I hope that my writing tips will give you pause for thought, help develop your writing or even provide a hint of inspiration. Come back soon to see the next tip.
If starting your novel feels like climbing Everest then the descent should be a doddle just a roll downhill, shouldn’t it? Would it were that easy. Somewhere towards the end of the narrative a solution becomes possible. Happy, sad, open or closed, it has to end somewhere. With crime, it’s who done it and why. With romantic drama, a will they or won’t they relationship is sealed or not.
A reader has invested hours and emotion in following the plotline and characters so we do them great injustice if the ending is abrupt with a pile of loose ends not resolved like the deus ex machina of the Greek tragedies when some God came down in his chariot to sort it all out.
It may not be the perfect happy ever after ( my own books seldom achieve this, I admit) but there must be hope surely or why bother? I know some friends who on deciding on a book must read the last page to see if it looks good or not. A bit extreme perhaps but everyone makes different choices when choosing to invest time in a novel.
Finding a good ending is a nightmare at times. The characters are so real to us we want them to live a decent life after the last page is shut. Did they accept their lot? Walk away from their life or change themselves and others in the process?
So what makes a good ending? For me it’s watching the main characters taking a journey through their situation, making mistakes and somehow overcoming difficulties enough for some of their dreams to be fulfilled so they begin another journey.
Characters live on if you care for them. Think of Dickens’s immortal Uriah Heep, Betsy Trotwood, Mr Micawber et al. Your heroes may not have got all they wanted but they have grown into wiser stronger people.
There is usually a moment of revelation, a crisis, a “penny drop” situation when they must make a critical decision, discovering another side to themselves, forgiving themselves for not being perfect. When they change, they change the world around them and are more at peace.
It’s important then that all the main players like sheep are gathered in leaving no loose ends. Loose ends can of course be deliberate if there is to be a sequel. Jeffrey Archer is brilliant at leaving a hook to his next book.
It’s basic stuff; hero and heroine get it together, the villain is caught and punished, the adventurer reaches his goal and finds his “holy grail” and the best of all are those little twists that make us gasp at the unexpected.
The worst sort of ending is the one we guessed right from the beginning with its predictable showdown or sailing away into the sunset. Not knowing when to leave the party can spoil an ending too by waffling on and on. Once the dilemma is solved, the crisis averted, lovers united, time to make a sharp exit. It isn’t always possible to leave the solution to the very last page but worth having a go.
One of the signs that I’m enjoying a good book is slowing down my reading deliberately because I don’t want it to end. Other times the hook to finish and find out is too strong.
It is not unusual for a writer to sense when the book is almost finished because another idea starts to rise over the horizon with all its possibilities intact. That ‘s the “rolling down the hill towards the end in sight” bit tinged with sadness to be on the last lap and leaving those characters to fend for themselves. Parting is such sweet sorrow.
Why is t very last paragraph one of the hardest to work over unless I find to my relief that I’ve written it somewhere in my notes months ago? Some great writers can write the last paragraph before they write the first . Would I could be like Beethoven whose last bars leave you in no doubt that this is the end on the piece. I will keep trying…