Writing the Ending for Your Story
As some of you already know, I just finished a book a few days ago titled The Glorious In-Between that contains two asexual, aromantic characters. It took me almost a week to write the ending. This has been true for every book I’ve ever written, from When Stars Die to The Stars Are Infinite.
I don’t know why endings are so difficult for me to write. It isn’t that I’m getting to the end of the book and I don’t want it to end, because I do want it to end! I desperately want to finish the dang draft! I just tend to slow down, and I can’t even explain why this is so.
Endings are hard, regardless of whether or not you can blow through one in a day or drag yourself through the next couple of days trying to get that ending down.
The book has to end, though. It has to tie up all loose threads (an exception can be made for books in a series) and end in a way that is both satisfying and unpredictable.
First, let me present the five types of endings:
- The happy ending
- The unhappy ending
- The tragic ending, wherein the protagonist does succeed at his/her objective but had to sacrifice something for it
- The sacrifice, wherein the protagonist sacrifices his/her objective for the greater good
- The bittersweet ending
If you know these five types of endings, you’ll at least be able to choose how you’d like to end your book, depending on the progression of your book. You don’t want to do an unhappy ending for the sake of an unhappy ending. The ending you choose has to make sense with everything that has occurred in your book.
One thing that used to happen to me in the past is that I would write the draft of the book but not write the ending and let the draft cool. I’d write the ending in the revisions. That has worked for me, but it’s something I’m not interested in doing anymore. I just want to get the ending over with.
You can outline your ending in detail. I did not do that. I just wrote the ending by the seat of my pants. I binge wrote The Glorious In-Between, so it was exhausting having to outline it, too, at the same time. I’m not sure if this is going to happen with All Stars Align, which will be the title of the third book in The Stars Trilogy. I already know exactly how I want to end the third book, but that doesn’t mean the ending won’t be any less difficult for me to write. After all, I already knew how I wanted to end The Glorious In-Between before I even began outlining it.
In any case, the best endings for any book are endings that leave the readers remembering that book. After all, everything can be great and fantastic, until you get to the ending. It doesn’t matter how much your reader loved your book before the ending. If the ending is poor, readers are going to finish your book with a bad taste in their mouths—and then most likely forget they ever read that book.
You don’t want that to happen.
Resonance with endings can occur through narration, dialogue, and description.
Here are some final tips for your ending:
- Don’t introduce new characters or subplots. The ending of a book generally occurs in the last 30-50 pages, so there really is no time to introduce a new character or subplot. The only exception to this is if you’ve foreshadowed a character throughout the book and then put that character in those last 30-50 pages. Of course, I think I actually broke this rule with When Stars Die, when I do introduce a new character in the very last chapter. No readers have complained, of course, but it’s also an epilogue.
- Don’t spend too much time musing. Endings are generally fast-paced, because the ending is coming to a head, and you want the ending to have the most tension out of any part of your book, so you need to minimize descriptions.
- Don’t change the tone. If the tone of your ending changes, it will sound tacked on to readers, like the chapter was a mere afterthought.
- Make sure your objective is strong. Your MC is after something, and that something needs to be made obvious in some way. Novels of a literary nature have some leeway on this, but other types of fiction really don’t. The MC is either going to achieve that objective in some way, or the MC is going to lose out on that objective.
- Think of several possible endings. Don’t limit yourself to just one possible ending. Imagine as many as you can, and then choose the one that makes the most sense for your story. Although I knew how I wanted to end The Glorious In-Between, this doesn’t mean I stuck with the EXACT ending I had planned. I thought of several possible endings within the type of ending I wanted to do, and then as I came upon the ending, it occurred to me what type of ending would make more sense with how I’d written the story up to that point. So the ending must be in line with the story. It needs to make sense, and you don’t need to choose the easy way out. Readers are going to know otherwise if you do.