Any advice on knowing when you've truly ended a book. I'm not talking about drafts but the actual ending. I thought I had a fitting one, but six weeks later, I can see it's a bit abrupt and doesn't explain too much. I can come up with several scenarios for another chapter. Or does that final added chapter often serve only to tie things up too much, explain what most readers would intuit. Which do you prefer-the abrupt but surprising ending or one that lays things out more. What novel do you remember as ending especially well.
(The novel is a sort of suspense story.)

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Joseph Conrad said novels are never finished, merely abandoned. :)

Depends on the novel what kind of ending is appropriate, IMO. Perhaps share both endings with a trusted reader or two?
The perfect ending should be surprise, yet seem inevitable afetrward. (I wish I'd thought that up. I'd give credit, if I could remember who said it first.) I'd try to find the point where you meet that test as closely as you can (it's rare for anyone to nail it perfectly).

I recently had a similar issue with a story. I set it aside for about six weeks before atarting the final draft. By the time I got to the end, I knew the ending as it existed wasn't right (it went on too long, leaving a gap in logic for the final scene). I also had a pretty good idea of how to fix it, having read throuhg it with (relatively) fresh eyes.

Trusted readers are great; few writers can do without them completely. Ultimately, though, the most trusted (and trustworthy) reader must be the author.

The best ending I ever read wasn't a mystery or suspense story. It was in John Irving's "A Widow for One Year."
Thanks. I think in general the ending is right, just too abrupt thus possibly unsatisfying to some readers. Three people have read it--two found it too abrupt and one liked it because of the surprise.
This has always been a problem in my short fiction, too according to my writing group. It's like the train is leaving and I'm on it. Beginnings are easier because not much is yet at stake.
I sympathize. I have much the same problem with my short fiction. I'm always afraid of putting too much of a tail on something that only runs to about 4,000 words. Adding a few thousand words to something that's already 85,000 words isn't nearly as daunting.
Good point. Thanks.
I have "In the Cut" on my TBR pile. My daugher suggested it and I started it but the voice was so strong and so eerily similar to mine (although not the plot) that I put it aside. And that's not my surprise at the end, Thank God. Otherwise I'd really have to rewrite.
You must have a phenomenal intuitive sense. Kind of scary you so picked up on my novel.
I don't have the same need for complete closure some people do, so maybe I'm not the best person to ask. Life doesn't always give you all the answers.

And to make it very simple:

Q: How do you know when you've truly ended a book?
A: When your editor tells you you aren't allowed to make any more changes.

I am so helpful, aren't I?
You've just gotten to a place I haven't found yet.
Well, I know all the angst, but sometimes, you have to trust your gut. I originally had an epilogue for SC and removed it. It felt like overkill to me.

And I have no doubt about your future. Not one little bit.
I'm also not being much help. I rush endings because I don't like them. I particularly don't like the way many writers drag out the denouement so that I have start skipping pages. It is a distinct weakness in a book when it's not the middle that sags but the tail.
Many of my short stories are rushed at the end because they're getting too long. With my novels I know when to make an end and, believe me, I'm ready to make an end. Now making the end good is another thing. Remember, it's the last thing the reader remembers. Far more important than that first sentence.
I completely agree with you, I.J. If you let the ending drag on and on it weakens the impression of the whole book. It was Sir Guthrie who told me your ending sells your next book. And I don't think an anti-climatic ending does a good job of selling the next book.
I have some story arcs that I feel comfortable leaving as unresolved. Sometimes my secondary characters get away with murder, in other words. But for my main characters, I tend to want a satisfying personal ending for them. The reader has more invested in their storyline.

I equate this to the end of a good movie. Some movies that are action packed, you get complete satisfaction knowing your main character can walk away battered and beaten--and you don't have to know what he or she will be doing in the morning. But for two people who have emotion at stake, you have to use your own judgement on whether you want to tie that up for the reader IMO. I read a Marcia Preston book called Piano Man where the main woman character finally gets the courage to find the man who received her dead son's heart after her only kid died in an auto accident. That book has an interesting ending that might be worth reading to see what you think of it, but for that story, the ending worked and felt real to me.

But if there is an emotional payoff for my main characters, I tend to give the reader all the emotional loose ends tied up--so far. But that doesn't mean I will always feel that way. I have what I call varying degrees of redemption in my stories and for some of my characters, it's important to come full circle, but for others, it may not.

Bottom line--it's solely your call and you have to rely on your gut instinct as a writer to determine when enough is enough. At some point, you have to get on to your next project. Like Eric mentioned about Conrad, you have to know when to walk away.


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