Writing the end of a novel… There’s nothing more satisfying–and more challenging–than writing the final chapter of your novel, particularly if that novel is the final one in an ongoing series. More than likely, you’ve been imagining those final scenes in your head for a long time, working your way toward them, making sure all the pieces fall into place so that “The End” is as emotionally satisfying for your readers as it is for you, the author.
Writing the End of a Novel Brings Pressure
But when you are getting close to writing the end of a novel, there’s also a lot of pressure. Conflicts to resolve. Plot threads to tie up. Important references to bring back in. Reader expectations to live up to. Deep breath…
For a series, I think it’s a good idea to keep a list of open plot threads and make sure they’re addressed by the time you reach “The End.” That doesn’t mean they all have to be resolved entirely–maybe you purposely want to leave some open-ended. Still, it’s good to at least make sure you’ve covered your bases and addressed the unanswered questions, even if the answer you leave readers with is “I just don’t know.”
I also think it’s important when writing the end of a novel to think back to the book’s (or series’, if it’s the last) opening and try to find a way to sort of “come full circle” and harken back to something–a theme, an image, a character trait–in some meaningful way. For instance, if your series opens with a reveal of your main character showing that she’s nervous, anxious, and shy–but by the end of the series she has grown into a more confident, kick-ass kind of protagonist, then leave us with an image showing that transformation. If your first scene in a post-apocalyptic novel is your main character gazing up at his luxury New York City high-rise, then consider showing us that same image in the final scenes–the same high-rise, now crumbled amidst a city of rubble and ash. Little touches like this help illustrate the journey your characters have gone through over the course of your novel/series, reminding readers of the growth or personal change the characters have experienced.
It’s Hard to Say Goodbye
And yes, it’s often hard when writing the end of a novel to say goodbye to your characters and your world. I think some series go on far too long, simply because the author doesn’t want to leave the comfort of the world they’ve created and the characters they’ve come to love (or hate!). When this happens, sometimes a string of middle books start feeling like “filler,” books that don’t actually move the plot toward the ultimate resolution in any meaningful way. This is why I think it’s very important to have a clear picture of your overall story arc before beginning a series, pinpointing exactly what’s going to be accomplished (or perhaps set back), goal-wise, in each volume. Planning is key.
Still, I understand that feeling of wanting to hold on to your characters as long as possible. It is hard to say goodbye. Right now, I’m finishing up ETERNAL, the final version in my Winterhaven trilogy. I’ve already written the final scene, and now I’m going back and working towards it–about 15,000 more words to go before I can officially write “The End” and hand it over to my editor.
I started writing the first book, HAVEN, back in 2005. I didn’t focus on it or finish it for several years after that, and it wasn’t published until 2011. Still, the cast of characters has been with me–living in my head–for almost eight years. That’s a long time to hang with imaginary people, watching them grow and change and fall in love. Over the course of writing ETERNAL, I’ve already had to say permanent good-byes to two characters, and trust me, tears were involved (I know, it sounds a little mental–but fellow writers will understand!).
And the weirdest part? In a couple of weeks I will be done with the book–and therefore done with the series, the characters, and the Winterhaven world. I will have to move on to the next book–a completely unrelated realistic fiction young adult novel. And yet….it won’t be done for readers, not for a while. And then I’ll have to re-visit “The End” all over again.
Writing the end of a novel? Bittersweet!
Kristi’s YA debut, HAVEN, was released by Simon Pulse in Feb. 2011. She also writes adult fiction (historical romance) as Kristina Cook and Kristi Astor. Visit her online at www.kristi-cook.com.
Thanks for the advice!
Robin t Vale
I think I finally get the ’round circle’ thing’, the taking how they wereand showing how they and their world had changed. When other blogs taled about this all tgey said was tske something from the beginning of the book and put in the ending.
Wah? Take what the scenery?
You made me understand that duh, character development! Ohh….
So thank you, I’ve bookmarked your blog.