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Old 12-28-2012, 02:12 PM   #1
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What's happening to the endings?

I read a lot, but I think I'm getting tired of all the weak endings in novels. Some have no payoff whatsoever after reading 300+ pages. Some end on a cliffhanger or like the author cut and pasted the 2nd half of their book to make novel #2. Some even write one novel's worth and then split it into five.

The beginnings are great, no problems there. It's the endings, resolution that I miss. I could be the only one that experiences this, but I'd like recommendations of good books that have a proper ending.

Has anyone else noticed this lack of satisfying endings?

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Old 12-28-2012, 03:15 PM   #2
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Sometimes, although often I'll stop to try and figure out what exactly the writer was trying to do when they finished the book. If it seemed kinda meh to me when I first read it, maybe I was just coming at it from the wrong angle. Books in a series often have pretty unsatisfying endparts until the very last chapter.

But there's also bad writing which, yeah, just ends up falling flat at the end of it all. I don't know if I'd say I'm noticing it as a new trend--maybe you've just gotten unlucky with a recent string of readings.

Do you like Neil Gaiman? I find most of his stuff wraps up pretty nicely. Same goes for Pullman.
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Old 12-28-2012, 06:28 PM   #3
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Are you talking about a specific genre?
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Old 12-28-2012, 06:51 PM   #4
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Deadlines.

In my experience, that's what happens to a lot of endings. The author starts out and has time to craft a good beginning, ramps stuff up for the middle, and real life happens and they're suddenly crammed against the deadline and have to get the book in.

Not all authors, mind you, but I'm friends with several that I've watched it happen time after time after time. They simply don't have the time needed to finish the book as they want to.

From reading and seeing the same kind of endings on many different books (again, not all), I can only figure it happens to more than just my friends.
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Old 12-28-2012, 07:08 PM   #5
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Has anyone else noticed this lack of satisfying endings?
Overall? Not particularly. Then again, I read pretty widely and in a variety of genres.

Sometimes ending a novel is more challenging than starting one. You have to tie up the major loose ends, get characters to a certain place, and then find a way to close the story you've just spent 300 (or more) pages telling.
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Old 12-28-2012, 07:14 PM   #6
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Well, to cheer you up, I'll recommend some books with great endings.

Peter Pohl - Johnny, My Friend
Audrey Niffenegger - The Time Traveler's Wife
Michael Ende - The Neverending Story

And actually, now that I'm sitting here and trying to put this list together, it's a lot harder than I thought. :P I'll have to think some more on this.
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Old 12-28-2012, 07:17 PM   #7
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It depends on the genre, really.

At the risk of sounding ignorant, there's only so many endings you can do in certain genres.

In contemporary, they either live happily ever after, or they don't. There's also the "I had everything I wanted all along" ending.

Fantasy has less boundaries. Maybe the characters fly off to different planets after saving another planet. But in the big picture, it's still either they happily ever after, or they don't.

By "endings" do you mean the actual ending, or what the message of the ending was?
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Old 12-28-2012, 08:49 PM   #8
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Deadlines.

In my experience, that's what happens to a lot of endings. The author starts out and has time to craft a good beginning, ramps stuff up for the middle, and real life happens and they're suddenly crammed against the deadline and have to get the book in.

Not all authors, mind you, but I'm friends with several that I've watched it happen time after time after time. They simply don't have the time needed to finish the book as they want to.

From reading and seeing the same kind of endings on many different books (again, not all), I can only figure it happens to more than just my friends.
It takes no longer to write a good ending than it does to write a poor one, and I've yet to see a deadline so tight the writer doesn't have time to write three novels, if he plants his butt and does the work.
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Old 12-28-2012, 08:56 PM   #9
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Overall? Not particularly.
Me either. I mean, yeah some have endings I think are not so good, but no more than usual. I'm kinda wondering which books the OP is reading, because it's not something that looks to be on the increase in the books I read. There's been some pretty outstanding endings as it happens.

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It takes no longer to write a good ending than it does to write a poor one, and I've yet to see a deadline so tight the writer doesn't have time to write three novels, if he plants his butt and does the work.
My deadlines for drafts are pretty good actually. My editor said for book three 'Well, you write quite fast, when do you think you might have it ready?' and I gave her a worst case scenario to work from. In fact, for me anyway, my deadlines have been pretty loose.
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Old 12-28-2012, 09:01 PM   #10
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You know, I've experienced this a lot lately as well. There are few books, it seems, that I read all the way through to the end. I end up skimming the endings of so many. For me, it's anything from crime to chick lit and even some literary fiction.

Not EVERYthing.

But some things.

I'd say, IMO, much more of the mainstream fiction (genre) than literary seem to just taper off at the end.

The deadline thing makes sense to me. If you run out of time to edit...
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Old 12-28-2012, 09:47 PM   #11
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Also, many people workshop and rework their beginnings to death, or, one hopes, to a high shine. Middles and ends, not so much. Lately I've noticed a number of endings that felt over-rushed to me. Maybe editorial deadlines can take some blame for this phenomenon; however, I think it must be even more common for the writer to hit an internal deadline, fueled by either the tantalizing closeness of the close or fatigue. Or both.
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Old 12-28-2012, 11:10 PM   #12
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I agree with Phael. I so often do!

Many many many stories that I've seen in slush have had shiny openings and rubbish endings. They just don't get the love. I have actually blogged about this in the past.
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Old 12-28-2012, 11:32 PM   #13
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Satisfying endings are subjective to the individual taste of readers. What you or I may find unsatisfactory, may be just fine with other readers.

If we are talking about commercially published books that have gone through editing, then the editor and author have more than likely discussed the ending and if its satisfying. A commercial publishers editor pretty much knows what works and does not work for their readership, based on pass experience.

Now, if we are talking about self published books that have not had the privilege of a commercial editors experience, then I would more than likely agree that many have endings that fall flat for one reason or another.

Of course, the writer has the final say and many times, they just run out of steam and want to end this particular story. Well, if there is no one there to talk them through the ending, then they are at risk of the failed ending. Or not, depending on how good they are...

I remember reading an article many, many years ago in which the writer was interviewing Jerry Pournelle. According to Jerry, while he was writing Janissaries, his editor kept pressuring him to finish the damn book as he kept send it in piecemeal with changes. The editor resolved the issue by making it into two books and Jerry was not happy with the endings of both. So here we have an author who did not know when to stop, because to him, the story was still left unfinished. But the editor had a deadline and resolved the problem to their liking. Me, I had no problem with the endings of both books and never noticed what Jerry had pointed out in the interview.

I sometimes also wonder if as a writer I am too focused on what other authors fail or succeed at and therefore I am too subjective. Or is that objective?...
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Old 12-28-2012, 11:34 PM   #14
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Not really.

I find most endings really fitting, tbh. The last book I read, which was The Kite Runner, had an ending which made me break down in tears. Not only was it wonderfully poignant, the author had also managed to tie in the ending beautifully with the beginning of the book. Before that I was reading Making Money for the gazillionth time, and that also has a great ending. Maybe it depends on what genre you're reading. Last year I read a lot of YA and I was very disgruntled with not just the endings, but the overall quality of many of the books.
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Old 12-29-2012, 12:07 AM   #15
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Has anyone else noticed this lack of satisfying endings?

RedRose.
No, not at all. And, I read a lot.
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Old 12-29-2012, 12:21 AM   #16
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I don't always wrap things up in a tidy bow at the end of the books in my series because I know for sure there will be another one. Last book for that contract? There will be resolution and a happy ending. Last book for the series? Absolutely, I will include a happy ending. When I know there's another one coming? Well...

If you're talking about authors like KMM, who is pretty famous for her cliffhanger endings in the Fever series, it's probably because they know that the story won't be finished in one book and are trying to keep you salivating for the next one.
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Old 12-29-2012, 01:33 AM   #17
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Smile

Thanks for the replies and book recommendations. I've read a couple of them.

Lately, I've been reading crime, mainstream fiction, romance, YA, fantasy... It's the endings where everything isn't tied up that gets to me. But deadlines make sense.
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Old 12-29-2012, 04:12 AM   #18
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I was browsing through the threads and reading 'post your first 3 sentences of your wip' and others that place a deserved importance on the start of your work.

It's funny that it's so recognized as one of the ways to sell your book...a busy person might only read the first paragraph, then they'll decide to buy or not. You have to grab the reader then. But what keeps your readers coming back if they know you'll finish like a deflated balloon? Nothing, really. They don't come back.

Why isn't this stressed as important as well? Maybe it is, but I haven't found the threads of how your story ends. Years ago, I read advice that says you must have a satisfying resolution to your novel, even if you're writing a series and each must stand alone. I didn't think much of it at the time, but now the beginning and endings seem like they both need to have careful attention given to them.
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Old 12-29-2012, 04:34 AM   #19
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I think we had a 'post the last sentence' of your WIP thread at some point. But the reason I think that endings don't get as much prominence is it's much harder for members to give feedback on them without reading the rest of the work. Beginnings are easier.
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Old 12-29-2012, 04:36 AM   #20
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Also, many people workshop and rework their beginnings to death, or, one hopes, to a high shine. Middles and ends, not so much. Lately I've noticed a number of endings that felt over-rushed to me. Maybe editorial deadlines can take some blame for this phenomenon; however, I think it must be even more common for the writer to hit an internal deadline, fueled by either the tantalizing closeness of the close or fatigue. Or both.
I cannot agree with this statement any more. I've never been to a workshop before, but I have seen several videos on the craft of writing. It's all about the beginning. Is there a hook? Does it capture the reader's attention in the first couple of paragraphs? Are you characters interesting enough to follow? Yada yada. But NEVER the ending. They teach you how to write a great beginning, but never a great ending.

While it is ridiculously important to engage the reader, I think some writers spend way too much time on the beginning and lose steam by the end. Then, as you pointed out, they are hit with that internal deadline and fatigue. If you ask me, I think writers psych themselves out. They're constantly told that if you don't grip the reader (and especially the agent) right away, then you will never cut it. Hence, strong beginning, weak middle and ending.

... Then you have the "series syndrome" where writers don't worry about a good ending because they're focused an a major story arc that spans several books.
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Old 12-29-2012, 04:47 AM   #21
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I think creating an emotionally satisfying ending is a harder problem for a writer to get their head around. It's simply easier to understand how to grab or hold onto attention.

But ending a story in a way that feels perfect to the reader? That not only demands the writer provide a sense of poetic justice and manoeuvre their "world" into a new status quo, but they also have to catch every single ball they've been juggling for the past 300 pages.

When the story begins, the reader knows nothing. When the story ends, the reader knows everything. That makes them a hell of a lot harder to please.
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Old 12-29-2012, 07:40 AM   #22
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If endings are harder and more complex shouldn't they be given equal or more thought/planning than beginnings?

Every reader is different so I can understand different tastes or satisfaction levels, but when zero attention is placed on the resolution and everything that pertains to it I think then no wonder all the books have great beginnings and some end flat.

Endings are so important. Just because they may be more complex doesn't mean a reader forgives a writer when they don't pull it off.
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Old 12-29-2012, 07:54 AM   #23
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Also, I'm sure that there is a point or place in someone's WIP concerning resolution that wouldn't be overly hard to critique. It would certainly start writers thinking about their endings. I think endings are overlooked in comparison to beginnings.

This might seem not so important because by then the reader has bought your book. Yet, what about reviews, second books, or even attempting to buy another series by the same author when a reader was so let down?
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Old 12-29-2012, 08:00 AM   #24
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How does one critique a ending chapter if one has not read the full work? How will they know if the ending is satisfactory or not? We are not talking about critiquing for grammar and punctuation, but if the ending is satisfactory. The only way to know is to read the whole story...
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Old 12-29-2012, 08:17 AM   #25
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I can't remember the last truly satisfying ending I read, but then I almost exclusively read HF - I think it's harder to conclude those neatly because there are usually non fiction elements to consider.

For instance, when reading a novel about an historical battle, you already know how it's going to end in terms of the grand narrative, i.e. which side won, and that might not be in a satisfying manner for the hero. But the hero's story arc should come to a satisfying conclusion one way or another. Either he dies gloriously and is honoured by his comrades and descendants, or he survives and lives to be the old man narrating the tale. Anything less and you wonder why the hell you're reading his story.

In terms of the wider story arc, there's usually a sense of things being unfinished, because rarely do historical events have a satisfying 'end' point. History rolls on, the story never ends etc. Sometimes characters just kinda drift off into the annals of history themselves, without either going out in a hail of bullets or taking a bow for their life story. Those endings annoy me, and are usually the ones I can't even remember a week later.

But I think it's the nature of endings to be less memorable than beginnings. I don't think a good ending 'makes' a book for me - perhaps with one or two exceptions. But a bad ending can break a book. If done well the ending just rounds off the book nicely, and makes reading it feel worthwhile and satisfying. If done badly, it makes me think I've wasted 2 weeks of my life (I'm a slow reader). So I think as a whole people are more likely to jump on bad endings than praise good ones.
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