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Tips on Strong Endings

Endings can make or break a novel. A lot of attention is placed on openings in novels, especially for those entering contests like Pitch Wars. This results is many novels having kick ass openings that lose something along the way.

Namely the ending.

I’m going to focus on romance novels here, because that is what I know. A romance novel ending has two important features, sometimes interwoven, sometimes separate: climax and black moment.

A novel’s climax is the most intense point, where everything the plot has been working towards unfolds in one way or another.

A novel’s black moment is the instance where all is lost between the romantic couple, and HEA (Happy Every After) appears unattainable.

Getting these two points right is no easy task. It’s an area I’ve worked at and reworked at over and over as my craft has grown. An area I will continue to work at.

In order to get them right, there are a few things to be mindful of. The first of which is lag. Often times, a climax/black moment happens too soon, before the ultimate resolution of all plot points. So the story continues as loose ends are tied up, and the reader slowly loses interest. Conversely, if the build up to the climax/black moment doesn’t have the right impact, the ending will hum along, without the urgency to get to the end, and the HEA.

So the climax/black moment has to be intense, and lead to a satisfying resolution. I know some authors that I love their voice, but the endings always leave me not quite satisfied. In this case I think things are wrapped up too quickly, without enough time to truly appreciate the couple coming together and everything they’ve overcome.

Which leads into personal preferences, of course, but what I might see as too quick for me, might be really too quick for all if not executed correctly.

So be mindful of your beats, of where certain events are occurring in the novel. Use beta readers and critique partners. Listen if they tell you the ending isn’t quite right. Think of your ending as the LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD. The entire book, he “thinks he’s can” get up that hill, all the toys help him in that pursuit, until, finally, he’s over the hill and all the boys and girls get their toys. Your story is climbing a hill. Make sure there’s that peak, and drop off the reader just on the other side, not all the way back to the base.

Black moment. Ahh, black moment, it needs to be kick ass. My editor pushed me to do better in my novel, which involved torturing my characters. Oh, yes, torturing characters is a real thing! A romance thrives on that ultimate conflict that rips the characters apart, and the more intense this moment is, the more satisfying the eventual resolution becomes. A black moment needs to be believable, based on the characters situations and personalities. But not too harsh that the reader doesn’t wonder why s/he forgave him/her!

There can be some lag after the black moment, but only if the momentum holds. At this point a reader wants them together, desperately so, each scene needs to be of outmost importance—but, hey, what scene doesn’t?—and plot strung out just enough to get whichever character needs to get their head on straight fixed. Then, make up, kiss, HEA!

It’s the darkest part of the novel, when the reader wants to hug the characters and mush them together. This can be a second peak from the climax. In this case the reader has made it over that initial hump, thinks they are climbing down the hill, but, bam, nope, there’s the incline again! The rollercoaster is not over yet!

And, it really should be a rollercoaster at the end. Full of ups and down, speed and adrenalin. I love a HEA, love seeing characters together and living their lives. That’s not for the ending.

When you work on your novels, don’t just pay attention to the beginning. Yes, those first few words are super important. But so is chapter two, and the middle, and the ending. Once that first chapter sings, take that magic and sprinkle it throughout the rest. Create something that a reader can’t put down.

Oh, and give your characters hell. They won’t thank you, but your readers will.

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