Novel Endings

Endings. Every novel has one. Most first novelists are glad they got to The End, and they should be. Many, many first novels lie uncompleted in a desk drawer. But there’s more to an ending than giving a sly smile and saying, “I’m leaving it open for the sequel.”
Writing Tip for Today: As you approach the end of a story consider these things:

  • Has my protagonist faced the do or die moment, and if so, has it resulted in overcoming obstacles to attain the goal? Some writers think they can have several climax scenes in their book, but ultimately one scene must define this point. The protagonist should be forced to act, not just think about acting.
  • How has your character grown and changed? How have YOU grown and changed as a writer? In the long process of novel writing, it’s common for the quality, style and voice of the writer to feel different at the end than the beginning of the novel. And a character who is ambivalent at the start and still that way at the story’s end sounds unsatisfying and possibly sociopathic.
  • In yesterday’s post I listed the 5 possible endings to any novel. There’s nothing wrong with a “happy ending” if you’ve developed a complex character with worthy goals and obstacles. Please think carefully before you decide to get all bohemian and leave a character in their angst or dangle that ending for the big sequel.
  • Not every novel should have a sequel. If you are planning the story arc to span several books, that’s great, but some books are better off as stand alones. Witness the often inane movie sequels you’ve seen.
  • Consider the Market. If you want to sell your existential post-modern novel to an audience which demands that “happily ever after” thing, it may be a tough sell. On the other hand, your book might not appeal to the literary crowd–don’t try to force into being a “crossover” if it doesn’t fit there naturally.
  • Experiment. The ending you write today may not be the right one. Let your draft gestate, cool off or otherwise gain objectivity for a while. Then read through the entire story and revisit the ending.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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