How To Tell If You’ve Nailed Your Book Ending

Ah, book endings. Every story needs to have one, but not every story pulls it off.

If you’ve ever read a book to the last page and been bitterly disappointed by the ending, you’ll know what I mean.

It’s frustrating as a reader to be enjoying a book and then have the story fall apart in the final few chapters. This isn’t so much about disagreeing with the author’s creative choices, but more about whether the end of the book lived up to all the promises it made.

Yep, there are certain promises set out in stories, and to give your readers the ending they deserve, your book should try to fulfill them.

If you want to know if you’ve done that, check your MS for the following…

How To Tell If You’ve Nailed Your Book Ending

You’ve Answered The Big Questions

Questions throughout your book will keep the reader turning the pages. They can range from little ones, like why the MC doesn’t talk to their mother anymore, to big ones, like what they will do with the bag of cash they found buried in their backyard.

The little ones can get answered as the story goes on or left for other books if you’re working on a series, but the end should answer any big story questions. If you don’t, the reader will be annoyed that they’ve just read hundreds of pages chasing a mystery to not find any answers.

The MC Is Active In The Climax

Readers have spent most of the book with your main character, and if you’ve done your job as a writer, they are attached to them. They want to see them win or get what they deserve. If you’re ending leads to a big climax and the MC is on the sidelines or nowhere to be found, the reader will not be happy with the ending.

Make sure your MC isn’t just observing or having things happen to them or around them during your big ending. They need to be there, active in the climax and changing the outcome.

You’ve Saved The Highest Stakes Until Last

Stakes drive the story forward and should build toward one big stake that will make or break the MC. Keep whatever that stake is until last, and then bring it to a head so it can be resolved.

For example, kicking off your story with a kidnapping and leaving the rescue until the final chapters with the MC having their big hero moment and the kidnapper getting their comeuppance puts the highest stakes last. Following that same plot but having the rescue occur halfway through the book just sets you up for a fizzer of an ending. What else are you going to fill the final chapters with if the highest stakes have already been and gone?

Save the rescue until the closing chapters and nail that ending.

All Of Your Character Problems Have Been Addressed

Problems are another great thing to sprinkle through your book, but they also need to be addressed with some type of resolution if you want to create a satisfying ending.

Does that mean everything has to be tied up in a neat bow? No, but there should be something in your book that allows the reader to conclude any character problems raised, whether that’s good, bad, or indifferent.

The Relationships Between Characters Have Evolved

Just as any relationship in life changes and evolves, so should the relationships between your characters.

If they meet in the first chapter, they should know each other well by the final. Some could be friends at the start of the book and then enemies by the end or vice versa. The point is, relationships should change and deepen throughout the course of the book, and you’ll want that obvious difference by the closing pages to help create a good ending.

You Haven’t Started Anything New

With the exception of a series cliffhanger, the ending of your book should resolve, or hint at the fate, of everything and there should be no new story thread kicked off.

You want your readers closing the page, knowing what happened in your story and being at peace with the ending (regardless of whether it was happy or sad), not throwing your tome across the room because something new happened on the final page and there won’t be another book to resolve it. Don’t be that writer.

The Resolution Isn’t Too Short

Your final resolution shouldn’t be something that drags on through the final ten chapters, but it also shouldn’t be done and dusted in one page.

The readers have been on this journey with you since the first sentence, and they want to see a resolution that is satisfactory and doesn’t finish too quickly. If you can’t judge how long or short your ending should be, workshop it with some trusted beta readers.

Crafting the right ending to any story requires skill, and as the author of your book world, you’re perfect for the job. Follow the natural story and include these tips and you should definitely nail your ending!

— K.M. Allan

What’s the best or worst ending to a book you’ve read? Let’s discuss it in the comments!

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38 thoughts on “How To Tell If You’ve Nailed Your Book Ending

  1. Great article, thank you. I will be mentally ticking these off as I approach my final chapters.

    The best ending I ever read was A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving). I felt like the whole world suddenly made sense, even though I didn’t know I needed it to.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great post. Many thanks. I’ll be giving more thought to the ending of my next book.

    I was disappointed in the ending of The Wheel of Time. The majority of the series was written by Robert Jordan, who sadly died before it was finished. He left copious notes and it was finished by the excellent author, Brandon Sanderson. Sanderson did a wonderful job of keeping Jordan’s voice, and his characters in character, but the ending felt flat to me. A disappointment after all the hours put into reading an exciting series.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Think of a time when you finished a book by reading the last line and slowly closing the back cover, then sitting there for a few minutes with the book resting on your hands.

    Now that’s an ending to shoot for.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. A good Post. Thank you. But me being me, it got me thinking. Never a good idea. The books where the ending left me satisfied compared to the books that were really good with unsatisfactory endings (with my perspective) and I have come to the sad but notable conclusion that it is the body of the book that matters to me rather than the ending.
    I shall explain. Apart from the obvious fact that you never wish a truly wonderful book to finish and so the ending no matter how good will always be a let down I have a couple of good examples to bamboozle you with.
    The first is one of my favourite novels of all time; “Miss Smilla’s Feeling for snow” where the author (Peter Hoeg) ends the tale as Miss Smilla follows the villain out onto the arctic ice and then leaves us, readers to figure out what happened for ourselves.

    “Matter” by Iain M Banks, where in the midst of a very complex the odds grow too high for the character and as she dies the tale ends. Yet both novels have stayed with me over time though I read both a few decades ago.
    I enjoy a good “everything tied up” ending and have read a thousand of them most of which I have forgotten, those two I remember.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for including those examples 😊. I can see your point about an ending being unsatisfactory but still staying with you. I haven’t read “Miss Smilla’s Feeling For Snow”, but I do remember seeing the movie years ago and not being happy with the ending so I assume it concluded the same as the book. It’s interesting that’s it’s the frustrating books that stay with you, while an ending that ties it all up can sometimes be forgotten even though it was good.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s an interesting thought. So should we aim to tie everything up? Or perhaps leave the reader still wondering? Especially if those are the books that stay with us.
        Just saying!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I like books that tie the big things up or at least hint at outcomes so I can make up my own mind. That’s as a reader, though. As a writer, I just go where the story goes. I think it’s a story-by-story basis 😊.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. petespringerauthor

    It’s hard to say one part of a story is more critical than another because everything’s important. However, one of the biggest downers is loving the first 95% of the book, only to be disappointed in the payoff. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth and can change those feelings of satisfaction.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I read a book, years ago now, that was brilliant, right up until the last two paragraphs. Yep, the author shoved the entire ending into two paragraphs and told form a different POV than the rest of the book.
    All I can imagine is that a rough draft somehow got dragooned into the final edit and sent to the publishers like that.
    I did take the time to send a gently worded comment to the author and never heard anything back, and as far as I know they’ve disappeared off the face of the writerly world … which is sad, because up until that point the story never missed a beat.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You’ve nailed it. Agree with is all.
    There are two types of disappointing endings – one that you didn’t want to happen (bad) and the other … well absolutely awful (either no ending, or a rushed ending, or a cliffhanger).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Sam! I hate a rushed ending too, and confusing ones. I read a book last year that I was really enjoying and then the end took a turn and I wasn’t sure what happened and it just ruined the whole novel for me. I thought it was just me and I’d misread something, but other reviews complained about the same thing so there was something in the final pages that just didn’t add up for some readers, which is a shame.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I don’t remember the name of the book but it was a horror book that kept me on the edge of my seat. From out of nowhere they were suddenly in the fairy court and it turned from a horror to a there and back again story.
    Not that fairy lore isn’t dark and scary but this one didn’t have any foreshadowing of fairy involvement and it didn’t describe the fairies at all so I didn’t know if they were tinker bell fairies, traditional Irish fairies, or a modern rendition like in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel. So much potential waisted!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Perhaps they thought they were going for a twist? But like you said, without the foreshadowing, it just comes across as out of nowhere. It’s always disappointing as a reader when books do that.

      Like

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