I recently had the chance to review a manuscript that I had sent back for revisions at the end of the summer. The first version ended sadly, with all hope of the romance succeeding being dashed to pieces. It broke my heart, but I could understand why the author made the choice she did. However, we suggested she change it because readers tend to prefer books that have happy endings.
I read the second draft with trepidation; sad as the ending had been, it had been earned. They were star-crossed lovers, so of course they would not end up together. Yet we had asked her to change it. What would Romeo and Juliet be like if they ended up happily ever after?
But the author pulled it off. While it wasn’t exactly a fairy-tale ending, the final pages ended with hope. Whereas before I had cast them aside to shed more tears, I now reread them to smile.
Both endings were earned by the story. By earned, I mean they weren’t forced or fake; it was easy to see the characters really acting that way. But the one that left me smiling was so much more fulfilling; it made me want to reread the entire book instead of hiding it away until I could bear the heartbreak again. This holds significance to writers – which experience do you want your readers to have? It also holds significance in the book market: which ending is more likely to get a consumer to buy the next book? So while I wasn’t sure when I got the second draft back, now I think that endings do matter.