should be kept in mind when determining how to conclude a story.
For example, in Agatha’s Christie’s The Seven Dials Mystery, the ending reveals the villain to be none other than Jimmy Thesiger. The entire mystery is explained and everything is made clear to the reader. However, at the end of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, we’re still left wondering what happens with Pip and Estella since the ending isn’t concrete.
2. Know Your Ending from the Beginning
This isn’t true of all endings. Not every writer knows the ending before they start writing. However, this can be extremely useful because the ending impacts your writing throughout the book. Whether expected or unexpected, foreshadowing is a great technique to employ since it ensures continuity and satisfies readers. Additionally, even if the ending is unpredictable, foreshadowing and having it inform your writing will ensure your readers don’t feel tricked. While the ending will be unpredictable, it will make sense when considering the entire work.
In the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling knows the ending from the very beginning. While Snape is an unlikeable character through the series, the final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows reveals that Snape was a double agent loyal to Dumbledore, not Voldemort. This plays a major part in Voldemort’s eventual defeat, and we see foreshadowing throughout the series upon re-reading it.
3. Don’t Make the Ending Clear Before It’s Time
While foreshadowing is important, accidentally spoiling your ending can ruin it. Overdoing foreshadowing and making the conclusion clear early in the book defuses the ending and doesn’t allow it to have the impact it deserves. Therefore, it’s integral to lay the groundwork for the ending while still striking a balance and ensuring you don’t spoil it for the reader or give too much away.
This is especially important for twist endings like that in Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. In the book, the narrator discovers that he is Tyler Durden and everything Tyler did was actually him and his alternate personality. The author doesn’t give the ending away, leaving readers shocked at the end.
4. Satisfy Your Readers
Whether you have the ending in mind the entire time or you’re hoping to figure it out along the way, it’s essential to satisfy your readers. Stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and readers expect a satisfying ending after investing their time in a novel. This doesn’t mean that the ending has to be happy or expected. It can be unexpected and satisfactory at the same time. A satisfactory story ending answers the readers’ questions and resolves the plot. While not everything has to be tied in a neat bow at the end, you must have a resolution.
In One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez ties up all the loose ends and ensures a satisfying ending for his readers by destroying the town. While this isn’t a happy ending, there’s no ambiguity – the town is destroyed, and all the characters are dead. All loose ends are tied in a bow, and the readers have resolution.
5. Make the Readers Feel Something
The best story endings are those that evoke emotions and make an impact. It doesn’t matter whether you’re ending on a happy or sad note. It’s essential to focus on emotion and make your readers feel something. Conflict and character development engross readers and make them invested in the story and its characters. When the story ends, there should be an emotional impact.
In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the reader is overjoyed for Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth. Austen takes readers along the journey and shows so much character development and growth that there’s nothing but happiness to be felt when Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth marry.
6. Try Out Different Endings Before Settling on One
When it comes to ending a book, there are different routes you can take. The first one that comes to mind isn’t always the right one. Trying out different endings and thinking about their emotional impact is a great exercise. This is also helpful since it keeps things fresh and avoids cliché endings people may see coming. Even if the ending is a certain type, it doesn’t have to be a cliché. For example, a “happily ever after” may be expected in romance novels, but you can still put a unique spin on it.
It’s hard to imagine the now iconic lines, “You piece my soul. I am half agony, half hope” not existing in Jane Austen’s Persuasion. However, this was almost the case. Fortunately, Austen rewrote the last few chapters and Captain Wentworth’s letter is now cemented in literary history.
7. Make the Final Impression Count
A story ending is the last chance to make an impression on the reader. Since final impressions count, the last lines of your story must be ones that will stay with the reader. You can ask yourself what emotions you’d like to evoke or what messages you’d like the reader to take away from your novel when you’re working on your ending. Many authors focus on the book’s central theme and make that their final image. Ensure you make the book’s main takeaway clear as you write your ending.
Writing an effective ending and finishing your novel is an achievement. However, this is where the revision process begins, and you edit your work to meet publishing standards. To ensure your book is free of errors and typos when submitting it to publishers, consider using Edit911’s affordable book editing services. Reach out to us here to learn more.