The Big Finish

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By Darlene L. Turner @darlenelturner

Every writer loves to type “THE END” on their latest work-in-progress, but the process to get to those final pages can be daunting. Can I get an amen? We tend to write and rewrite the first few chapters to make them perfect, but do we labor as hard on our endings?

Let’s take a look at the final few sections of our novels to see how we can come up with a finish that will make our readers not only bite their nails as they get there, but leave them wanting more.

Messy middle – if you’re like me by the time you get to the middle you’re pulling your hair out and thinking, “Oh man, this story is terrible. My readers are going to hate it because I hate it.” The middle always seems to be the hardest point of the book, doesn’t it? James Scott Bell has a great resource called Write Your Novel From The Middle. He gives us lots of great tips to make that halfway mark strong, including the mirror moment. The middle is a crucial point in our novels as it’s here the reader finds out what the story is really all about. We need to persevere and take our time capturing this pivotal moment as it paves the way for the ending.

A good way to help us is to read writing craft books as well as studying how other authors create a powerful conclusion. @darlenelturner #writing #endings #ChristianFiction #ACFW Click To Tweet

Final chapters – the last chapters in our novels is the final opportunity to reach our story’s goal or the last chance for the character to complete the transformation that will wow our readers. Usually this happens at the three quarter mark. Think about ways to challenge the characters. Make them work hard. Don’t let them get comfortable. This will take the plot over the finish line into the climax.

Climax – the climax is where we get all the oohhs and awws, putting our readers on the edge of their seats to keep them turning the page to find out how the story will end. Surprise is necessary for the perfect finale. How can we do this? By giving our readers that final twist or left hook. BUT…be sure to plant it in earlier so it doesn’t make them throw the book across the room. Use foreshadowing and complications in the beginning to plant seeds. Also, using shorter scenes, shorter paragraphs, and shorter sentences in the climax will make the readers hold their breaths!

Resolution – the resolution starts after the climax. Everything is resolved, so we have to be sure to tie up all loose ends or we’ll leave our readers scratching their heads. Strengthen and emphasize the story’s theme. Leave them imagining how the characters will live on.

Last Line – Most writers struggle with that dreaded first line and will probably re-write it ten times. Why? Because they know a reader will either be hooked and buy the book, or they will put it back on the shelf. But what about the last line? It’s crucial to take as much time in perfecting these final words too because we want readers to buy our NEXT book, right? Let’s leave the reader yelling “Wow” after reading that concluding sentence.

A good way to help us with these last elements in our manuscripts is to read writing craft books as well as studying how other authors create a powerful conclusion. This will all help us craft our perfect ending—the big finish that will leave our readers breathless.

What tips do you have to enhance the final chapters to give our novels the big finish?

Darlene L. Turner’s love of suspense began when she read her first Nancy Drew book. She’s turned that passion into her writing and believes readers will be captured by her plots, inspired by her strong characters, and moved by her inspirational message. Darlene won the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense twice and an ACFW Genesis award. Her book, Safe House Exposed, won the 2023 HOLT Medallion award in the Short Inspirational category. Darlene met her husband Jeff at the turtle races in Ontario, Canada. She loves flavored coffee and plaid shirts. You can connect with Darlene at where there’s suspense beyond borders.

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