On Writing Well: Writing the Ending

For a lot of people, crafting conclusions is the hardest part of writing. Writers from all genres find endings harder to write than any other part of the work, and the dread is entirely understandable. After all, the conclusion is our last point of contact with the reader, and as writers, we strive to make that especially engaging and memorable.

Beyond the emotional implication of the endings, in the final section writers wish to leave a lasting impression on the reader. A good ending should also tie up the loose plot threads in a work of fiction, and evoke a sense of completeness in a non-fiction piece.

Here are some basic tips on writing the conclusive piece:


For fiction:

One of my favorite endings in fiction is from Gone with the Wind, where Scarlett O’Hara says: “Tara. Home. I’ll go home…. After all, tomorrow is another day.” In one short sentence, the author manages to say so much. In your fiction, don’t be afraid to end in a similar note, where you:

  • Evoke a larger image: Scarlett’s quote is larger than Scarlett herself. It brings up a sense of nostalgia, courage, optimism, and grace, all at once. It is an apt ending to a gorgeous novel.
  • End with dialogue or description: Using a quote or a description as an ending is extraordinarily satisfactory. Endings of these sorts are almost always charming and graceful, and leaves the reader feeling very fulfilled.

For non-fiction:

  • Point to larger implications: In a work of non-fiction, the conclusion is a great place to talk about the abiding influence of the thesis you present in your earlier text. This kind of ending is especially pertinent for academic writing.
  • Ask a question of the reader: Asking a provoking question of your reader is an engaging and memorable way to finish a piece.  It involves the reader in a non-threatening way, and often gets more response than other sorts of conclusions.  This form of ending is especially helpful for blogs, essays or online writings, where you’d like to get reader response by way of comments.

Image by shutterhacks on flickr