Writing a story ending that will satisfy readers is hard. You don’t want a story ending that’s too good to be true, where everything is peaches and cream and everyone gets what they want. And you don’t want a story ending to go on . . . and on . . . and on. Here’s a note I have propped up on my desk: Build up to the story climax, write the final powerful scene, and then get out of there. Scenes that follow the story resolution should be short so they don't detract from the ending. Part of a writer's craft lies in understanding how to tie up various plot threads ahead of time, so they are not faced with having to explain it all right at the end.
Reading time is precious. No one wants to waste it on a book without a satisfying ending. Last year I read a book by one of my favorite authors, who will remain nameless, and my disappointment ran deep. It is not a satisfying ending when a character appears out of the blue. I flipped back through the chapters searching for the culprit or even hints that this person existed. Time wasted. The author was not playing fair with his readers. I closed the book with a sense of displeasure—no I did not toss the book across the room. It was a library book and I had to return it.
What is the main conflict in your story? If you're not sure of the answer to this question, you need to work on that before you worry about your story’s ending. The right ending depends on what comes before it. I don’t outline, but I do have a vague ending in mind, although not always who the killer is. I can always go back and plant hints here and there for the reader so that when she/he reaches the ending it will feel logical—even inevitable. Whatever started the story rolling should always be reflected in the ending (the character has achieved his goal or the killer has been apprehended).
Short stories use a subtler approach. There might not be time to wrap everything up in a tidy package, but it might not be necessary. So the author gives the reader a hint of how things are likely to go. I love the classics that dazzle my senses and touch my heart, and where the hero/heroine is happy at the end, not dead or heartbroken. This Christmas I pulled Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen from my shelf.
Wishing everyone a Happy New Year and tons of good books to read.