So you can read my books

Sunday, November 25, 2012


For all of you weary souls furiously typing your fingers into nubs on the end of your NaNoWriMo novels,

I thought the answer to that question might interest you.

I have just finished (edits and all) my novel, THREE SPIRIT KNIGHT and its ending was important to me.

An inept ending can kill your otherwise great book. So what questions do you need to ask about your ending?

1. Does it resolve the core conflict of the novel?
This is the big "this is what my book is about" question that your protagonist has spent the entire book trying to achieve.

 This is a biggie for series books, as there's a larger story arc across multiple books. But the goal in that one book needs to be resolved.

 2. Does it satisfy the major questions posed in the novel?

You don't have to tie up all the loose ends, but there are probably a few major things in the story readers will want to know answers to.

3. Is this the ending most readers are hoping for?

 We've all read books where we wanted one ending, but the book ended another way. Let down the reader, and you can bet she or he will not recommend your book.

4. Is your last line memorable, summing up your entire novel?

The trick of a good ending, of course, is that it must capture and equal everything that has gone before.

The line “He loved Big Brother” (from a novel that ends as masterfully as it begins) means very little until you understand exactly who Big Brother is. 

A great last line will have your reader putting down the book on her lap, murmuring, "Wow."  Guess what book she next recommends to her friends?

5.  A bad ending will unfailingly kill a good story. Is your ending such a one? 

 The ending is why the reader just invested their valuable time reading your story, and if it stinks, then they've wasted that time

6. Is there CHANGE at the end?

What makes a good ending hinges on the same things that make a good story. And the most important thing that makes a good story is change.

If nothing changes, nothing happens. And if nothing happens, you've got no story.

7. Do your characters save themselves or at least those they love?

If the U.S.S. Enterprise sails over the horizon to zap the bad guys in the nick of time. Say good-bye to repeat readers.

8. Resonance is the new Closure. Does your ending have it?

One symbol, or moment, from the beginning of the story is repeated at the end. By the time the story is done it means something else completely.

The ending echoes the beginning. It gives a sense that the story has come full circle.

9. Does it establish a new normal?

The heroes begin a new life. Sometimes the farm boy returns to the farm. Sometimes the farm boy becomes king. Sometimes the hero decides to set out on a new journey.

It's a chance to show how the character has been altered by the journey, and what they're going to do with that new knowledge.

10. What are your favorite kind of endings?

The best endings leave me full, and remain with me for days.

The best books make me wish they never end, but I know they have to.  Which is why I enjoy series books.

That's the sort of ending I like. What about you?


  1. I like an ending where the character has changed by the end of the journey. I don't mind if its not a happy ending, but it has to be thought provoking, and there must be a resolution of sorts.

    Some good points made, thank you for sharing, and what a great feeling it must be to know you have completed your novel...well done you!

  2. Yes. The best books are the ones you never want to end.

    Good post Roland. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  3. I'm hoping my third book nails all those points.
    And yes, I like a happy ending.

  4. Marisa:
    Yes, it is a great feeling to have finished my book. Now, the uphill battle of marketing it well. What is the point of writing a book that no one reads, right? :-)

    One of the tough parts of a series private detective, a genre I love, is that at the end, the detective usually remains the same -- only the crime is solved. The great HUGGER MUGGER has the femme fatale smugly getting away with her murder while her pawn willingly takes the fall. Her poisonous, sterile life is her only punishment.

    Though I worked long hours with a peanut butter sandwich for dinner, still Thanksgiving was a fulfilling one in many ways.

    I hope your Thanksgiving was lovely as well. I hear that the movie, SILVER LINING PLAYBOOK, is one of those stories you really wish would go on to know how the characters went on with their lives.

    I pray that your 3rd novel is such a novel, too, with only the highest sales!

    I love a happy ending, too. Although my endings usually solve the crisis with the remaining heroes heaving a sigh of relief only to turn around to see the villain: "Aren't you dead?"

    "No," replies the villain, "but you are." And the epic continues.

    By the way, that is NOT how THREE SPIRIT KNIGHT ends! But I strived for the best of my endings so far. :-)

  5. Endings do determine if I'll read any more in that series or anything else by that author. I like a general accounting of loose ends.

    I detest 'choose your own endings', to me, that is a lazy escape by the writer.

    I'm sure Three Spirit Knight is in my future, since it's on the TBA list. (to be acquired)

  6. I rewrote the ending to South of Charm three times, then touched it up a final time during the last edit.

    That's how important it is, nailing down those closing passages.

    Well done, Roland ;)

  7. Excellent points Roland. A good ending will have me picking up the next book in the series - or another novel by the same author. I especially like the point on "establish a new normal".

    And thanks for the contest winnings; I got the card and bookmark in the mail yesterday. Sure was nice to see something in the mailbox besides a bill or advertisement :)


  8. D.G.:
    Like you, I hate "the lady or the tiger" kind of endings. Closure is important to me. I know life doesn't answer all the questions, so a few mysteries just get me hungry for the next in the series. But the major crises in the book has to be solved in some fashion. Happy endings, though still tinged with danger, make me happy! :-)

    THREE SPIRIT KNIGHT is coming out soon. Whenever anyone buys it and sends me an email confirmation of it to me, I will send them the new revised THE LEGEND OF VICTOR STANDISH. It has six new chapters, detailing Victor's 1st two weeks in New Orleans: his time with Old Suze, his talent for drawing, his first meeting with Mesmer, the mysterious cat who owns a French Quarter restaurant ... and an early glimpse of his deadly mother in action.

    Plus there is the contest, too! You knew there had to be one.

    Like you I spent days mulling over how to do the ending of THREE SPIRIT KNIGHT in just the right fashion.

    Thanks for the compliment. It is good to see you here!

    Yes, Victor is always establishing a new normal ... which would be abnormal in the lives of anyone else!

    I am so happy that you got the autograph and the bookmark! The mails are so busy these days. May this holiday season treat you especially nice. Good to see you here, too! Roland

  9. It's weird: I like short stories that leave me hanging, but I hate it when novels do the same -- maybe because of the time I've invested by that point. Great post, Roland. Endings don't come easy to me.

  10. Milo:
    O Henry became famous with those kind of endings in his short stories. Endings come hard to me as well, friend. :-) Roland

  11. Even though it doesn't always happen, I'm a sucker for happy, make-me-smile-and-feel-all-jittery-inside endings. The points you've listed here for good beginnings are excellent.

  12. Candy:
    Yes, I like realistic "make-me-smile" endings, too. Depressed I can get for free! :-)

  13. GREAT list! I need to run my books thru this sieve and make sure I have these things. Endings are SO important--I just finished a book where I thoroughly enjoyed it...until the last page. It ended without wrapping everything up, and had an enigmatic last line that I had no idea what it meant. Not good!

  14. Hi Roland ... so pleased for you - and it's great Three Spirit Knight is done ... I do look forward to reading some of your books - thankfully 2013 will be the time ... cheers Hilary