How to Finish Your Novel: A Q&A

This week, Isabella is interviewing Bryan on something she always finds hard in her writing: how do you know where to end?!

How do you first come up with the ending to your novel during the initial stages of planning and/or writing?

I have to be sold on the idea. I look at the story the same way you or I would look at the landscape when we are in an aeroplane. High up above I see all of the acts while I’m skipping over the valleys and hills and mountains. While I’m doing this I ask myself, what kind of a finish line do I want? What is the goal? Most of all it will come down to the audience. What can I do to give them the ending they deserve? But all of this is pointless if I am not sold and excited with the idea. 

Do you usually have the ending in mind before you start writing/planning?

Yes. I need a finish line but that doesn’t mean it will stick. I’ll give you an example: We are finishing up my third novel Saving Iris. At the beginning, me and my editor had different views on the ending. Deep down she was right. Her version made sense but I had to step away before it happened. I think most writers do this. When there is doubt in anything, especially the ending, it’s a good idea to take a break and allow everything to settle before making decisions.

What happens if the plot takes an unexpected turn whilst writing and messes up the ending you had planned?

Good question. I have never had a plot do this to me but if I did that would mean I was not sold on the idea to begin with. Every story will change in some way. That’s common. But if it changes to the point where you can’t recognize it then that tells me the writer wasn’t invested to begin with. If this did happen to me I would catch it in time. I would notice little things turning away from the direction I originally had. If that happened I would be forced to make a decision – Stop what I’m doing or let it happen. 

Do you see any constraints to your genre? For example, romance books always have to have a Happily Ever After. 

My stories centre around real life events. Usually romance or comedy or a combination of both. Plus, there’s lots of drama. The audience expects certain things. They travelled on this journey of mine and do want to leave disappointed. At the same time an honest ending has to occur. It cannot come across force or it will be rejected.

How do you find the right balance between providing closure and leaving some parts open to interpretation?

If you think about it, every story is open to interpretation. Every book and/or movie doesn’t really end. They end for us but in their universe they keep on going. To answer your question I rely on my test readers (beta readers) and my gut feelings to keep things balanced. Sometimes finding the right balance is the last thing a writer knows and if that happens it takes the beta reader to point it out. That’s why they are so important. 

Do you use any techniques to create an impactful ending?

I place myself into the characters’ lives. I’ll ask myself, what would I do in their situation? What would I want or how would I get out of that mess? Sometimes I place myself as a side character so I can observe. Sometimes the observer is the best remedy. 

What do you do (or would you do) if your beta readers unanimously hated an ending?

This question has two answers. For the first answer I would ask each of them why they hated the ending. I would look for consistency in their answers. Did something happen in the early acts that caused the ending to fail? Or was it as simple as an ending that fell flat through poor writing and execution. For the second answer I would ask myself: Did I select the wrong beta readers? This is common. Not every beta reader will buy your book. Some are not a fan of the genre or they may not like your writing style. It would be rare for all of them to not like the ending but if it happened it would be alarming.  

Have you ever struggled to find the right ending to a story, or is it just me?!

If I’m not sold on the idea at the beginning I will struggle with the ending. But you are not alone. Many writers struggle with this. That’s why I suggest playing around with the idea before committing. Do a small outline or run it through your mind for a while. Another idea is writer’s groups for writing friends and readers. Tell them your idea and ask what kind of ending they would like to see. You might be amazed at the answers you receive. 

Do you have any tips for me?

Ask yourself a question: Do you want to write a novel? The answer is easy. Of course you do. But ask yourself another question – Are you ready to commit? Writing a novel takes commitment. It takes a realistic writing schedule day after day and not when you are inspired. It’s a good idea to set realistic goals before you begin but most of all it’s a good idea to be honest with yourself. Are you at a point in your life where you can do these things? I can but there was a time when I couldn’t. I loved the idea but I wasn’t ready to put in the work. 

Find your answer before you begin. It will save you a lot of time and if you decide you can’t do it that doesn’t mean you will never do it. Five or ten years from now you will be a different person with different goals and one of them might be to write a novel. By then you might be ready. 

But if your answer is yes, if you feel now is the time, you need to create a realistic writing schedule and once you do you need to stick to it or writing a novel will never happen. You will be fooling yourself. 

One more thing: You are not alone. I will always be here to help, to support, you name it. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top