I’ve been thinking a lot about cliffhangers lately. As a reader, I used to hate them. But over time I came to realize that I didn’t really hate them. If I could gleefully dive into the next book to find out what happened next, I was okay. What I hated was the long wait between books if I reached the end of an in-progress series, spending weeks, months, even years to find out what the resolution would be.
Then what did I do with Grant Wolves #1? I wrote a cliffhanger ending. I didn’t think of it as a cliffhanger when I wrote it. It wasn’t until I set some beta readers loose with it that I realized what I thought was a cool surprise was a total cliffhanger.
I published it that way anyway.
I’ve never regretted it. I was braced for backlash, but other than one semi-annoyed review the book was very well received. I still think it’s a great twist, and the book wouldn’t be the same without it. But I’ve shied away from cliffhangers since then. Grant Wolves #2 doesn’t have one. #3 almost had one, but the response from my critique partners was so strong that I decided to bump that scene to the next book.
Authors tend to fall into two camps when it comes to cliffhangers. Some say you should avoid them entirely because they just piss off readers. Others say they’re great tools to keep readers hooked, to make sure they want to buy the next book.
I think I lean more toward the “don’t piss off readers” end of the spectrum, but I can’t say I’ll never write another cliffhanger. I’ll write what the story needs, but I won’t go out of my way to leave readers hanging.
But, seriously, book one needed to end that way.