I can’t believe that I am writing the end to my novel. Poppy Swings has been a project that I have been working on for a number of years, but just recently dedicated myself to seeing it through to completion. Completion is close and I am so excited for the next phase of this project I can hardly stand it. Query letters, rejections, and suggestions await. But for now, I’m focusing on completion.
As I wrap up Poppy Swings, the pendulum has swung on writing fiercely or staring at my computer screen. I haven’t had trouble envisioning the plot or conclusion, but the path to get there was a bit hazy. Sometimes I got overwhelmed by wrapping up loose ends or wrapping up a character’s part in the story, but luckily I had some resources to remind me to remain faithful to my vision. Google and Pinterest will lead you to a slew of articles on completing a novel. Here are FOUR of my favorites:
- How to end a story: Write satisfying closing chapters (Bridget McNulty)
Bridget McNulty is the person behind the Now Novel website. What I absolutely adored about this piece (horrendous typos excluded) was that she dissects this idea of satisfaction by referencing classic authors like Orwell, Kafka, and Joyce. She even offers up a classic novel that she doesn’t think offers an appropriate ending. She challenges Little Women by offering speculation on why Alcott may have written the ending the way that she did. All in all, McNulty’s advice resides in remaining true to the characters created as the core of reader satisfaction.
- How to Write the Ending of Your Novel (Joanna Penn)
Joanna Penn (as an aspiring author I am completely jealous of her last name, by the way) runs the Creative Penn website. This is a down and dirty quick list of what is expected and what you should avoid. My favorite piece of advice that saved one of my chapters: “Don’t use sappy extraneous contemplation. This is the big problem with the ending of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol. The last chapter or two is just watching the sun rise and thinking about the experience. Boring and pointless.” It’s easy to fall into that trap if your novel’s aim is on character development and change. Don’t tell us or have the character tell us how they have changed. Show us in scenes. It was a nice reminder as I wrap up.
- How to End a Novel With a Punch (James V. Smith)
Writer’s Digest is the holy mecca of information for aspiring writers. Smith’s piece offers up lots of questions for authors to ponder. He urges writers to leave their readers satisfied, yes, but more so that they will walk away after putting the book down and recommend it. And how will they do that? By appreciating the ending. Noting is worse than investing time into a book only to feel betrayed at the end. My favorite question from Smith:
“Does the heroic character learn an important lesson? Your hero’s scars cost him something, but he also wears them like badges of learning. A reader who walks away from the novel with a so-what attitude will kill you in the word-of-mouth department.”
- The Dos and Don’ts of Novel Endings (James V. Smith)
Another piece from Writer’s Digest and by James Smith gives you some quick ‘rules’ or wrapping up a novel. While I didn’t find this piece as thought provoking as the previous piece Smith wrote, I did find some affirmation in one of my creative decisions: “Do mirror your final words to events in your opener. When you begin a journey of writing a novel, already having established a destination, it’s much easier to make calculated detours, twists and turns in your storytelling tactics. When you reach the ending, go back to ensure some element in each of your complications will point to it. It’s the tie-back tactic. You don’t have to telegraph the finish. Merely create a feeling that the final words hearken to an earlier moment in the story.”