Friday, April 29, 2011

Revising the Ending

I've been trying to revise the ending of my middle grade novel because I want it to be really amazing. What I had before was okay, but not memorable enough. I'm working on making it stronger and I thought I'd share a couple of the questions I've been asking myself.

What does the reader want to happen? How much of that do I want to show the reader?

I think that part of creating an emotionally satisfying ending is to give the reader a lot of what they want to happen. That doesn't mean I have to do it in a straightforward way. I can throw in some unexpected twists. Since I write MG, I think my readers do want a mostly happy ending. They want the heroine come out as a winner and the bad guys get punished. The main character should mostly get what she wants.

Thinking this way also shows me which scenes will be most important to the reader. Those are the scenes I don't want to sum up in a few lines or rush through. I can create suspense and stretch out those scenes to build up more of an emotional impact.

What is the simplest ending that will work for my story?
I want to wrap up most of the the loose ends so the reader can feel the problems are resolved. Even though I'm throwing in some unexpected twists, I think the book will be strongest if it ends without too much complexity.
After all, if the route to the final scene is too convoluted, the reader will get caught up in following the thought process instead of the emotional experience.

What questions do you ask yourself when you're revising the ending?


  1. I've just finished revising the ending of mine. My agent said she didn't know what she's looking for just, "more." Which I thought wasn't too helpful, but then I had an epiphany while hiking and now I think she's brilliant!
    Digging deeper is always a great thing! Good luck.

  2. The ending of mine wraps everything up, but then, in the very last paragraph, there's a twist that makes readers know there's more to come. I've had a ton of good feedback on that ending.

    Do what feels right.

  3. Does my story stand alone, i.e. is it good enough to carry the reader though the entire book, or do I rely on my characters too much.
    Story is key… when I write I tend to make my manuscripts “character driven” which is not bad, IF the story is strong and intriguing.

    I want an ending that makes me sit up and eagerly turn the page. And you’re right, it should tie up all lose ends; the reader should feel satisfied by the conclusion, not more confused.

    Will my book stay with the reader long after the close of the book?

  4. I wrote two endings to my novel... the first w/a not-so-happy ending, the second givng the reader what they might want to happen. I went with the latter.

    Recently, when I told my critique group about the not-so-happy ending, their response was, "Oh, no!"

    I think I picked the right ending.... :-)

  5. Terry, I always want to get to a deeper level of meaning, but sometimes I think it's part of what takes so long about writing.

    Anita, it sounds like you have a great ending!

    Jeff, great questions! The ending definitely should be a page-turner.

    Maria, I'm glad you got good feedback on your ending. I definitely think readers need to have at least some of what they want.

  6. Ohh, what great advice! It's definitely hard to strike a balance between giving readers what they want and ending the book in a way that's true to your own vision. But THINKING about and acknowledging what readers want, even if you don't give them exactly that, is such a useful way to consider endings.

    I've been recently told my ending was a little too happy given the content of my book. So my advice would be to consider what type of ending is appropriate to the tone you've set (like you say, MG books usually have fairly happy endings).

  7. Yes, I think that is the hardest part of the revision process is knowing how to dig and where to dig. You really broke it down so well.


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