Writing the Ending

A lot of writing advice centers on openings, and for good reason. If you can’t sustain interest in the first few pages of your novel, it’s over for the reader. But what about endings?
Writing Tip for Today: What are common mistakes and solutions for endings?

  • Problem: Whether it’s a scene or the end of the novel, many writers rush their first drafts. Things happen too quickly. The problem is that if you rush the ending, a reader can see the author. In the “Wizard of Oz,” there’s a line that says, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” If your reader “sees” you, the author, we call it author intrusion.
  • Solution: Make sure the climax scene and resolution evolve organically from the character’s wants and needs. There should be no deus ex machina, which means the gods come down and fix everything at the last moment. The main character MUST solve his/her own problems.
  • Problem: The resolution goes on too long. After the big climax scene, we hate to let our characters go. They’ve been with us daily for a long time. We kind of want to write about that “happily ever after” time after the character has solved the major plot problem.
  • Solution: The general rule is: after you solve that major plot goal, get out as quickly as possible.
  • Problem: “But I want to leave things hanging for the sequel.” Nothing irritates readers quite like unsatisfactory endings. If you’re coy about the ending, it will turn off readers.
  • Solution: If you plan a series, you must still solve at least some of the major plot problems in book one. It isn’t wise to be cute or sly about withholding a major story goal. Readers demand at least some satisfaction (even if it means a less than happy ending) in a novel, and remember, those opening lines constitute a promise from you to the reader that by the end the question you pose will be answered.

Heads up, everyone! On Friday, I’ll be hosting Carla Stewart and her new novel, Broken Wings. She’s doing a give away, so be sure to leave a comment if you’d like to receive her book.

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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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