Finding the perfect ending to your scene

Last week, I discussed ways in which to begin a scene in your novel. Alas, every scene also must end, and that is what we are going to focus on today.

Every scene has a beginning, middle and end. The ending moments complete the scene and should leave the reader wanting more. It should make them eager to begin the next scene.

It is always best to end a scene as early as possible. You want your last statement to be strong and not full of unnecessary details. Depending on the situation, you can end the scene with a sense of finality or with something that propels the reader forward.

Remember that each scene is part of a larger story. The ending of a scene should make the reader think, “That was good. I want more.” And then plunge ahead into the next scene.

cliff hangerA popular ending is the Cliffhanger Ending. This type of ending is characterized by stopping the scene just as a major action is about to take place or in the middle of the action at a crucial point. The easiest way to think about this is to watch a TV drama. Something important is revealed and then…cut to commercial break. That leaves the viewer hanging around waiting for the show to return rather than channel surfing. You want the same type of reaction from your reader.

Cliffhanger endings typically happen at the end of chapters forcing the reader to start the next chapter to see what happens. (I have stayed up WAY TOO LATE often because of this technique.)

However, some authors do not continue the scene in the next chapter. In order to heighten the reader’s curiosity, they insert a scene or chapter that takes place somewhere else, perhaps with different characters. (I personally don’t like this when I am reading. I usually would rather skip ahead and find out what happened to the character in peril than read about another character.)

Even though the cliffhanger ending is a powerful tool, you can’t use it to end ALL of your scenes. Your ending to other scenes can still build anxiety in the reader as one of the characters wonders if she ever sees her family again or feels that moment of panic when they realize they are lost.

Another type of ending is one that implies the character would have done something different if they knew what was about to happen. “If I had known today was going to end this way, I would have stayed in bed.” Or “Had Sally realized she was going to die today she would have stayed buried under the covers.”

Your end of a scene might reveal insight into one of the characters. This might happen through an internal monologue that the character is having about the events that occurred in the scene, or it could happen through dialogue with another character. Ending in the middle of dialogue can be confusing to the reader, but it also can heighten a passionate or revealing exchange. The exact place the dialogue ends could reveal a lot about the character: their fears, hopes, how they are changing.

Sometimes a scene ends with a note about the setting or the character doing something mundane. But the fact we are focused on it elevates that item to greater importance.

No matter what ending you decide to use, remember to make sure they do their job: hook the reader into wanting to read more.

Publish your novels in a boxed set

box setIf you have written a trilogy or series of novels – even if they are only in ebook form – you might consider offering them as a box set. The convenience of a box set is that your reader can get a collection of your short stories or trilogy together, usually at a discounted price. Last week, I released The Elemental trilogy as a box set. While putting it together, I learned a few things that I thought I would pass along.

Pricing

Readers are going to expect some sort of price discount if they buy a box set. But the price you set for your book – and your box set – is of course a personal one. Here are a few things I noted when looking into offering a box set.

Short Stories – often I saw three or four boxed together, and the price was equivalent to getting one free. So four short stories that sell for 99 cents each would be bundled together and sold for $2.99.

Series/Trilogy – Here is where I saw the biggest range of pricing. You would see three books offered for anywhere from $4.99 to $7.99 when the books separately cost about $2.99 or $3.99. I even saw an eight book series offered for $9.99 – that’s only $1.25 a book! I am sure readers would find that a great deal.

Each of my novels sells for $2.99 individually. I decided to go with $5.99 for the set which is almost a $3 savings for readers.

Cover Art

box set optionI would say that most authors had artwork that looked like a box set – sort of 3D looking such as mine above – where you have a front and then see the spines of the other books. Or if you have a four book set, you could lay them out like the set by Kristen James on the right.

Smashwords would not accept a 3D image so had to create this one to be in their Premier catalog

Smashwords would not accept a 3D image so had to create this one to be in their Premier catalog

By looking at the sample chapters on Amazon, I noted about half of the authors include the individual book covers as part of the e-book. I choose to do this for mine. After the box set title page and table of contents, you see the cover for Summoned and then its title page and other front matter just as if you had bought the book individually. When Summoned ends, you have the cover for Quietus and its title page and front matter and of course the same when you reach Destiny.

Book Description

Again, here I saw different things – anywhere from a simple list of the books included in the box set to a complete description of each book. I think you need to include the book descriptions here as readers may not know anything about the stories in the set.

Now with Smashwords you only get 400 characters for the short description (you get 4000 characters on the long description) so you will either only be able to list the books or need to come up with a one or two sentence blurb for the whole trilogy or a short sales pitch if you are combining unrelated short stories.

Formatting

One thing I think is essential in a box set is that you need to have a table of contents. You want to make it easy for your readers to get to the second book without having to scroll through the first if they have already read that book. I would say about half the books I looked at included a clickable table of contents.

Here is how my box set goes.

Box set title page

Table of Contents – the three books and About the Author

Book 1 cover

Book 1 title page/copyright/dedication

Book 1 content

Book 2 cover

Book 2 title page/copyright

Book2 content

Book 3 cover

Book 3 title page/copyright

Book 3 content

About the Author

If you like adding table of contents for each of your novels, you could add one after the title page for each novel.

Overall, I think offering a box set provides a great option for your readers even if you only decide to knock off a little off the price verses offering the books individually.

Creating Fight Scenes

Since I write fantasy, I guess it is expected that at some point there will be a sword fight or other battle taking place. With each additional book in my trilogy, there seem to be more battles.  One of my reviews for Summoned said that I wrote, “awesome fight scenes.” I don’t know if that is true or not, but I do have a few tricks that I use when developing a fight scene. These hold true whether it is someone using a knife, a sword or their fists.

1.) Visualize – This might not be an easy step for some but a lot of what I write is what I visualize in my head. I can picture what is happening and just describe it as I see it.  However, if you have trouble visualizing a fight (say because you have never been in one – and that would probably be most of us), consider the next tip.

2.) Watch a fight – Pick a movie or TV show with a good fight scene. (For a TV series, my husband suggested Buffy the Vampire Slayer and for movies, his suggestions off the top of his head were Under Siege, Bourne Identity and Batman: The Dark Knight and for sword fights, The Lord of the Rings trilogy. But there are many more options out there.)  Of course these may not be the most realistic, but you can pick up some good ideas from them.

You also might try looking at videos of sparing in martial arts. I actually used this technique for a knife attack in my current work in progress, Destiny. I wanted to see how a person attacking with a knife would move.

3.) Draw a diagram – When I am writing a particularly involved battle scene or one with many participants, I like to draw a map of where everyone is at the beginning of the battle. It helps me keep track of where my characters are and who (or what) they are battling. Pretend you are a basketball coach and draw x’s and o’s on your paper. It really can help you keep track of everything.

4.) Act it out – When all else fails, grab a partner and act out the fight scene. This can give you an idea of how each participant would react. For the same knife attack that I mentioned above, one of my characters was going to surprise someone by stepping out of the shadows and stabbing another character in the back. To figure out how she would stab her victim, my husband and I did a little role playing. This let me not only figure out how the attack would happen but what type of injury would occur.

Once you have your fight scene laid out there are a few more things to remember. You want to watch your pacing – fight scenes need to be fast paced. Keep your sentences short. You want to keep the reader’s attention by showing action but don’t include a lot of detail. And remember you don’t have to write every blow that happens.

The importance of getting book reviews

One of the best and most inexpensive marketing tools for your novel is a book review. Before shelling out money for a book, many readers like to know ahead of time if it is good. Reviews give those readers an ideal of what others liked or didn’t like about the book. Reviews add a level of credibility to your book.

So now that you have written your book, how do you go about getting book reviews?

1.) Friends and Family – I hesitate to suggest you start by asking family and friends to review your book because readers can usually tell when there are a lot of five-star  reviews gushing about how great the author is that those reviewers know the author. However, if you have a family member or friend who will write an honest critique of your work – listing both the good and the bad – then go ahead and have them write a review.

2.) Book Blogs and Online Reviewers – The best bet is to submit your book to as many online book reviewers who review your genre as you possibly can. Finding these reviewers will take a bit of work, but it is well worth the effort.

You can find reviewers by searching Google or Yahoo for “Book Reviewers” or “Book Review Blogs.”  Make sure you read their submission guidelines before submitting your book. I have found that many book bloggers do not take e-books, and some will not review independent authors.

You can also check out forums relating to your book topic to find someone to review your book or even e-mail other reviewers who have reviewed similar books on Amazon or Goodreads.

Reviewers are also often bombarded by review requests daily. They may not be accepting new requests or have a long back list of to-be-read selections. Even if they do agree to review your book, it may be several months before the review appears online.

Some reviewers will list their review on Amazon and Goodreads while others will only post it on their website. If they don’t put it on Amazon, you can still pull a quote from their review to include in your book description.

3.) Paying for a Review – I don’t suggest this method at all but there are sites where you can pay to have reviews written. There are more than enough readers out there willing to write a review for just a free copy of your book that you shouldn’t have to pay for a review Plus paying for a review is not an objective opinion of your book and readers will not give it the same credibility as other reviews.

When it comes to book reviews, the more the better. So devote some time into recruiting people to review your book. Once you have some reviews, make sure you are using those reviews or quotes from those reviews in your marketing campaign.

If anyone loves dragons, cats and sword fighting and would like to review my book on Amazon, Goodreads or Barnes and Noble, I would be willing to provide a free copy. Contact me through my “About Me” page.