One month and one day ago, I wrote a blog post on beginnings. I did this because I had attended an extremely brilliant workshop on beginnings, run by the fabulous Anita Shreve, and learned so much my brain was going to explode a little. Plus, beginnings are an important part of your book. Some would even say the most important part. They hook the reader (and before that, the agent, and somewhere in between, the editor), and set the tone of the novel.
But more than once I've heard agents express their disappointment over full manuscripts they've received that just didn't live up to the shine and promise of the first few sample chapters. That's probably because most writers get it drilled into their heads how important the beginning is that they often neglect, or at least don't criticize as harshly, the middle and the end. But the truth is, although the beginning is what hooks a reader, the middle is what keeps them going, and the end is what makes them beg you to write another book.
There are several ways to end a novel:
2. Everybody dies. I don't necessarily mean this literally. What I mean by "everybody dies" is basically the opposite of "happily ever after." Your main character does not successfully complete their goal. The villain gets away with the diamonds. The girlfriend cheats on her boyfriend. A black hole envelops the world. And then you have to put your dog down. It's a tragedy, in other words, and when done well it can be a perfect ending (just ask Shakespeare). The problem, of course, with this type of ending is that a lot of readers don't like them, especially in contemporary YA, so you're going to piss some readers off. I also tend to think that they aren't realistic, for all the same reasons I think happy endings aren't realistic.
4. The ambiguous ending. This is the kind of ending were you leave it up to the reader to figure out what happens next. The most recent book I read with this kind of ending was The Killing Circle by Andrew Pyper. In that book, it was done well, and I loved it. In general, though, these endings are very hard to pull off. They take a sophisticated, coy writing style. They also can infuriate some readers, and you should prepare to be asked, for the rest of your life, "So did Jack really get away with the diamonds? Or did Mona push him off the cliff after all? I HAVE TO KNOW!!!!!"
What kind of ending do you like to read? And, if you're a writer, what kind of ending does your book have (if you want to share)? If you think there are more ending categories (I know this isn't a comprehensive list, but I think I got all the basics), please share them in the comments!