I am currently working on the ending of the latest draft of my novel…the last ten pages.
As I edited the ending this last couple of weeks and prepared to rekey it, I thought seriously about the ending for only the third or fourth time. I thought about what it is and what I expect of it.
It is not the most important part of the story and is not anything anyone will talk about (unlike a short story, where the ending is much more critical), but it is a part of the structure of the book, and it is a part that I want to get right.
I made a brief list of several things I don’t want to happen to the end of my novel:
- I don’t want it to stumble to an end, like a drunk leaving a party – thoroughly spent, sweaty and stinking, its clothing a mess, wandering the streets looking for a place to crash.
- I don’t want it to fizzle out like a cheap firework – my loyal reader with the last bits of prose under their thumb left groaning to a spark, a pop and silence.
- And I don’t want my novel to meander on like a chatty stranger, a voice you find at the last stop on the way home, full of words that keep you from finishing your journey, dribble they think you must hear but you clearly don’t need.
I want the end of my novel to be a designed conclusion, like the farthest reaches of a sculpture or the last chords of a nocturne.
I want to end the story, my conversation with the reader, not before or after they are ready, but right at the moment they are content to drop the back cover shut and switch the light out.
I want my novel to resolve with a clear, low tone. I want its arc to sink in such a way that it leaves the reader gratefully alert, staring at the dust jacket as they pick up their phone to post to FaceBook.