1. kingzilla
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    kingzilla Senior Member

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    Ending a novel but opening it up for the next book

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by kingzilla, Mar 23, 2012.

    I just finished my 1st draft and, well, the first thing I noticed was the terrible ending. I wrote it at 3:00 AM so that obviously had a part of it, but another problem was making an ending that would make the reader want to read the next book.

    Should I make the ending so the protag. is looking into the future thinking about ______, and how dangerous it will be.

    Should I make it abrupt?

    The book is targeted to young adults if it makes any difference. The last scene before the ending is pretty much the main character who is eleven, who's dad is a god (not going to get into all that stuff) and he is taking him back to earth to his (human) mom who was crazy because the protag's dad left his mom because he couldn't stay with her (she isn't crazy at the end) and the protag, but after a bunch of crazy stuff (the story) that got the protag to a fictional heaven and he has go back to Earth to be with his mom. Yeah a pretty bad explanation, but if I tried to explain my story, it would probably take a couple hundred words.

    Can you guys help me out?
    Thanks in advance - Kingzilla
     
  2. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    I am so tempted to do this too! It's a hook that will make them beg to read your next book! The thing is, you need to wrap up your book. Adding a hook at the end makes a loose end, and you don't want any loose ends. You don't want to leave your readers hanging too much, because they will feel unsatisfied. You want them to put down your book and say, "Ahh... that was a great read. I want to have that experience again; I should read their second book!" You don't want them to say, "Now I have to wait a year until the next book comes out! THIS SUCKS!"

    You can still foreshadow the prospects of a future book, but the current book should feel complete. J.K. Rowling did a great job with this with her first book:
    Harry defeats Voldemort and the sorcerer's/philosopher's stone is destroyed. There are no plot twists to have us hanging on for the next book. There is, however, this humming in the back of our minds; a question: Will Voldemort Come Back?

    So, we still have a set-up for future books, but it isn't in-your-face obvious. Instead, we have the feeling, "I liked that experience. I want to do it again."

    Star Wars is another excellent example. Episode IV (the first one released) ends with the Death Star blown up, and is a huge victory for the Rebels. There are no cliffhangers, aside from something that only gets about 3 seconds of screen time: Darth Vadar's ship spiraling into space, leaving it open to interpretation whether he is dead or alive...
     
  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Just wrap up the story you have. There's nothing cheesier than a movie that ends with a graphic saying "Our Hero Will Return in Hero II: The Sequel!"

    Make sure your first story is a complete story. It should be done after the last line. If there's a sequel, it should be a new story, with a new beginning, and not just a continuation of the previous story. (LOTR, btw, was originally written as one big novel, not as a trilogy. The publisher broke it up into a trilogy to make it more profitable to print.)

    That's my opinion, anyway.
     
  4. kingzilla
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    kingzilla Senior Member

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    to clarify to you guys, I had no plans for a ending which is like minstrel said. That would be a really... bad ending. I planned on more a question or a statement by the character.
     
  5. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    Any question raised that goes unanswered is technically a plot hole. Your goal is to not have plot holes.
     
  6. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Do the right ending for your novel - if that is abrupt make it abrupt, if that is a question (personally I don't mind novels that leave me thinking and wondering) then make it a question.

    Mine end in a variety of ways: birth of a baby, flight to Guatemala, walk back from a registry office, a couple going into a large cleaning cupboard, my protagonist wasting away, another screaming (that one does leave questions)
     
  7. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    My second least favorite ending is "And after this commercial break we'll be right back." Meaning that they are plugging their next book so blatantly that they open a black hole at the end of their book and I think a character thinking forward counts. The only way to get away with it would be something very subtle, like the 3 second blip of Darth Vadar's ship spiraling into space (great example funkybassmannick).

    My first least favorite ending is the blow up the world, kill the main characters and tell us everything the MC was working for was in vain.
     
  8. Kaymindless
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    Kaymindless Contributing Member

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    As the reader, I'm not going to by the second book in the series because there's an open ending, I'm going to buy it because I like the world, the story and the writing.

    Do as everyone else said, have a tight, good ending; you're writing, the world and story are going to sell the sequel.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    This is one big reason that new writers shouldn't even THINK of a series or sequel before they have sold a single novel.

    Tailoring an ending to lead into a sequel weakens what was (hopefully) a well-completed novel.

    Treat the current novel as the only one you'll ever sell. Make it the very best you can produce, and fully complete. IF you manage to sell this one, you may see possibilities for a follow up story. You might not. Leave yourself open to writing the next story as the best you can manage, and not be locked into the same setting and characters.

    By the time the first one is sold, you'll have learned a lot about writing. Your first novel may indeed seem weak and limiting to build upon.

    Publishers aren't looking for series. They are looking for writers with more than one story to write, and a drive for excellence.
     
  10. kingzilla
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    kingzilla Senior Member

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    I can see what you mean Cogito. I could try to close the ending, but it would be hard to do that simply because the book has been written in a fasion that leaves it open. I left a couple questions along the main char. journey and I suppose if I made my novel as a single novel, I would have to really rewrite my book in a quite different way so the questions were either anwsered or not even asked.

    Maybe another option is to leave this book and write another one that is a more single and try to get published with that?
     
  11. MissRis
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    MissRis Contributing Member

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    Now I wonder if I should rework my novel.......... I had it originally all planned to be a series, but now I'm wondering.

    What do other people think about this?
     
  12. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    Go ahead and keep it a series, but make sure it is good enough to stand alone as one book. That is, make sure ALL loose ends are tied up. This may mean you are putting more into this book than you originally planned.
     
  13. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    I don't think it's a hard and fast rule that novels MUST NOT under any circumstances leave loose ends. Tying up every loose end can sometimes feel trite or contrived, and backfire. Life isn't like that, after all. Sometimes the plot arc isn't a nice neat curve with a beginning, middle and end, and nothing is left open to speculation. Sometimes endings dangle.

    Mine will tie up some loose ends, and leave others open. The big bad schemes at something, the MC stops him. But this is only Big Bad's phase one scheme - phase two has been largely hinted at and is still very much on the Big Bad's to do list, even though it looks like for now it has been prevented.

    Similarly, the MC's wife schemes at something in the subplot. She is thwarted by the powerplay going on in the main plot. But her goal remains, and she has an ace up her sleeve that she does not use in the novel. That sounds like a lot of loose ends, but my agent is quite happy for it to end that way.

    Not everything has to be wrapped up with a pretty pink bow on.
     
  14. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    Right now I have books taking place in three completely different settings, and all of them can be turned into a series. Not cliffhanger-series, but taking place in the same setting with at least some of the same people. Think Star Trek: The Next Generation, Voyager and Deep Space Nine. All three series takes place more or less at the same time in the same universe, characters from one series can show up in another, and yet neither series are directly connected. If I want another Star Trek book, I first decide on the story, then let it flow naturally into one of the three sub-series (TNG, Voyager or DS9) depending on which one is the best match. That way I can keep writing books based on a setting I love, and yet avoid the hole 'sequel' issue. The only reason I have why I'd write a sequel is if the story demands in, and in that case I either a) shorten both stories to fit in one book, b) write the story longer to include the sequel or c) plan all books in the series at the same time. That way it's still just one story, but spread over two or three books. Either way, I don't have the whole 'sequel' issue, as I said.

    The reason is quite simple: I don't end a story with a cliffhanger just to leave room for another book if the first one is successful. I write stories I want, in settings I want. If I want another Star Trek-book, I'll write a Star Trek-book. If it fits in one of the three sub-series, that's great. If not, I'll make a fourth. But if I want to write a Firefly-book or Superman-book, I'll write one of those. To me, the story always comes first.

    (btw I obviously don't write Star Trek-, FireFly- or Superman-books. That was just an example.)
     
  15. kingzilla
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    kingzilla Senior Member

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    To be honest, if you truly believe that your book is good enough to be published and all that, then I figure you could make an open ending. Unfortunately, for someone who is a decade (or more) younger then the usual age for being published, I have a lot of things working against me. I know I want to make a series. Most people do. I will close my ending, but leave the potential for another book.
     
  16. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    One thing you have working against you is arrogance. I would be more concerned about ensuring my audience is satisfied with one book rather than pulling a bait and switch. Once they are satisfied and demand further reading, then I would consider supplying further reading. Economics 101. Batteries not included.
     
  17. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    Exactly.

    You want your reader to feel satisfied. You want your reader to have a positive last impression of your book. If they put it down and remember thoroughly enjoying your story, they will be excited to read your book two. If they remember they threw it down because they were frustrated with your ending, they might not feel up for another book.

    EDIT: lol I basically made the same argument 3 weeks ago. Sorry for being redundantly repetitive in a redundantly repetitive way that basically said the same argument twice twice.
     
  18. kingzilla
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    kingzilla Senior Member

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    As I said, I am planning for a ending that leaves no loose ends other then one that leaves the potential for another book. In other words, what you said.
     
  19. Piankhy
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    Piankhy Member

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    You could also look up a series editor for good advice.
     
  20. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A series editor?

    The reality is, you aren't going to sell a series if you are a first time author. Not without a LOT of luck. Like winning a lottery luck.

    Your first book MUST stand on its own as a complete work. A good novel will have the best foundation for sequels you could ask for without inserting hooks and straps for a tie-in. A good novel has characters that the reader likes and wants to see more of.

    Don't leave loose ends to be taken up in the sequel. There's a good chance there will be no sequel, and that is what the publisher will assume, because that is smart business. If you DO come up with a decent sequel, and the first novel didn't bomb, the publisher will be happy to negotiate the second book. But no guarantees - you're still anything but a sure win for them.

    For all the publisher knows, you could be a self-destructive, volatile head case who'll crumble under the pressure to follow up with a second novel. It happens far too often. And don't expect them to look at your writing and swoon at your innate quality. More likely, they see a rough but possibly marketable piece they will consider taking a chance on. The reality is, you will have a lot of learning ahead of you.
     
  21. Jenny Masters
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    Jenny Masters Member

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    You could have one monster destroyed at the end but another one bigger one gets away.
     
  22. kingzilla
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    kingzilla Senior Member

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    Thats something I could do... I am still thinking about how i will end it. The current ending isn't good enough but I might have to go back and change some things to make it work.
     
  23. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Exactly what you should NOT do.

    It's one thing to leave an obvious "dangler" at the end of one book. It's quite another to discover at the start of the new book that "the big one" got away, and is a greater threat than the one before.

    Give your first book a clean ending.
     
  24. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The ending of the first Hunger Games book ended with Peeta and Katniss going out to greet their fans after winning the game - the author left the ending very much open but still wrapped up nonetheless. eg. the core of the story is finished - will the heros survive the games? We have the answer, yes. So the story is in essence finished. But then Collins opened up the fact that President Snow's gonna come after Katniss, and Katniss' romantic dilemma.

    However, Suzanne Collins was already a famous screenwriter before she published this, which probably helped in why she could have a much looser ending.

    Her 2nd novel finishes on a complete cliff-hanger, but the purpose for the story that is within the scope of the 2nd novel was completed.
     
  25. kingzilla
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    kingzilla Senior Member

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    I suppose when Suzanne Collins ended the second book in a cliff hanger, she was already committed to the entire series.
     

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