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By Michelle Smith

On Tuesday 7 June, IPEd WA President Jess Gately hosted the Read Like an Editor Book Club. The focus of the discussion was endings in books – those we loved and those that left us feeling less than satisfied. 

At the beginning of the session, Jess briefed participants on past topics that had been discussed in the book club and prepared everyone for the session, including a spoiler alert for obvious reasons. 

The Read Like an Editor Book Club gives each participant the chance to bring along a book of choice to suit the topic but it isn’t required. Interestingly, most participants brought along a book with an ending they enjoyed and only one brought a book with an ending that was not satisfactory.

Each participant briefly talked about the book they had brought, and explained the reason for bringing it to a discussion about endings. There were books that left readers with complicated feelings or confusion about the ending, books that ended on a note of optimism and hope for the future, and books that ended with plenty of growth and change, making the reader feel invested in the characters. Some books discussed even had various possible endings, almost in a choose-your-own-adventure style.

Throughout the discussion, participants talked about the emotional connection or investment of readers with characters, particularly in book series, and the expectations of readers within a genre and how authors can play off those. 

The adverse effects of having too many unsatisfactory endings in an author’s body of work was also a talking point. 

There was also discussion about the need for the ending to be informed by the rest of the book, and how disappointing it can be when there is a disconnect between the narrative and the ending. This included particular types of endings, such as cliffhanger endings, and how you balance resolution with keeping readers hanging.

Finally, discussion moved on to the role of the editor in supporting and advising authors on endings. In particular, the participants debated killing off favourite characters and these developments’ placement in the text; being the reader’s advocate to ensure a satisfying (not necessarily happy or predictable) ending; using literary techniques such as imagery, or cutting off a character mid-sentence; and driving a strong narrative that concludes with a strong finish. 

This fascinating and lively session left us all with a myriad of book recommendations for our “to be read” pile. 

If you paid to attend this presentation, the recording will be made available to you. If you’d like to purchase the recording, please keep an eye out for the relevant “In case you missed it” email.