Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Unexpected Tips about Writing the Last Chapter of Your Book

by PeggySue Wells @PeggySueWells

The last chapter of your book is not the last word. Will the reader close this book and immediately look for the next by the same author?

While the first chapter entices the reader to read the rest of the book, the last chapter sells your next book.

The Last Chapter

Reading over the conclusion of your manuscript, make certain these points were covered. 
  • Pace the ending to feel natural and not rushed.
  • Craft a satisfying ending that connects back to the beginning. 
  • Surprise the reader with how the details of the story come together.
  • Tie up all the loose ends.

Pace The End

Know when to end the manuscript. “Cut the final chapter short, tie the loose ends in a bow, but don’t go a day over,” said Waterbrook editor Estee Zandee. “End at midnight the night before but don’t show the characters brushing their teeth the next morning of their new life after the story ended.”

Craft the final chapter to match the pace of the rest of the book. And they all lived happily ever after quickly penned is the opposite of a satisfying ending. Show how events impacted the characters and how they are different than they were in the beginning. 

The final chapter in nonfiction gives the reader a vision of what is possible. The promise is that by applying in their own life what they learned in this title, their goals and dreams are within reach. 

Connect To The Beginning 

Stick the landing in the final chapter. Beginning in chapter one, you established a concept. In the final pages, round out the concept and make the points crystal clear. 

For fiction, use the last chapter to give a nod to the beginning. Remind the reader where the story began and how far the reader has traveled with the author.

Nonfiction focuses on a topic with a unique slant. Wrap up the manuscript with a summary of the important points that reinforced that slant. 

Surprise The Reader

In a fiction series, there may be unanswered questions that encourage the reader to reach for the next book but make certain the story concludes with enough immediate resolution to satisfy the closing of this section of the journey.
  • Each book in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series was a complete adventure. Yet, the overarching and more complicated plot resolved in the seventh book.
  • Lydia Sherrer’s urban fantasy series Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus provides a complete event in each novel but the greater story resolves when the series is finalized.
  • Jan Karon’s At Home In Mitford series is 14 books. Each can stand alone yet read as a whole the collection gives an encompassing view of the life of Father Timothy Kavanagh and the people who populate the community of Mitford.
  • Louis L’Amour’s Sackett series similarly gives a full story in each book, while the action-packed history of the Sackett family emerges throughout 19 books. 

Readers are delightfully surprised to discover unexpected connections between characters and events as the series continues. 

Tie Up Loose Ends

A strong ending is similar to a benediction. Jesus used fiction and nonfiction to inspire people to live better. Go and sin no more, do not worry, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours, and if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses were some of the themes Jesus shared. 

While no one likes to be preached at, a book’s final chapter is similar to a benediction. Through fictional examples or nonfiction insights, the last words of a manuscript can inspire readers to make different choices and live better.

Whether your book is fiction or nonfiction, a series or a standalone, a well-written final chapter leaves the reader wanting more from the author.

The Last Word

After ending the fiction story, when possible include an exciting sneak-peak from the next book to come or from one of your already published books. The message to the reader is that there is more excellent material available from this author, here is a sample, and here is where to find it.

“I just found my new favorite author,” a reader wrote in their review of a Charles Martin book. With two short fiction series and some 18 standalones, one of Martin’s strengths is his ability to end each project so well the reader quickly looks for another. 

Rather than the last word, the final chapter is the springboard to the author’s next book.


PeggySue Wells is the bestselling author of 40 books and collaborator of many more. Action and adventure, romantic suspense, military romance, and cozy mystery are the page-turning novels by P.S. Wells, including Homeless for the Holidays, Chasing Sunrise, The Patent, and Unnatural Cause. How to live better, easier, and simpler is the focus of her nonfiction including The Ten Best Decisions A Single Mom Can Make. Founder of SingleMomCircle.com, PeggySue coaches writing and speaks at events and conferences. When not writing, she parasails, skydives, snorkels, scuba dives, rides horses, and has taken (but not passed) pilot training. Connect with her at www.PeggySueWells.com, on Facebook at PeggySue Wells, and LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/peggysuewells

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