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Five Steps to Finishing a Novel

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Wed Dec 28, 2011 2:04 pm
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Skins says...



One question I often get asked is how in the same heck do I always seem to actually finish the novels I write. I've never been able to answer that question very well because I've not really thought about it before. Last night I couldn't sleep so as my mind has a tendency to do, it went for a bit of a stroll and ended up on the subject of novels and finishing them. And thus, I have discovered some of the main ingredients of finishing a novel. Before I begin though, bear in mind that this is what works for me personally. They may not work for everyone so please don't go breaking into my house and stealing my cat if this is no help. Cheers.


:arrow: Good ol' determination.

It may be obvious but determination is probably the most important element to finishing a novel. You have to have the drive. Naturally, some people are more determined than others but I reckon everyone has that drive in them somewhere that makes them capable of completing a task such as finishing a novel. The problem is that a lot of people struggle to find that determination. If that's your problem then have no fear because I may have one or two suggestions that could help you.

1) Write down all of the positives about finishing a novel. I find that writing things down has a tendency to lock those things into your mind.

2) Finishing a chapter feels amazing, right? Well just imagine finishing an entire novel. In the process of writing your novel, keep that potential feeling in mind.

3) If you feel like you're losing the will to finish your novel do not force yourself to keep going. Take a break. Go and feed some ducks, think about all of the exciting things you want to happen in your novel, come back and try again.

4) Don't put pressure on yourself. When you start writing the very first chapter of your novel don't think, I will finish this. If I don't this whole thing will be a failure. Just start writing, enjoy it and see where your writing takes you.

5) Write about what interests you and not just about vampires or rabid meerkats just because that's what everyone else likes, even if the one thing you truly adore is toilet paper. You'll be a lot more determined with something you actually have a passion for compared to something you don't really give a flying monkeys about.


:arrow: Perfection is a myth. Don't ever strive for it. Like, ever.

One thing I hear a lot is, "I can't finish any novels because they always end up really bad half way through. There's no point carrying on." Wrong, my pretties. Unless you're determined to get that specific novel published, who cares how good or bad your novel is? All that matters is how writing it makes you feel and how much pleasure you get out of it. Getting pleasure out of something you're trying to make perfect is pretty darn hard.

Not only that but I can promise you now that no first draft in the history of first drafts has ever been published and become a best-seller. Of course your first draft is going have wooden characters, massive plot holes, pointless scenes, awkward moments and an array of typos. That's what make first drafts so fun. Embrace that and you may find yourself finishing a novel. The drafts after that is where the true quality comes in.


:arrow: Use YWS to your advantage.

Except for one annoying novel that I want to punch in the spleen I've finished every one posted on YWS. This site helps a lot. What I find is that when I start posting something on YWS I feel like I hold a responsibility of sorts to keep writing and keep posting. If I fall behind I'll let the people who are interested in it down, even when I genuinely think the only one reading my novel is the leftover turkey from Christmas dinner. Just knowing that one person, whether it be a YWSer or a turkey, is reading my novel motivates me to keep writing. It may be a little tough at first but try and develop this kind of attitude.

Another way to use YWS to your advantage is the use of clubs. Before you start running at me with pitchforks, yes, I know, clubs aren't available right now but they will be when Nate uses his ninja powers to bring them back. Clubs are great motivation because they're all about the novel but not literally the novel.

Err, let me explain that.

What I mean by that is you can get bored of just writing your novel at times so what the clubs do is let you think about and work on your novel in a different, fresher way. Instead of staring at a document plastered in writing you can ask people what they think of your characters, start discussions about your chapters, make a novel cover to use as the club's picture e.t.c. Clubs let you take a break from your novel but at the same time, keep it fresh in your mind. It's a win-win situation.

And then there's the people. Good golly, the people. I could marry you guys. When you start posting your novel on YWS some of your readers can be amazing and are brilliant motivators. If you get stuck, turn to them for help because as an onlooker of your novel they'll most likely have ideas about what could happen next you haven't even considered. If you're genuinely worried that no one's going to read your novel in the first place then ask people to do so. Advertise your novel on your profile (when they return), pm your friends about it, visit the WRFF forum e.t.c. I can guarantee you that you'll find at least one person who will follow your novel and motivate you through thick and thin. What can I say? YWSers are awesome.


:arrow: Characters are real people, you know.

This technique is all about guilt. Your characters are real people. No they're not, they're fiction--Real people. That's how you have to think. Now imagine being in control of real people's lives and half way through the most influential, important event that will ever happen to them, you give up on them. They could be hanging off a cliff and now you've just gone and left them dangling there for eternity. Not very nice of you now, is it? Feel guilty? You should.

If you ever start giving up on a novel make sure you feel that guilt, whether your character is dangling off a cliff or buying some carrots. You wouldn't want to be responsible for your character never being able to eat their dinner now, would you? If you start thinking like that and you decide to give up on your novel, there'll be this constant niggling in your brain that's begging you to go back to it and eventually, you will.

If you're worried about not being able to feel this closeness to your character, practice it. Whenever you're out somewhere think about how your character's doing. Think about what your character would be doing and how they'd be feeling in the situation you're currently in. Literally treat them as though they're as real as the toes on your feet because if you start giving up on them half way through your novel, the guilt will be killing you. In your mind you'll be ditching someone you've gotten to know incredibly well over the past few months.

This technique is also very helpful for character development as well because you get a real sense of who your characters are. You'll be killing two birds in one stone with this one.


:arrow: Keep calm and carry on.

While writing a novel it's almost impossible for you not to get stuck at one point. This is where the majority of people give up. Maybe your characters are in a sticky situation and you have no idea how to get them out of it or maybe you simply have no idea what you want to happen next. The worst thing to do is start panicking.

Take a break, feed some more ducks, think about your options and then write those options down. From there, decide on which option you think will work best for the sticky situation you or your characters are in. In your head or on paper you can then decide on how you want that scene to unfold. Whether it takes you an hour or four weeks to work out, whatever you do, don't get stressed and don't force anything out of yourself.

Also remember that there are other people in your world, including people that will help you, whether they're on the internet or are part of your family or group of friends. Don't be afraid to ask others for help or for a solution to your problem. Most people will be more than happy to help you figure things out because, well, it's fun and it lets them use their imagination.

Another thing I'd like to note is that you do have a backspace button on your computer remember. If you're really that stuck on a scene, delete it. Highlight that untameable thing, whack that backspace button and start again, whether it be a rewirte of the same scene or a new scene altogether. I know it can be scary to delete an entire scene that took you ages to write but sometimes it's the best solution.


So to conclude, get that determination boiling inside of you, throw perfection and striving to be the best first draft writer ever out of the window, treat YWS like a god of motivation, fall in love with your characters and make sure they eat their dinner, know that it's okay to ask for help and whatever you do, do not panic when you get stuck.

The only other thing I'd like to say is that if the problem is that you simply get bored of your novels half way through, do something stupid. Blow something up. Throw someone in front of a car. Drop someone's hand into a blender. It may develop into a fresh, exhilarating twist that changes your novel entirely and if that does happen, embrace it and enjoy it.

Now go feed some ducks.
Cat.




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Thu Dec 29, 2011 5:25 am
crescent says...



Thank you for posting this. I would *like* this, but with the like button gone and everything... *goes to feed some ducks*
Please take care to use good grammar when making a post!

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Tue Jan 24, 2012 7:34 pm
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Blues says...



<-- Yes. Feed me!
Last edited by Blues on Thu Jan 31, 2013 1:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.




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Sun Jan 29, 2012 7:31 am
AlfredSymon says...



Hey, great guide, Skins!

Mental note: Will use it! ;)

Your pal,
Al
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Thu Feb 02, 2012 6:15 am
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Dragongirl says...



Loved this!

Very helpful.

Thanks!

~DG
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Fri Feb 24, 2012 3:26 am
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PixieStix says...



THANK YOU!! I need these!!! Its really going to help!! :D

~**~Pix~**~
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Fri May 25, 2012 9:07 pm
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zohali93 says...



Thanks a bunch!
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Mon Sep 17, 2012 5:54 pm
Moriah Leila says...



Thank you so much for this! I have struggled forever to finish a novel and a lot of what you said rings true. I will definitely be back to read this when I find myself struggling to finish another story.
I am not addicted to reading, I can quit as soon as I finish one more chapter.




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Thu Jan 10, 2013 8:38 pm
ThoughtOfMazes says...



Thanks a lot for writing this! Where I have the knowledge and muse to write a novel, I lack determination to actually finish the novels I start on; your tips have already helped me greatly. Thank you ^^
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Fri Oct 18, 2013 5:39 pm
AlexSushiDog says...



Skins wrote: :arrow: Characters are real people, you know.

This technique is all about guilt. Your characters are real people. No they're not, they're fiction--Real people. That's how you have to think. Now imagine being in control of real people's lives and half way through the most influential, important event that will ever happen to them, you give up on them. They could be hanging off a cliff and now you've just gone and left them dangling there for eternity. Not very nice of you now, is it? Feel guilty? You should.

Honestly, if my characters were real people they would f***ing hate me!
*glances outside, sees angry mob of dead/injured/angry characters.
Oh... :smt003

Great post by the way, I liked it :3
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Wed Feb 19, 2014 11:20 pm
Holysocks says...



Wow, I'm kinda late... but thanks! I really found this helpful. :-P
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