I remember one of my first critiques with an editor. I spent the ten of the fifteen minutes telling him my wonderful, fantastic, post-apocalyptic story (this was before everyone else was writing them). Of course he told me it wouldn’t sell and I thought it was the storyline, but when I told him the ending, he lost it.
I mean he actually yelled at me. And I’ll never forget what he said, “No one wants to invest time in reading a 300-page book only to find out it was all a dream. Change the ending. Make it real.”
And so I did, but at the time I was a teacher with tests to create and correct, lesson plans to design, parent conferences, mandated meetings etc…… and so by the time I did rewrite the book, you guessed it……everybody was writing post-apocalyptic.
And so my story still remains in my computer file, but the experience did serve to teach me a valuable lesson……….
ENDINGS ARE EVERYTHING!!!! At least when you are writing stories.
The ending is in your head all the time you are crafting words and ultimately driving toward the finish. You make sure your characters are in place for the fantastic ending. Or it may be a surprise ending with unexpected twists, but the thing to keep in mind is that the ending is what you’ve been selling the whole time you wrote.
And the editor was right. The ending is why the reader invests their valuable time to read your story and if it isn't good they feel like they wasted their time and may not read another thing you write.
So what is a good ending?
In a nutshell… SATISFACTION
It should resolve the conflict.
Tie up the main storyline and secondary storylines.
It should grow organically out of the plot and actions.
How do you know if your ending is a good one?
The answer is CHANGE!
Obvious, right? When you finish your novel, or even your picture book, you should go back to reread and even sometimes rewrite your beginning because the ending MUST reflect the beginning only a definite CHANGE must take place. And it doesn’t just change at the end. Your ending reflects all the changes that took place in your story, the growth of your character and the decisions he/she made. The conflicts they overcame.
One of the worst mistakes a writer can make is to just end the story without any real change taking place. When you write, you make promises to the reader, from the very first paragraph, even the very first sentence (but that’s another topic). You had better deliver those promises at the end.
Here is an example of the first paragraph of my novel, RATGIRL: Song of the Viper and the last. Do they connect? Each one of these lines makes a promise to the reader that by the end, circumstances will have changed.
Whoever said the teen years were the best of a girl's life didn't come from
Metro City. Hell, they can't imagine what it's like to be me, living in a sewer
tunnel by day, and foraging the forest for food or scavenging through
abandoned mansions at night. Anything I find that I can't use to survive
this hellhole I trade for money.
And here is the last paragraph.
I continue. "Tomorrow is July 22, 2511. It's the first day of our new lives."
Andy and Nyla get to know Colt and I contemplate what tomorrow
may bring. As our new lives start, I can't help but think Culpepper will also
be starting a new life, one he never envisioned for himself—stinking and
dowsed in darkness, scratching through the alleys to sniff out morsels of
food—the life of a rat!
Look at your beginning and then check your ending. Make sure they match and most importantly, that you delivered the change you promised.
Next topic in the Author'a A,B, C's is FORMATTING.