You’re reaching the end of writing another chapter for your business book or self-help guide – the end is in sight! It’s a satisfying feeling when you look back on all those words on the page.
But here’s where you might be hitting a snag.
How do you round off that chapter, so your readers remember what they’ve learned and are desperate to turn that all-important page to the next one?
It can be easy to end a chapter on a bit of a low note because you’ve run out of ideas and energy. This won’t do.
Here are some tips and techniques to help you write a blinding ending to each chapter. Choose what works best for your book.
Tell ’em what you’ve told ’em
This comes from the old fashioned way of structuring a presentation: tell ’em what you’re going to tell them, tell ’em, and tell ’em what you’ve told them.
For self-help and how-to guides, this is often the best way to end a chapter. You simply tell ’em what you’ve told them.
Bullet points are ideal. Simply pull out around half a dozen key points that your readers have learned during the course of the chapter and summarise them in a line or two. Brevity and simplicity are important with this.
You want people to understand each point with zero difficulty so they can move onto the next chapter with this knowledge tucked safely away.
The key benefit for your readers: the bullets remind them about what they’ve learned, and they can even dip back throughout the book to refresh their memory of the main points.
The key benefit for you: it helps to clarify your thinking. If, while writing your bullets, you find yourself musing, ‘Ah, so that’s what this chapter is really about!’ it means you need to check you’ve included the right content all the way through.
The key pitfall: it can be tempting to add new material to your bullets. Don’t. Add it to the body of the chapter instead.
Pose a question or two
You’ll remember from your school days that your teachers didn’t just pass information to you, they got you to do something with it as well. Once you’d applied it in some way you could really understand what you’d learned because you’d put it into a new context.
In the same way, you want people to learn from the information in your book but you also want them to understand what they’ve read and embed it into their thinking.
To help with this, you can pose a few questions to your readers at the end of your chapter.
What’s the one way you would apply x to your business?
Having read these techniques, which is most relevant to you?
These turn the book from a theoretical text into a practical workbook.
The key benefit for your readers: questions help them to relate what they’ve learned to different situations, which helps their understanding.
The key benefit for you: it makes you think deeply about how your expertise can be applied in real-life situations.
The key pitfall: try not to make your questions too general or they’ll be too difficult to answer and your readers will give up. Enable them to achieve a concrete outcome by making them specific. So, ‘Think of one way’ rather than ‘How would you?’
End on a cliff hanger
This works especially well for memoir or narrative-style non fiction books, whether they be business books or ones on a more personal theme.
Your key task here is to keep your readers turning the pages because they can’t wait to find out what happens next.
Suppose you’re taking your readers on a journey from personal tragedy to fulfillment. You’ve just written the chapter in which you describe your lowest point and you don’t want them to think, ‘This is going to be depressing, I think I’ll give up now.’
So you add an intriguing twist to the last paragraph: ‘I sat on the floor, head in my hands, wondering how I was ever going to get up again. Then my phone rang. It was the doctor who’d just told me my illness was terminal. What was he doing calling me at 8pm on a Friday night? I picked up the receiver and at that moment everything changed.’
Now I’d turn the page to the next chapter, wouldn’t you?
The key benefit to your readers: it turns your book into a fantastic read.
The key benefit for you: it encourages you to think laterally and creatively.
The key pitfall: try not to be over-dramatic.
Sign off with a rallying cry
With your business book you’re aiming to change the way your readers think, feel, and behave.
There’s no better way to reinforce this than through a rousing end to your chapter – especially if it’s the last one of of the book.
Think about what outcome you want to achieve: is it for your readers to feel something specific? To go away and consider what you’ve told them in more detail? To join your cause? The facts aren’t enough – you need to give your readers clear signposts to what to do.
Alternatively, you could stir your readers’ emotions with some powerful language so they can make up their own minds about action.
It’s not enough to know this, nor is it enough to care. It’s only by doing something about it that you’ll make a difference in the world.
The key benefit to your readers: they gain the benefit of taking the action that will create change for them.
The key benefit to you: it encourages you to focus on the outcome you want from the chapter (have you structured it appropriately?).
The key pitfall: make sure your rallying cry is both relevant to the chapter’s content and proportionate to its purpose.
You now have four ways to round off a chapter in an effective way. Boring chapter endings are a thing of the past!
Which technique will you try first in your business book? (see what I did there).