I’ve been told that by the end of your first paragraph a writer should capture the interest of a potential reader. How you begin a manuscript is important. How you end your manuscript is equally important. Many writers write the ending of their manuscript near the beginning of their intended book in order to keep their writing on course as they develop the plot.
Currently I’m in the process of writing the ending of a memoir manuscript I’ve been working on for the past two years. For this particular task I’ve chosen for the person whose story I’m telling, Doctor Phyllis Edwards Miller, to reflect on the markings–good and bad–she wants to address from her journey thus far and to conclude the manuscript with a ringing affirmation of her future goals.
I chose to end my own memoir, Tarnished Haloes, Open Hearts, with a section entitled Finding, Giving Grace. This section of my narrative chronicles the spiritual liberation I experienced when I began to focus on changing me rather than my gay son.
BEHIND ENEMY LINES (Historical Fiction)
Home, Sweet Home is the concluding chapter in my Civil War book entitled Behind Enemy Lines. One of the things I asked myself was how I was going to create a satisfactory conclusion to problems introduced in the earlier chapters. For instance, in the earlier chapters I relate how Bobby loses his father’s pendant, but claims to know nothing about its whereabouts. I had to create a scene where the pendant showed up among the charred remains of a cabin. Since Bobby’s dog, Cleo, had run away during the thick of the explosive battle I chose to end the book with Cleo returning to their new cabin bringing with her three puppies. This book was about a real battle, so I couldn’t end it with an ‘they all lived happily ever after’ theme. I chose to end it with hope and family love.
WHERE THE RABBITS DANCE (Historical Fiction)
I had to employ the help of Cherokee mythical people to rescue Lightfoot’s family from a prison stockade manned by the Georgia guards and U.S. soldiers. To end the story we traveled a dangerously fraught escape route until we landed on Choestoe Mountain, close to the Georgia-North Carolina border where a group of Cherokees had been spared from being forced to move west. Once again Cherokee legend came to my rescue. Legend predicted that during the winter months rabbits congregate on the bald mountain tops of Choestoe and danced. Witnessing this phenomena Lightfoot is convinced her family has been saved.
TRAILBLAZER, Parts One, Two, Three
All three Trailblazer books focus on Doctor Noble Wimberly (N.W.) Jones, whose life extended through colonial Georgia’s formation (Part One) until his death in Trailblazer, Part Three.
Trailblazer, Part One ends with the death of Chief Tomo-chi-chi, the Creek Indian who became the friend of James Oglethorpe and the struggling Georgia colonists. Part One closes with N.W. and his friend John exchanging thoughts as to what life will be like for them as they grow older. In keeping with the theme of all three books, namely his desire to become a doctor, N.W. performs a simple surgery without the help of his Jewish mentor giving us hope for his future success.
Trailblazer, Part Two deals with the N.W.’s connections to his family and his expanding medical practice. Part Two closes with N.W. being unable to save his newborn infant son’s life. This scene is followed by a cry for medical help in a neighboring village. N.W. is reluctant to leave his wife so soon after the death of their son but under the urging of his wife he does leave to bring healing to someone who needs him.
Trailblazer, Part Three is about N.W.’s involvement as a statesman during the Revolutionary War. To make it more relevant to readers I interlaced each chapter with what was happening in N.W.’s life in colonial Georgia with what was happening in the other 12 colonies. Part Three fittingly ends with the funeral service for N.W. where accolades were heaped upon him as doctor, husband, father, and leader in Georgia’s fight against English tyranny, along with his crowning achievement: forming Georgia’s first medical society.
In the ending of your manuscript–whether yours is a work of fiction or nonfiction–you need to make sure you haven’t ignored solving key points that you initiated earlier. You also want to create an ending that leaves your readers satisfied.