Don’t end novel with cliffhanger

One of the new writing trends among self-published authors is to end their novel on a cliffhanger. The idea is that this will generate interest in purchasing the author’s next novel, which is a sequel.

Unless readers know they’ve picked up a trilogy or a book in a story arc, most will find a cliffhanger ending unsatisfying and wonder why the author didn’t finish the story. As most television show episodes, motion pictures, novels and short stories have a clear beginning-middle-end, readers have become accustomed to tales that follow such a plot line.

If you wish to open the way for a sequel, consider structuring your novel so it completes one story that is part of a larger tale. For example, a trilogy might be about an unlikely band of characters going on a quest. To complete the first part of the journey, they must overcome some major obstacle that cements them together as a team. This leaves an opening for them to pick up their quest in progress in the next novel, which has them overcome a specific goal necessary for them to continue their journey (Perhaps to reach a specific spot they must solve some large puzzle). The third novel would follow this pattern by following another specific adventure in the quest. Indeed, most of the original King Arthur stories about the quest for the Holy Grail were written using this structure – as self-contained stories that each bring the characters a little closer to achieving their overall goal.

One possibility for including the cliffhanger in a novel is to add as an epilogue. Once the segment of the heroes’ adventure has been completed in the novel’s chapters, the epilogue is an extra that doesn’t feel tacked on but opens the ways for a sequel.

To get a novel with a cliffhanger to not end that way, you’ll likely need to add the solution to the cliffhanger in one last chapter. That may require editing some sections out of the story to prevent it from being too long. In a worst-case scenario, you may need to revisit the story’s plot and revise it so it contains a self-contained story.