I like beginnings. Always have. Always will.
This carries over to my writing. The beginning of a story comes easily, with the first line or scene floating into my brain.
Endings are harder because fiction — unlike life — promises to tie everything together by the time the story ends.
Gosh. That’s a big promise.
There’s a saying in publishing: “The beginning sells your current book. The ending sells your next.” In other words, the beginning and the ending should make the reader want to keep reading.
Because I plot my books ahead of time, I generally know how they need to end. It just takes me a while to figure out how to write it. Since my books are humorous, my endings should be at least mildly amusing, which adds to the challenge.
Because I find endings difficult, I’ve thought and read a lot about them. Here is what I’ve found that works for me.
- Romance fiction always ends with a HEA (happy ever after). It’s the law (at least of romance). Other types of fiction may have more leeway. I would argue this presents a unique set of challenges. We have to reach that HEA, yet make the ending believable and entertaining.
- Avoid clichés. Too many people already believe romance is a cliché. Don’t give them ammunition. And please don’t end with the couple staring off into the sunset. Just don’t.
- Tie up major loose endings, at least the ones relating to the main characters. You may want to leave readers wondering what happens to one or two of the minor cast members. Sequel, anyone?
- Speaking of characters. Make sure the ending fits yours. If your hero is a tough, alpha kind of guy, and he and the female lead are in conflict over how to raise their child, it would be out of character if the book ends with them deciding he’ll be Mister Mom so she can pursue her career. Result? Readers will feel cheated, and they won’t want to read your next book. Not a HEA for anyone.
- If you resolve the conflict with compromise, make it a compromise. Please (I beg you!) don’t have the woman suddenly give in on everything. You’ll break my heart.
- Tying the book’s end to its beginning can be both satisfying and effective. I like books that end this way, so I tend to use the same strategy.
- If you’re still stuck, try brainstorming with your critique partners or other writer friends. The suggestions may get silly (especially if you’re enjoying a glass or two of wine during the brainstorming session), but these are people who know how you write. They’re likely to have an idea or two that you can use.
How about you? What kind of endings do you like? If you’re a writer, do you find endings or beginnings easier? What’s the best (or worst) advice you’ve ever gotten on beginnings and endings? Leave a comment and tell all.