WIP · Writing

Writing an epilogue

If you haven’t read my post on writing prologues you might want to pop over and give that a read – you can even read the original version of my prologue for The Fair Queen from my very first draft!

Epilogues, like prologues, are a hotly debated topic amongst writers. Some love them, some hate them. But they can add an additional layer to your work, when used correctly.

Let’s have a look at how to, and how not to, write an epilogue.

Writing epilogues Lyndsey's Book Blog

As I’m sure you’ve worked out by now, I’ve used a prologue and an epilogue in my current work-in-progress. If you read my post about writing your story’s ending, you might recognise the circular ending tradition. This is where your story ends in the same place as it begins, or the ending brings in elements that are reminiscent of your beginning.

I’ve used an epilogue to bring my story full circle in the sense that it is framed by a prologue and epilogue, each with a time jump (eighteen years earlier in the prologue, three months later in the epilogue). Elements from both the prologue and chapter one reappear in the epilogue to really tie it into the story.

I’ve always hoped to turn The Fair Queen into a series, with at least two, maybe three books. However, in my research into querying agents and publishers, I discovered that debut authors rarely get series offers, so it’s best to wrap your story up at the end in a way that willΒ satisfy readers if there’s no sequel, but express to the agent/publisher that it could extend into a series.

With that in mind…

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Dos and don’t of writing an epic epilogue:

Don’t

  • use an epilogue to tie up loose ends that should have been tied off in your story’s climax and following scenes
  • tack on a lot of unnecessary information that your reader won’t care about, if it doesn’t add anything to the story, cut it
  • leave your readers with more questions than you answer, you should be concluding the story rather thanΒ setting up a sequel (a few hints are fine if a sequel is definitely forthcoming)

Do

  • skip forward in time if appropriate, revealing the outcomes of events at the end of the story further into the future
  • write your epilogue from another character’s POV if your MC dies in the story’s conclusion, or if you intend to write a sequel from this other character’s POV
  • explain the outcomes for any much loved secondary characters who may not have been involved in the final scenes of the story’s climax

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Your epilogue shouldn’t be dead weight dragging the ending of your novel down. Sometimes an exciting, action-filled climax requires a steady finish to give a satisfying end, but other times your story is best left off after the main action concludes. This is something your Critique Partners and Beta Readers can help you with, if they see the epilogue as unnecessary then it should probably be cut. If you absolutely love it leave it in, but be prepared for an editor to tell you to cut it later.

So there you have it, a few basic tips on whether your story needs an epilogue and how to make sure it serves your story and doesn’t end up getting cut later.

What are your thoughts on epilogues? Do you skip them? Love them? Do you have any advice on writing them? Leave me your tips in the comments!

 

Lyndsey

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Writing an epilogue Lyndsey's Book Blog

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15 thoughts on “Writing an epilogue

  1. I think sometimes authors use epilogues to include all the stuff they should have explained in their entire book and it completely kills the mood. Feels rushed and messy. I wish they had just spent more time tying those loose ends rather than wait for the ending to do so.
    Also, epilogues fail to be interesting sometimes. I just feel like if I hadn’t read them, it wouldn’t have made much of a difference in my opinion, which is bad.
    Awesome tips! πŸ™‚

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    1. I know what you mean, prologues and epilogues can be completely useless and wouldn’t effect the story if they were removed quite often. I love them when they’re done really right though!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting post. I’ve not read many books with an epilogue – only ones with prologues – and I’m on the fence about each. I suppose, if I were writing an Epic Fantasy series, I’d be more inclined to use them, as opposed to if it was any other genre.

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    1. I think you’re right, there’s something about epics where prologues and epilogues seem to fit well, where other genres they don’t. I particularly like the epilogue to Harry Potter, that’s how to use an epilogue effectively πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I personally like epilogues much more than prologues. Of course, that probably has something to do with the fact that I have to be invested to read that far. I don’t need to be invested to read a prologue, but the prologue needs to make me invested to read chapter one.

    I think I’ve used epilogues in my novel length projects, but can’t remember all that well. I think the one that stands out most in my mind was my first novel length project. It was set on Mars, so I used it as an excuse to describe what Earth looks like from Mars. Of course, I’d been finding excuses to do that throughout the whole project.

    If my fifteen-year-old self had ever worked up the courage to let anyone else read it, I’m sure they would have later been able to describe where Earth would be in Mars’s sky in great detail. (Not that you can see Earth well at all. It’s too far away.)

    In other words, if I were to rewrite that project today the epilogue would be either cut or replaced with an epilogue with actual plot.

    Thanks for the post!

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  4. I’m pretty firmly against prologues, but I actually really enjoy epilogues too!! I’ve got several planned in a fantasy series I want to writ and Im exxxxcited for them. I like epilogues when they bounce ahead in time and you get to see just a snippet of what the characters are doing…or if they lead into what the next book will be about. I also like cliffhangers though, and I Feel cliffhangers are better without epilogues?
    I LOVE YOUR TIPS!

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  5. I love prologues, but I usually hate epilogues. They often jump far ahead and make the story seem so final. I hated the epilogue in Harry Potter until recently when I started reading The Cursed Child! I think I just wanted more story πŸ™‚

    I want to use an epilogue and prologue in my current story though, so thanks for the tips πŸ™‚

    I’ve nominated you for the Liebster Blogging award: https://dragonspireuk.wordpress.com/2017/06/14/blog-award-liebster-2017-get-to-know-the-author-and-discover-new-blogs/
    It’s a fun way to acknowledge awesome bloggers. If it’s not your thing, no pressure to accept, just know that I enjoy your blog πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Louise! Aw I loved the epilogue in hp because I needed to know how the characters were further down the line, but I loved Cursed Child even more! πŸ˜„ thanks for the nomination, someone else nominated me too so I’ve started writing a post already and it’ll be up soon! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

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