Updated: Jan 9, 2022
Professional book editor in the UK explains how to write a satisfying ending to your novel!
There's nothing worse than being gripped by the first few chapters of a new book, getting invested in the story throughout the middle, but feeling disappointed by an unsatisfying ending.
So far, I haven't been 'disappointed' with any of the manuscripts I've edited, as they've all been brilliant in their own way, but there have been a few that fell a little flat towards the end compared to the beginning, which I've hopefully fixed!
Yes, it's impossible for any author to impress every single reader, especially if they have a huge fan base, but there are certainly a few basic rules to follow if you want your ending to be as enjoyable as the beginning and middle!
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1. Give the Reader a Huge Climax - No Pun Intended!
Excuse the pun, but you need to give the reader an explosive climax that leads to a satisfying ending. In other words, write exactly what you've been building up to throughout the story.
For example, if you're writing a historical novel about a war between two kingdoms, maybe you could write a huge battle scene in the climax to crown a winning side. After the battle, you could write a final chapter to show how the winning kingdom recovered after the fight, leaving the reader with closure.
On the other hand, if you're writing a romance, maybe the two lovers could finally kiss or express their feelings for each other, leaving the reader satisfied that they'll hopefully live happily ever after.
2. Let the Protagonist Solve the Big Problems
Sometimes, a writer will create an obstacle that the main characters can't possibly solve, so they have no choice but to get another minor character to come to the rescue.
For example, perhaps in the climax of your fantasy novel, your three main characters get trapped in a dark dungeon with the threat of execution the following morning, but instead of coming up with a unique way for them to escape, a random minor character comes out of nowhere and just happens to have the keys.
This scenario is a little flat, and it's obvious that the writer maybe couldn't think of a clever way for the characters to get out, but as a result, this could lead to an unsatisfying ending.
So, it's important to let your main characters solve most of the big problems, otherwise your readers will think they're useless, especially if they're rescued by other characters over and over again.
3. Keep the Timeline Consistent
This one may sound obvious, but there have been a few manuscripts that have had significant time-jumps towards the end, which have created an anti-climax and made the overall story fall a little flat.
For example, let's pretend you've written a romance novel that follows two people throughout their new relationship. The beginning and middle of the novel may follow the new couple over the course of a few months, for instance, but the last three chapters are set months apart, with each one focusing on future events - e.g., a wedding, the birth of a child, a holiday or a significant celebration.
While it's okay to write an epilogue set years after the end of the novel to add extra closure, the final chapters that lead up to the initial ending shouldn't time-jump more than a few days to a week.
Significant time-jumps at the end of a novel will only leave your readers feeling like they've missed parts of the story, therefore leaving them unsatisfied!
Related Post: Is Your Inciting Incident Strong Enough?
4. Actually End the Story
Again, it may sound obvious to end the story at the end of your novel, but some writers think it's a good idea to leave readers with a cliffhanger to make them want more.
However, this only pisses readers off as they'll only have read half or three-quarters of the story, which isn't what they signed up for at the start.
It's fine to leave the reader with little hints at a sequel, but you need to end each individual story even if you've planned 6 books in the series, otherwise you'll successfully leave your audience unsatisfied.
I understand that some writers end up with a manuscript so long they need to chop it into two or three separate books, but if that's you, you need to be so careful that you don't end each narrative bluntly and make readers think "is that it?"
If you have a super long manuscript, it's best to get feedback from beta readers and book editors who may be able to advise on where to divide the story, but never end on a massive cliffhanger!
Thank you for reading to the end of this post, it really means a lot and I always try to produce helpful content for writers like you! :)
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Hey! I'm Chelsea and I'm a professional book editor at Stand Corrected Editing, my independent editorial business in the UK. If you would like to have your manuscript thoroughly edited by myself, please get in touch!
With my book editing and proofreading services, I hope to spread my knowledge and expertise on how to make your novel a success, and be a mentor to others who desperately want to pursue a fruitful career as an author!