Hi Jim,
I’m getting ready to publish my first novel. I’ve finished the rough draft and have given it to an editor. They came back with a critique and it honestly got me thinking. He said that my ending may shut readers off because of how sad it is. I will admit that my story doesn’t end on a high note, but now I’m worried. Do you think I should re-write the story with a happy ending instead?

Hi Lisa,

Let me first congratulate you. What an amazing accomplishment! Publishing your first book is no easy task. You’ve overcome so many hurdles and will soon join the ranks of many master storytellers who came before you! It’s both a rewarding and ominous feeling, putting your first book out there. I wish you nothing but the best from it.

Okay… now onto your specific question.

Lacking context, I can’t say that the editor is necessarily wrong. He may have thought it was a little too sad or dark? Perhaps his issue isn’t with the fact that it is sad, but maybe too sad for his liking?

I honestly can’t say as I don’t know him and I don’t know your story. So my advice is going to be somewhat generic. I think you should write what you want to write. I don’t know what your relationship is with your editor, but in most cases, you’re not required to take their advice. If he is the gateway to you getting published, then you may need to take a closer look at what he’s asking.

That being said, in my opinion, I don’t think you should rewrite your book with a happy ending. If your book was meant to have a sad ending and you’re satisfied with that, then you shouldn’t now change that. I honestly think fans reacting negatively to a sad ending is really a non-issue. Some of the best stories ever written ended on downers.

A good ending can make or break a story and the best endings aren’t always the happy ending. In the past, I’ve had the same problem. Think about it, which ending is more powerful…

  1. A character that has made all the wrong decisions throughout their life, finally, at the end, realizes the error of their ways, and makes the ultimate sacrifice to save the people he cares about.
  2. A character that has made all the wrong decisions throughout their life, finally makes a good one, and get’s to live out the rest of their lives in peace.

I would say honestly, the first one has a lot more weight and power to it. The reason for this is because of the sense of permanence pertaining to the sacrifice that character made. It’s also the importance of what the character did in this case.

These are very important factors to consider because an ending can make or break your story. You can have a happy ending that gives people a sense of satisfaction and leaves them with a good warm feeling, but then you can also have one that feels fairly like a run-of-the-mill ‘happily ever after’ tale.

On the other side of the coin, you can have a story that plays with your audience’s expectations. Imagine the emotional roller coaster if they aren’t expecting a character to die or for the story to end on a low note. If you do it right, that could easily be the most memorable thing you could do for your story. However you can also run the risk of upsetting audiences that are invested in the characters. It’s a big risk, but one that’s worth taking in my mind.

When I write my endings, I always remember one rule; make it memorable. It doesn’t matter if it’s happy or sad, it just has to be something that leaves an impact. Whenever I write, if I think my ending is turning into a generic ‘happily ever after’ one, I tear it up and start over.

So in the end, mind what your editor says, look at what he’s talking about, and consider his words. However, write what you want. If you think your sad ending is going to leave the most impact, then keep it as it is. Audiences are rarely turned off by an ending that is sad, as long as it’s a good ending.

So that’s my advice, but I’m going to turn it over to my readers. What does everyone else think? Do you have advice for Lisa here? Let her know in the comments.


Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.


I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:


If you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!


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