Recently, I read a book and instead of ending the story after the climax, the book went on and on. It was a romance novel, and the author seemed to want to keep writing about this relationship all the way through the engagement and up to the wedding. She even had an epilogue with a baby in it.
All I could think while I was reading was why is this still going on? There was no more tension in the story, and it just seemed like filler. Yes, I love the happy-ever-after of a romance novel, but once you have gotten the couple together the book needs to end shortly after that. Any extra wrap-up of a wedding or a child can be in the epilogue. (Can decide if you need an epilogue? Check out my post on that topic here.)
Stories naturally follow a story arc. After the Climax, you have the fall out. This is the point where the consequences of your character’s choices are played out. And then we have the resolution, the point where the characters return to their regular lives.
After the climax, your story should not go on and on. It needs to end at some point. Here are some tips to ending your novel.
- Ensure the ending makes sense. Don’t cheat and suddenly have everything work out fine. Your ending doesn’t have to be happy (unless you are writing a romance novel in which case there usually is a HEA). The ending does have to fit appropriately to the rest of the story. The reader will feel robbed or tricked with anything that doesn’t make sense.
- Don’t be predictable. Even with a HEA ending, you don’t have to be predictable. There should be more than one possible ending for a book. Try to keep your reader guessing what will happen up until the end. (But re-read the point above. Twists in the plot are fine, as long as they make sense and aren’t simply tricks.)
- Ensure that you do wrap up any loose ends or subplots to your story. Every question you placed in your reader’s mind should be addressed even if the answer is to say the character will address it later (after the book ends).
- Don’t introduce new characters or subplots at the end – even if you are writing a trilogy or series. Any appearances toward the end of the book need to have been foreshadowed, referenced or already in play.
- If possible, you can link your final words to events in your opener as a tie-back, or you can create a feeling that your final words hearken to an earlier moment in the story.
Deciding how to end your book and what the final words on the page will be can be a daunting task. The bottom line is that the ending of your book is what the reader is going to remember. Yes, the opening scene must draw them in but a satisfying ending is going to be what gets you that good review or word of mouth recommendation.
Take your time and decide how best to end your story. Just don’t the ending drag on and on and on.