I’m at the point in my first draft where all I need to do is finish—that is, write the ending. The climax has come and gone. The major questions have more or less been answered and now it’s time to wrap it up. Being in this place is a weird experience for a lot of reasons. For one thing, I feel greater pressure to make the writing actually good. My technique thus far has been to get words on the page and then make it all sound good/make sense during the editing process. This has enabled me to successfully write 73,000 words (about 240 pages). That said, the very end, I believe, is less about what happens and more about symbolism, the broader point, the final message to the reader, etc. So, the question is, how do I come full circle? How do I leave the reader feeling satisfied? How do I craft the perfect ending? Of course I conducted some research. Did I find the answer? Who knows. But I did discover some points that I believe are useful in theory (and hopefully in practice as well):
1. The key to a good ending is satisfaction. Satisfaction is the release of tension. I didn’t quite understand satisfaction from a practical standpoint until I read that definition in Techniques of the Selling Writer. It makes sense though—every fiction writing class, book, website will tell you that your novel must have tension, tension, TENSION! It’s only reasonable that the book ends when all of that crazy tension you’ve built is finally released. Shrug. Something to keep in mind.
2. The ending needs to be both inevitable and unexpected. Sigh. Yet another seemingly impossible task. Thankfully the writing website that made this assertion, Wordplay, also explained how to do it–foreshadowing and complications: “when we combine that subtle foreshadowing with enough logical plot complications to distract our readers, we can present them with the possibility of so many potential outcomes that they’ll never be able to completely predict the one we finally give them.” Ok, I can dig. I definitely did some foreshadowing, not sure about the complications. I think I’ll just write my ending and figure out if I distracted everyone enough later.
3. Link the end to the beginning. I agree this advice (also from Wordplay) seems obvious. Still, the tip gave me a place to go other than Google to figure out how to approach this final task. Indeed, reading my first chapter proved to be a very useful exercise. I certainly was not thinking about my ending when I was writing it, but I was surprised to find that it nevertheless poses the broader question that my book sets out to answer. Turning to my first pages ultimately helped me decide where my characters should be, what they should be doing and who they should be with in the final ones.
Peeps, I can’t wait to get this draft done. I’m not going for 90,000 words anymore—now I’m just writing until the story is over. At this point, I’m just assuming that I’ll hit that target after going through some edits and identifying areas that need to be fleshed out. I should be popping a bottle of champagne in a few weeks. Can’t wait!!
6 thoughts on “The End is Near! How to Write the Ending to a Novel–Seriously, how?”
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This is great stuff!
Thanks Ryan!! 🙂
A snappy ending is good, but sometimes difficult to achieve. How about a humorous ending, a shocking ending, a surprise ending?