Tips on Plotting and Editing Part 3

by Sherry-Anne Jacobs


Part 3: Endings (from a how-to book by Sherry-Anne Jacobs, AKA Anna Jacobs) This Tipsheet forms part 2 of a 3-part mini-series on beginnings, middles and ends by Sherry Anne.


The beginning of a book sells that particular story. The ending of the same book not only sends your reader away satisfied with a 'good read', but can also sell more books for you in future. If readers are not satisfied with the ending, then they won't buy more of your books.

Some things to consider when writing and editing/polishing your ending are:

'DISPOSING OF' CHARACTERS By the end of a book all the characters and their problems must be suitably sorted out. If you have a complex plot, you may have dealt with some of the minor plot elements part-way through the book. If not, you'll need to think about sorting some of them out a little before the end, or at least dealing with them in such a way that the reader can assume they're going to live happily or unhappily ever after, as justice demands.

You simply can't tie off all the threads in one big lumpy knot in the final chapter - well, not unless you want to give your readers mental indigestion. The main plot elements are the ones which need a big climax, to which you've been leading since the book first began. They're the ones in focus at the end. The others are usually better dealt with separately.

It can be a good idea to keep a list handy as you write the final chapters, just jottings to remind you of each element in the plot and the sub-plots which you have to deal with. Even a minor character shouldn't just be left hanging around in the background, her/his fate unmentioned.

There has to be something said about what happens to each character who appears - even a taxi driver or a waitress has to walk off the stage, at least. The 'disposal' can be as little as a sentence, but it must be put in. The more important the character is to the story, the more detailed the disposal will be, of course, and the higher the reader's interest is in it being a satisfactory (though not necessarily happy) conclusion to that person's role.

"Satisfactory" is the key word in judging an ending - of course you can aim for 'wonderful, moving, exciting' and a host of other qualities as well, but underlying them all, you must give the reader satisfaction.


This is not just an addition to the end of the book to add excitement (though it must be gripping, of course) - it's the purpose or culmination of the whole tale. To prepare for that big ending, you must first know yourself what it's going to be. You may not know everything when you first start writing, but you'd better have some ideas developing as the story unfolds. Maybe you'll even need to go back later and add bits to your tale in order to prepare for this ending, to make it credible to the readers. I usually do.

Actually, the Bible expresses this best: ' . . . for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.' (Galatians, 6:7) Make sure you sow the seeds of a good ending - whenever you do it - so that your readers can reap a rich harvest of satisfaction.

The chapter also deals with:

* Powerful Emotions

* Surprise them

* After the Big Event

* Conflict and Credibility

Of course, each genre will have its own needs for the ending. To understand those, you'll need to use your usual research tool - read a lot in your genre area - both good and bad books can teach you a lot.

(c) copyright Sherry-Anne Jacobs 

If all else fails or you need more inspiration for your ending, read "Plotting and Editing" by Sherry-Anne Jacobs (AKA Anna Jacobs), published by Training Publications, Western Australia, ISBN 0 7307 1400 4 - order from any bookshop or buy on line from Visit Sherry-Anne's Website at


The Busy Writer's One-Hour Plot

The Busy Writer's One-Hour Character

Book of Checklists

The Busy Writer's Self-Editing Toolbox

The Busy Writer's KickStart Program

Write a Book Fast