Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Our job as writers is to reach readers mentally and emotionally. That doesn’t mean simply hooking them at the beginning and hoping they’ll continue to read the rest of the book. We have to follow through and give them not only a riveting beginning and a tantalizing middle, but also an unforgettable ending. We don’t want our readers to feel cheated or that they invested so much time reading the story only to be disappointed by the conclusion.

Good endings sell books. Readers feel emotionally gratified and want others to share that sensation, so they recommend the book to their friends. Not to mention, a satisfied reader will watch for our next novel.

Let’s look at common ending mistakes made by writers.

The Summary: This gives the appearance that the writer is anxious to finish the story and instead of taking the time to show readers how the story concludes, he sums it up in a few pages, paragraphs, or in an epilogue.

The Unbelievable: Conveniently, the villain is swept away by a hurricane and the lovers can now be together. This ending isn’t satisfying because readers want to see the hero/heroine overcome obstacles own their own not by some higher power or coincidence.

Complications: If the author hasn’t set the scene, complications in the last part of the book can throw readers out of the story. Readers want to feel as though they could’ve predicted the ending because the hints were there, even if they didn’t necessarily pick up on them until after they finished reading the book.

Loose Ends: While it’s all right to leave some loose ends, all important plot elements must be resolved by the end of the book (unless a loose end is left as a hook for the next book in a series).

Tomorrow, we’ll look at ending do’s.

Can you think of any other ending mistakes? How do bad endings make you feel?


  1. I really dislike books that just fall flat at the end, like the author didn't know when/how to stop.

  2. This is a wonderful post! I read all the time how sections 3 (beginning, middle, and end) have to stay consistant and interesting, and mostly believable for the particular story.

    If you can't find your own balance, neither will the reader. I know I'm debating on my ending, possibly adding some more pages.

    Can't wait to see tomorrow's!

  3. Great post. I'll tell you the ending I really hate:

    The Cliffhangar. That will make me hunt down an author and smack them around for being stupid. I don't, as a reader, agree to reading your book only to have it NOT end at the end!

    Readers definitely like to feel smart. You do need to lay the foundation for later reveals and the ending is included in that. It's the biggest reveal of all, when you think about it. The ending is the big answer to teh question What Happens to Main Character(s)?

  4. i just read a great series of posts over at the faithandforensics blog by Brandilyn Collins...really got me thinking, esp. since she writes mystery and suspense...check it out. :)

  5. Bad endings annoy me and sometimes can make me not want to read another book by that author.

  6. I generally read series, so if there aren't some lose ends at the end, I'm disappointed. But there definitely needs to be some resolution.

    There was a historical romance author I really enjoyed...up to the end of her books. Then it was like a timer went off and she just threw something together. There was no emotional pay off. I hate the deus ex machinas. An author will introduce a character solely for the use of creating an ending. Or this ending I just read: the heroine had amnesia and the next chapter starts up three weeks later when she wakes from a coma. All the loose ends were tied up. Its a series so the amnesia worked to set up the next book, but still just a hair cheesy.

  7. Great timing on this post, as I am just getting to my WIP's ending! Thanks for the tips!

  8. I won't comment about one of the worst endings I've ever read about a bunch of vampires. No, my lips are sealed on that...

    Anyway, yeah, endings are important. In fact, with my first book, my ending is the proudest moment for me. I've rewritten it about 50 times, and finally got it to the point that worked so well everybody always comments that it's great. It's my favorite part of the whole book! So yes, I understand about endings needing to be great. I tend to think they are one of the biggest points of the book!

  9. Good post. I like endings that satisfy me and don't leave me hanging or hate the author for doing that:)

  10. I really hate unnatural endings. Endings that feel forced, and don't seem to be in line with the characters.

  11. I agree with you in principal, but good endings don't sell books good marketing does. It's that simple.

  12. Endings that feel rushed or forced simply ruin the experience of the rest of the book for me. I recently read a pretty decent book that I was ready to recommend to others... until the end. When it was over, I nearly threw it across the room in frustration because it seemed: forced, rushed, and there were so many loose ends I could have knit a sweater out of them.

    I'm currently writing the last 5k words in my 75k WIP... and struggling to do it right. I imagine this will come with several rewrites before it's anywhere even close to how I want it to be...