Unforgettable Endings: Finishing Your Novel

From Women Writers, Women’s Books:

What part of writing your novel challenges you most? For some it is deciding where to begin or how to establish the characters and setting. And who hasn’t struggled with getting rig of slog in the center? But a challenge all writers have in common is bringing it all to a conclusion.

After spending countless hours falling in love with our characters, how do we say farewell?

My novels tend to conclude with my protagonist’s death, which readers know is coming due to the biographical nature of my stories.

Since I write about real people, the date of their death is known and each historical figure I’ve featured has left some things they had hoped to achieve undone. That might not sound like the neatly packaged sense of closure that writers aim for, but it is honest, tragic, and eternally relatable. In part, that sense of loss and lack of completeness is my goal. It is true to life and helps readers connect to historical figures as real people. What could be more authentic than dying when one still has more to accomplish?

For the style of my novels, these tragic endings are appropriate.

. . . .

Writers should have a goal for the end of a novel from the beginning. What did the opening of your novel promise that the end would bring? While the plot will naturally evolve and some of us might stick to our original outline more than others, our destination largely remains the same. Everything that happens in the novel is leading readers to that final moment, so deeply consider before you begin writing where the novel should end.

Writing your novel’s conclusion, or at least having it solidly outlined, before you begin has benefits besides having a clear goal in mind. It can also keep you from injecting extraneous information, subplots, or characters at the end of the book. This is not the time to introduce something new. That sort of plot twist tends to make readers roll their eyes as they close the book in frustration. Write an ending that fits the story. That doesn’t mean you can’t surprise your readers, but it does mean that the surprise should still make sense when they think back on the rest of the story.

Link to the rest at Women Writers, Women’s Books

1 thought on “Unforgettable Endings: Finishing Your Novel”

  1. There’s a general advisement in writing adventure novels to end the story with the big climax.

    I knew this when I started writing fantasy novels but (10 books later) I find that I’m more of a “There and Back Again” (Tolkien) storyteller — I have a significant after action cool down and return to (new) normal period (the “Back Again” part).

    It just seems right to me. It lets me end the story with a sigh of pleasure, instead of the adrenalin of conquest. Such fans as I have like it.

    Maybe it’s a gender thing…

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