A novel ending is a powerful moment for any writer. Your final words to your reader. You want to get it just right. You don’t want to blow it. A novel ending is one of the most important scenes in your entire novel. It has the potential to really sell your novel. Your beginning will keep your reader from putting the book down, but a good ending will leave the reader satisfied. A poor ending will disappoint the reader, dimming any of the novel’s other strengths.
But what makes a good novel ending? You don’t want to end your novel too soon or go on too long. You want your last words to have an impact and resonate with the reader. But where is that sweet spot between ending too soon or too late? And how do you create an ending that will stick with the reader?
3 Powerful Elements Every Novel Ending Should Include
A Novel Ending Shouldn’t Leave Anything Unresolved
There is nothing more disappointing than a novel that gets the reader excited about a plot twist or character development only to leave them hanging. If you start something that could change the plot, be sure to finish it. Suppose your character enters a photography contest. Don’t end the novel without the character receiving the results of the contest. If your character is always buying lottery tickets, don’t end the novel without explaining why the character did that or what resulted from all those purchased tickets. Or, if your character collects stamps, don’t end the novel without explaining the significance.
The same thing goes with character development. If a reader is expecting a character to overcome an obstacle or develop a new skill, make sure that happens. Maybe your character loses their job or has a loved one die. Don’t end the novel without showing the reader how that obstacle changed them. If your character starts taking piano lessons or joins a knitting circle, don’t end the novel until the reader understands why those skills were important.
If nothing is left unresolved, your novel won’t end too early.
A Novel Ending Shouldn’t Wrap Everything All Up
Wait, you’re thinking, didn’t I just tell you not to leave anything unresolved. That doesn’t mean you have to wrap it all up too perfectly. Especially if you are writing a series. I had a teacher who would always say if you wrap it up too well, you’ve started the sequel. Let’s go back to the example of the photography contest. You can let the reader know there was a resolution, but don’t tell them exactly what happened. So, the novel could end with the character receiving the letter containing the results of the contest. This way everything is resolved; the reader knows the contest ended and the results were received. But, you can let the reader decide if the character won the contest or not. If the novel is well written, you won’t need to tell the reader the results of the photography contest. They’ll know and be able to imagine it for themselves.
Or, if you do want to let the reader know that the character won the contest, end the novel there. Don’t go on to have the character win a scholarship or some huge prize and make loads of money and never have to work again. Don’t tie your ending up into the perfect package and put a bow on it. Let the reader picture something for themselves. Or save it for the sequel. The next book could start with the character at a fine arts school or quitting her job to become a photographer.
If you wrap it up too well, you’ll have ended your novel too late and you won’t be able to have a lasting impact on the reader.
A Novel Ending Should Leave the Reader Thinking
My favorite novels are the ones that leave me thinking. We kind of touched on this with the photography example, but you can leave the reader thinking by letting them imagine the details of the ending. This is a great way to make a novel more relatable because the reader can imagine an ending that is realistic for the reader or how the reader would respond if it was them. If your novel incorporates an important theme or topic, which hopefully it does, then you can leave the novel ending in a way that encourages the reader to see the topic in a new way or that makes them question the stance they take on a certain issue.
How do you know when your novel is done? Comment below and be sure to save this post to Pinterest for future novel endings or if you’re not ready to work on your current WIP’s ending.