Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Three rules for writing the other kind of happy ending

I want to write an ending for my MG novel. The threads I wove are being tied tightly together. I'm circling that satisfactory feeling of closure. The kind of closure where the sign for the broken bridge has fallen face down in the dirt. But this is MG and I need to tread carefully.The end doesn't have to be conventionally happy but it must be logical, signalled and contain a sense of closure.

There are three rules for the other kind of happy ending:
  • Make sure your end links with your beginning
  • Keep the writing tight: sagging contemplation is not a good look
  • The resolution must be clearly explained: it is the moment when young readers realise they got reading right

As a teacher, I keep in mind the fact that unexpected, poorly-signalled endings, the kind designed to catch-out the reader, would reinforce the idea that they can't read well. That is not a happy ending.

“Every story has a happy ending, you just need to know when to stop.” Annie M.G. Schmidt


  1. Great hints. Writing endings can be hard, especially when the ending isn't happy. Which is why I try to stick with happpy ending (plus I prefer them). :)

  2. Hi Elaine: Just popped in to say hello. It's exciting to be so close to the end. Go you.

  3. Hi, thanks for sharing these tips. I agree wholeheartedly. Even though I'm not writing MG genre, I think these can be applied across many. Tying back the beginning and ending were difficult for my story, it took me ages to get it just right. At last though, a happy ending for my characters. Best of luck with your book! ;)

  4. A friend told me once that while you're working on your edits you should always read the first chapter and the last chapter first, so you know what you have to do to get to that point.

  5. I like the 'keep it tight' one. A nice, clear ending that ties up the ends without spiraling out of control.

    Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

  6. Hi Stina
    Thank you :)
    Truly happy endings are hard to envisage. My favourite happy endings are hopeful ones - I'm big on realistically happy or happy enough.
    Happy Thanksgiving! :)

    Hi Ivy
    Thanks for calling by. How is the cooking going? I made soup my book called Curry Carrot and Apple - it was yum - although pears were impersonating the apples ;)
    Happy Thanksgiving.

    Hi Talei
    How exciting! It sounds like your book is nearly ready for submission. I'm a month or two off. It needs to percolate and I need to weed out the wordy ;)

    Hi Patti
    I like the idea of reading the first and last chapters before delving into the rest. I spend equal time doing on-going edits as writing.
    Happy Thanksgiving.

    Hi Crimey
    Thank you. I always feel the need to breathe out and splurge my ending. I've refused to let myself relax into the ending this time. Controlled.
    Happy Thanksgiving ;)

  7. Great advice. Endings have to match the book and make sense. Kids get really annoyed with illogical endings... so do I :)

  8. Hi Jemi
    I feel for the children on the cusp of reading fluently who look dazed and confused at the end of the book that pulls the heavily masked trick. I'm all for clues being signalled and the value of reading a second time to perfect understanding but life long reading habits are being formed. Success is the key to the keen reader.