How to Get the Most from Your Ending
Writers know that the opening chapter must hook the reader, but that’s only half the battle because the ending of your book is just as important as the opening.
An ending doesn’t just close a story. It does more than that – it ties up all the loose ends, it closes those subplots and gives the reader a satisfactory ending to a good story. But more importantly the ending serves to sell your next book because if the reader enjoyed the story, they will want to read more of what you can offer.
The thing about endings, however, is that they are probably the most difficult things to get right because the ending of a novel isn’t always clear at the time of writing it. Sometimes the ending only becomes apparent as the story unfolds, while other writers have at least some idea how it might end.
To get the most from your ending, it must accomplish several things – it must make sense and relate directly to the plot, without sounding convoluted. It must answer all the questions the story has posed, so it also has to tie up those loose ends and ensure subplots are not left open. Lastly, make sure the ending is satisfactory.
Make it logical – The kind of ending you choose depends entirely on the story, but whichever way it ends, it must be logical to the reader. Everything that takes place within the story must logically link to the ending. The actions of the main characters will form the basis of the ending, but must be believable. Don’t create deus ex machina or make the narrative contrived in order to try to force the ending. If you’ve taken the time to plan your story, then an ending that makes sense shouldn’t be too difficult.
There’s nothing worse than the main character doing something really crazy or completely uncharacteristic to bring about the end of the novel. It can spoil an otherwise enjoyable story, so avoid doing this.
Relate it to the plot – Ensure that all the events that lead to the ending relate directly to the plot. Many writers make the mistake of going off at different tangents, which means the ending sometimes bears no relation to the main plot. Everything has to relate to each other; otherwise it won’t be a cohesive story.
Tie up loose ends – All the clues and hints and questions need to be resolved. Many writers forget about all these (especially if they’ve created a complex story). In other words, don’t leave the reader guessing about the murder weapon in chapter 30, which is then never mentioned again. Or the shadowy character that appears in chapter 15, but then is forgotten about.
If you don’t tie up loose ends, you could cause confusion, and the reader won’t thank you for it.
Wrap up the subplots – Just like the main story, any subplot you have must also be satisfactorily dealt with. Don’t leave any of these unresolved or ‘hanging’ in mid-air because the story as a whole will not be complete, and the reader will be left wondering what happened with the characters involved in that particular subplot. This is why it’s a good reason not to have too many subplots. Keep them to a manageable amount.
Satisfactory ending – The denouement must conclude in an acceptable and reasonable way. The ending must fit the story in such a way that the reader will accept it completely; it needs to feel right rather than feel forced. The reader should feel that the ending was the right one, and it will complete their enjoyment of the book.
Don’t overcomplicate – Writers have a habit of making the simple into something complicated. Endings don’t have to be made overcomplicated or over-explained, otherwise it can become messy or it could spoil the momentum and pace. Keep things simple. Don't spend three pages afterward explaining why or how things happened. This just spoils the conclusion to the story.
Instead, the ending really should be 'the end'.
A great ending to your novel should make sense to reader; it should be plausible and it should be the most satisfactory ending for the story. But however it ends, it needs to be right.