My book, Love Complicated, releases tomorrow. Instead of freaking out and obsessing over the numbers and everything else that comes along with a release, I figured I’d do a blog post about completing your novel. I presented this to my writer’s group last week. So here are my thoughts on how to complete your novel.
Be it one page long or over 100k words, learning how to complete a story can be a test in and of itself. So what is the secret to finishing your story?
Let’s begin with reasons NOT to finish. And no matter how many stories I’ve written these thing always creep into my mind during the process.
!. You get STUCK. How many of you are at this point? You’re deep into your story and things stop. You don’t know how to move forward. WHY? What is stopping you?
What can we do to get unstuck?
A. Start at the beginning. Reread what you have written. Sometimes getting to know your characters again will help you move forward. Rereading may also help you identify a problem area.
B. Write the almost ending so you have a clear path. Or if you use an outline, go back over the outline and write the final or close to final scene.
C. When I’m not really feeling it, I force myself to do something I call free writing. This entails opening your document and just writing. Sometimes it’s only dialogue, other times it’s moving the story forward by ending a scene. You can always go back and fill in more detail or cut stuff that doesn’t make sense. Usually this exercise helps me get unstuck and move the story forward again. Your enemy is not a badly written scene or chapter. It is the empty page.
2. Another trap writer’s fall into: You think your story sucks
I’m pretty sure this happens to every writer. No one can be so secure that they believe everything they write is a going to be a bestseller and every reader will adore and devour all the words. There is no magical formula to combat this feeling. It will always be there. As a writer you need to figure out how to get past it and fall in love with your characters and your story again.
3. You get bored and start something else
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Starting a new story is fun. Slogging through a story you’ve been working on for months can be tiresome. But you have to keep your eye on the prize, which is a completed manuscript and the chance to get published.
4. I don’t have time to write
Uh huh. I don’t buy it. If writing is something you really want to do, you will make time.
5. ________ Fill in the blank with your excuses. What are some of the things you tell yourself?
How can we get past the excuses.
1. Set realistic goals and be accountable. Writing 500 words per day isn’t that difficult. It’s two pages. And even if you don’t make your goal, write something. The best way to be accountable is to tell someone your goal. Keep a diary of your word count. Expand by including when you write and your environment. Try writing in different places. Leave your house. Go to the library. Sit outside. Go to a coffee shop. Sit in your car with your laptop. Turn on music. Turn on the TV. Turn off the music. Turn off the TV. Turn off social media.
2. Set deadlines and give yourself a reward for reaching your goal
3. Think about the reason you wanted to write this story in the first place.
4. Use Write or Die
5. Using an outline vs. no outline
An outline gives you a path to follow and although you may veer off and end in the tall trees a few times, you can always find your way back
The only way I’ve been able to get by without using an outline is by writing my almost end so I have some sort of view of how the story will end.
One of the most important things to do when coming to the end of your novel is to tie up loose ends for main characters and secondary characters. What’s important and what can go by the wayside? Don’t forget about the secondary characters. Their stories need to be resolved too.
Don’t worry about the rules. Write the story you want to read.
I can sit hear and preach and preach about finishing your story, but ultimately it’s up to you. If you never finish your story no one will ever read it. Your characters will only exist in your mind, floundering and never changing.