Lately, we have had a number of clients who simply pass over the endings to their fiction books. It is as if they arrive at the last scenes all out of breath and can only cough up, “Oh, by the way, this, this and this happened. The end.”
What a terrible way to repay the reader who has struggled through hundreds of pages in order to get that reward at the end of the book, whether it be a happy ending or a wallow of tears or an enigma that leaves the reader with something to ponder as she/he closes the volume or switches off the Kindle. Whatever it is, it is why the reader is reading the book in the first place: to get to the end.
Much is made of the importance of the first chapters of books. It has a lot to do with the marketplace and the reality that agents and editors do not want to waste their time on anything that doesn’t captivate them in the first few graphs. The same is probably true of readers in this impatient era.
Long term however it is that ending that counts. First chapters are rarely ever completely absorbed by readers. Try going back after you have finished a novel, particularly a substantive one, and rereading that first chapter. Odds are, unless you are an exceptional reader, you will discover tidbits that you missed. Sometimes authors tell what the whole book is about in those first pages and the reader, trying to immerse him/herself into the world of the novel, is apt to miss it.
But the ending lingers. The reader deserves to experience it fully in all its feel-good/feel-bad intensity. It is the novel take away and writers owe it to themselves and all their hard work to bring that ending to life in full technicolor. It too will have an effect on sales.