Writing Novels #4: The End
Some of the most satisfying words in novel writing. While it certainly doesn't mean your writing journey is over (it's just the beginning for rewrites, edits, queries, and more!), there is so much satisfaction and relief that comes with writing, or typing, those simple two words.
The first draft is the most difficult for me, since it's all about getting the plot laid out. I do much better with rewrites and editing, to the point that I actually really enjoy them!
Writing the first draft, however, can often be a trial we have to suffer through.
If these words, "The End," are going to mean so much to you, don't you want the actual ending to mean a lot as well? A satisfying ending means a satisfied reader.
The question is, what is a satisfying ending? Many people have different answers to that question, and it basically all comes down to one thing: The writer.
This subject is tricky for me because I don't want to put any rules in front of you or tell you how it should be done, because in reality a good writer can make any kind of ending work.
I tend to write series, so at the end of each book the goal is to leave the reader with enough of a cliffhanger to make them want to read on. HOWEVER, it may not in your best interest to leave them with an impossible situation and end the book like that. You probably don't want to leave the reader feeling frustrated and mad. Slightly confused and excited is a better goal.
The general advice for writing series is to write the first book as if it could be a stand-alone book, because this is how you will have to present it to publishers. You want readers to finish the first book and read on because they want to, not because they're being forced to buy the second book to find out if a character dies or not. So don't use a last minute, random cliffhanger to draw people to your people to the next book.
The best kind of surprise is the one that you've been leading up to the entire book, even if it's insanely subtle. Little hints dropped here and there, or an unspoken knowledge that at one point this information will be released. If it looks well thought out and planned, the audience will be more impressed than if it looks random and spontaneous.
This may appear that I have sidetracked a little, but it all leads back to the main point: Don't drop a sudden surprise on the readers just to force them to read on. It's all right to do it to make your plot better or enhance the story, or even provide context for the next book. People generally don't like to feel forced into anything, however.
Ah, this is actually turning out to be a really difficult chapter to write. More than I thought it would be.
I believe I know why...because any ending can be turned into something good with the right writing. There are happy endings, and there are sad endings, and both work out fine if it fits the book.
My few suggestions?
~Avoid the "Happily Ever After." We all know that nothing in this world ends up perfectly, so throw in some reminders of the sorrow and loss that came along the way, and a hint that though life may not be perfect, the characters can make it work. Hope is good, but false assumptions that these people will be happy constantly doesn't go well with readers. Make it relatable and real-life, unless you're writing a fairly tale.
~Be creative. Really. Surprise us, use something we haven't used before. A reason I'm having such a hard time laying down the basics for writing ends is because I'm hoping to see creativity, not repetitive ideas.
~Read. Find the type of endings that you enjoy. Don't copy them, but learn from them. Learn what readers like. Use what you can for them.
And ask me questions! I'm always happy to answer:)
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