Saturday, September 17, 2011

Question to Those Much Wiser Than I

I read a lot of young adult books since that's what I like to write. And I've been noticing a trend. Many of the endings are not in fact endings. They are cliffhangers, sometimes at intense moments, and if you want to know what happens next you've got to read the next book.

Now, I've always heard that as an un-agented, un-published writer you should write your novel so that it can stand alone on it's own and then if later down the line your book sells with possibly a sequel, then your editor and you will decide where book two and so on will go.

Does the term stand-alone then preclude a cliff hanger ending? A perfect example is Nightshade by Andrea Cremer, did she initially write that book with an intended cliff hanger ending, or was that something that she and her agent changed before submissions, or something that she and her editor added after it sold as a series?

Should I pretty much tie up all the story threads at the ending of my novel or should I leave some of them loose and dangling?

Any comments or clarifications?


  1. I'm not published, but I have always understood that we should always have our first book be a stand-alone, without the cliffhanger ending. I think that if a publisher sees potential in your novel they will talk to you about doing a sequel or series. It wouldn't make sense to have a cliffhanger ending if there wasn't a sequel.

    But I know what you mean. I just finished a book that had a sort of non-ending to it. It doesn't do anything for me. Unless you can imagine the rest and putting it in really makes no difference either way. I personally plan on having a solid ending to my story and then we'll see what happens if I get an agent =)

  2. I've read that the main plot needs to be tied up. Subplots and hints at certain demise can be left hanging.

    Not published yet so who knows???

  3. Anita, I think the current demand for stand alone books is just that: current. Some of the books you've read were probably contracted pre-2008 when publishing was still more confident and series were in hot demand. These days everyone is so cautious and risk-averse that one-book deals have become the norm -- no one wants to expose themselves to a series of flops.

    E.Arroyo has it right that a book can be considered stand alone if the main story threads are tied up by the end, but minor or over-arching threads can certainly be left trailing for the possibility of a sequel. I have a one-book deal, but my editor has encouraged me to develop a thread that could run throughout a series and then leave it dangling in an epilogue. This way the story get's a conclusion, but the reader is left feeling there has to be more.

  4. Such a great post! Love visiting your blog!

    Lola x