Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 14, 2014

Tips on Writing Endings

plotandstructureI bought James Scott Bell’s book, WRITE GREAT FICTION – PLOT & STRUCTURE. Yesterday I was reading his chapter on endings and thought I would share some of the things he talked about. Obviously, this does not include everything in the chapter, but it might give you some food for thought and a little taste of whether you would find the book of value to you.

“Your first chapter sells your book. Your last chapter sells your NEXT book.” – Mickey Sillane

“A weak ending can ruin an otherwise wonderful book. A strong ending can redeem and otherwise mediocre book. So take your endings seriously. Wrap up your books so they knock your readers out.” – Scott Bell.

Your last page is the last impression you leave on your audience. Your book will be judged largely by the feeling evoked at the end. Leave a lasting impression and you will build your readership.

Leave your reader with a last page that makes the ending more satisfying. You want it to be memorable, to stay with readers after the book is closed. Think of the last note of a magnificent symphony that produces a feeling that affixes itself to the soul.

The challenge is to keep your readers from thinking, “I’ve seen this so many times before.” But with each passing year more and more books, movies, and TV shows are throwing out more endings into pop culture. What was once fresh may now be getting a little stale. Bottom line: We need to work on them with all our creative juices.

Don’t rush! It is easy to do this when you get to the end and just want to complete your novel.


1. Positive ending

2. Ambiguous ending

3. Negative ending


1. The protagonist gets what he wants, but the end result is bad.

2. The protagonist doesn’t get what he wants, but the end result is good.


1. Scott Bell suggests that as you get closer to the end of your first draft, pause and come up with ten different endings. This shouldn’t take weeks. It should take less than 30 minutes. Don’t worry about justifying everyone of them. Then let the possibilities cook for a few days.

2. Take the top four and deepen them a little and then let them cook some more.

3. Choose the one alternative ending that seems to work best as a twist – not an alternative ending at all, but an added surprise.

4. Figure out how to work that into your ending, and then go back into your novel and justify it somehow by planting little clues here and there. This is your twist.

Some Other Things To Do:

Make a list of all the loose ends in you novel. You can do this as you write by keeping a separate document and recording the items as they come up. This will help you create a strategy for typing them up with plot developments, minor characters, or using a newspaper.

First determine what loose ends or threads are crucial or ancillary.

A Major thread: Usually needs a major scene or a series of scenes to deal with it.

Minor threads: A character explanation may suffice.

Dialogue: You can use dialogue to end your book. Last line – can even be one word – something that ties the beginning chapters with the end.

Description:  Setting or character – even a gesture from a character can sum up feelings.

Think Big: Don’t pull your punches. You can always scale back during the rewrite and consider very word with the next draft.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Like the reminder to “Think big.” Going back to do ten endings for some of the pb manuscripts that weren’t shining their brightest yet. 🙂


    • Wendy,

      It sounds like a good idea to try. Let me know if it works out for you.



  2. Love this post. Thanks for sharing! 🙂


    • Isabella,

      Thanks for letting me know you enjoyed the post. I’ll try to do more like it in the future.



  3. Wow! This is good stuff! Thank you.


    • Susan,

      I thought writers would like the information. Thanks for letting me know.



  4. Thanks for this post. This is a book that is on my TBR list. I think I will move it up.


    • Rosi,

      I am happy I bought it. He give examples from books and movies when he is talking about something and that helps, too.



  5. I purchased this book last year. It’s chock full of great writing tips. 🙂


  6. Hey, I’m reading this book too-but I haven’t gotten to “the end” yet. Thanks for sharing what I have to look forward to. Great post!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: