4 Ways to Wrap Up Your Nonfiction Manuscript

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Earlier this week, as I read Melissa Stewart's post on the ending of her book Mega-Predators of the Past, I realized I haven't recently written about the many clever ways you can wrap up your nonfiction manuscript. Here are four of my favorites. 

Summary Plus 

The manuscript I am currently revising for Red Line ends with a summary, but I have to go beyond what my reader has encountered in the preceding pages. One way to do this is to make a prediction as I did in Evolution of Mammals: 

“Fossils are one of the oldest means of studying evolution. Using DNA analysis, computer models, stable isotope analysis, and more, scientists are creating a more accurate picture of how mammals have changed over time. As scientists continue to develop new techniques and share information, that picture will continue to evolve.” 

Another is to end with a note of hope. "This has been a bad situation, but things are looking up because..." This is especially important when you write for young readers.  Most editors want to end on a positive note.

Consider This 

Another possible ending challenges readers to contemplate the information you’ve given them. Kelly Milner Halls does this in her book In Search of Sasquatch

"Serious Sasquatch hunters believe their quest will one day be just as successful. And millions of people around the world are sure they’re right. Until then, we’ll have to be content with compelling evidence that has opened even skeptical scientific eyes to the possibilities. Do you believe? Consider the evidence; then see if you can decide.” 

Whether or not you are a believer, you will be amazed by the amount of information the author compiled and the nature of some of the sources she used in her book. It is enough to make you think.

Call to Action

In this popular nonfiction ending, the author challenges the reader to go forth and . . . conserve, recycle, feed the hungry, etc. The specific challenge depends on the topic. For example, in Investigating Fossil Fuel Pollution, I talk about the different things that people can do to reduce the use and impact of fossil fuels. 

The call to action can also be used in historic fiction as Louise Borden does with His Name was Raoul Wallenberg: Courage, Rescue and Mystery During World War II. Here is her ending: 

“The fate of Raoul Wallenberg is still unknown. His tragic arrest casts a shadow on the light and the hope that this young Swedish architect brought to those in need during the dark days of 1944. “His enduring legacy – the knowledge that one person can make a difference in the world – lives on in the many thousands whom he and others saved, and in the generations that follow them.” 

Borden challenges readers to solve the mystery and also to create a legacy of their own. Thanks to Borden’s challenge, her readers are now thinking big! 

Circular Ending 

I really like well-crafted circular endings. A circular ending is one that somehow connects to the beginning. This is the type of ending that Melissa Stewart crafted in Mega-Predators of the Past. In the final three sentences of her book, Stewart restates the idea that dinosaurs are “overexposed and overrated” while concluding that it is time to “let other prizeworthy predators of the past share the stage.” This was her introduction and helps readers see that she has proved her point with numerous animal examples. 

Endings may not be my strength, but when I come across one that works this well . . . wow! It really wins me over. Now I just have to develop the perfect ending for my own manuscript. 


Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 35 books for young readers.  To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.

The next session of her new course, Pitching, Querying and Submitting Your Work will begin on February 6, 2023).  Coping with rejection is one of the topics she will cover in this course.

Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins February 6, 2023) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins February 6, 2023). 


Angela Mackintosh said...

These ending techniques are super helpful, Sue! This is a great list for any project, not just nonfiction books. I also love the circular ending. I've been playing around a look-into-the-future ending, where you imagine a scenario that hasn't happened yet, and write it in future tense. Another one of my favorites is to end on a powerful image.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Hi Ang,
Those work really well too! I'm much better at circular or "consider this" thank I at finding just the right the powerful image.

There are so many great ways to end a strong piece of writing.

Renee Roberson said...

I had never given much thought to this, but you gave some great examples, Sue! I think the "Consider This" ending is my favorite. Love the Sasquatch example!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I loved the Sasquatch book. "Consider this" is the ending I use most often but I really enjoy when I read a good circular ending.

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