I often hear from people who want to write a book but don’t know how or where to begin. Or from people who have already written a book that’s ready for publication but don’t know how to get it published. I recently began a new blog series, Writing and Publishing Tips From Authors Around the World, to help writers.
The third contributor is U.K. author Kate Rigby and she’s here to talk about book endings.
I first wrote this article for my blog, which I have briefly updated. I was prompted to write it as a result of three reviews of three different books of mine, where the subject of endings came up. Two of these reviews were thorough, in-depth reviews – always worth their weight in gold – the other a four-liner. But what they all had in common was the feeling that my endings were rather abrupt. It’s always good to be challenged and also to know the effect of your writing on your readers.
The four-line reviewer felt that Thalidomide Kid ‘was so rushed in the last chapter that it was almost like the author was trying to beat a deadline and just whipped out the ending rather than finish the story’ and ‘felt cheated of a conclusion’. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth! I spent a lot of time writing and polishing the book with the help of my then publisher. Although my publisher made several suggestions for improvements, interestingly enough, none of them included extending the ending.
Another very favourable review for Fall Of The Flamingo Circus stated: ‘My only issue with the book, and it’s a small one, was the ending. It just sort of happened. Lauren’s life didn’t seem resolved in any way. However, I guess diaries do just that, one day you’re writing one, the other you’re not. This though is a personal view. I like stories to close off.’ More about that later.
The third review of ‘Did You Whisper Back?’ – another thorough in-depth critique – got to the heart of my intentions when I end a book. The reviewer stated: ‘The ending is abrupt which I’m assuming is a deliberate intent to show that a) there are no happy endings and b) there are not really endings in life and c) what we are looking at is a very small beacon of hope, a very small new beginning rather than an ending…I can live with that abruptness because I think it’s stylistically intentional.’
It’s very satisfying for writers when readers and reviewers ‘get’ your intentions. I don’t go in for long drawn-out endings. I hold my hands up, guilty as charged! This is because I have an aversion to the sort of endings, be it in books or in films (especially films) that dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’. When that happens I find myself wanting it to end in the perfect place, which for me is leaving a bit to the imagination, a bit of mystery, a bit of ambiguity, wanting a bit more. There’s a tradition in European dramas and films to understate endings and not to overdo them – perhaps lacking in the UK and the US tradition.
In literary fiction, there is more a tradition of the fluid or ambiguous ending. But if you are used to reading genre fiction with different expectations of endings then this may jar and leave you feeling disappointed or frustrated.
My brother had an altogether different explanation for readers’ perceptions of endings. He thought it may be a gender thing and he may well be right. The need for something ‘to close off’ and the feeling of being ‘cheated of a conclusion’ were both from a male perspective, whereas the reviewer for ‘Did You Whisper Back?’ was female. OK, I know this isn’t scientific evidence but it did get me wondering.
This is where I’d love to have your feedback and thoughts. Do you have expectations of how a book should end? Do you like everything to be tied up or do you like a bit of mystery? Do you have different expectations from different genres? And do you think there are gender differences?
Finally, thank you for reading and many thanks to those who have taken the time and trouble to read and review my books so meticulously.
Kate Rigby was born near Liverpool and now lives in Devon. She’s been writing for over thirty years, with a few small successes along the way.
She realized her unhip credentials were mounting so she decided to write about it. Little Guide to Unhip was first published in 2010 and has recently been updated.
However, she’s not completely unhip. Her punk novel, Fall Of The Flamingo Circus, was published by Allison & Busby (1990) and by Villard (American hardback 1990). Skrev Press published her novels Seaview Terrace (2003) Sucka!(2004) and Break Point(2006) and other shorter work has appeared in Skrev’s avant garde magazine Texts’ Bones including a version of her satirical novella Lost The Plot.
Thalidomide Kid was published by Bewrite Books (2007).
She has had other short stories published and shortlisted including Hard Workers and Headboards, first published in The Diva Book of Short Stories and as part of the Dancing In The Dark erotic anthology, Pfoxmoor Publishing (2011)
She also received a Southern Arts bursary for her novel Where A Shadow Played (now re-Kindled as Did You Whisper Back?).
She is in the process of re-Kindling her backlist of previously published as well as unpublished work including:
Far Cry From The Turquoise Room,
Suckers n Scallies (formerly Sucka!)
Down The Tubes
She Looks Pale
Tales By Kindlelight (a collection of short stories, many of them previously published or shortlisted in short story competitions),
Savage To Savvy (ABNA Quarter-Finalist 2012)
Her new book The Dead Club is due for release on Amazon on April 7th.
More information can be found at her website: