Writing Wednesday: How to finish your novel

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Stack of old books on a dark wood desk

Whether you’re doing NaNoWriMo (writing a 50,000 word novel during the month of November) or working on a longer-term project, the hardest part of writing a novel is, of course, finishing it.

I did some research to find advice on how to break through that barrier and actually finish your novel. I found several themes, relating to the different reasons why someone might find it difficult to finish writing their novel.

Many articles had tips on time management and how to fit in the time to write your novel when you have a day job and/ or other responsibilities. Others had tips on how to be motivated to write your novel, how to deal with publishers, and other advice.

But what I really wanted to know was how to actually write the end of your novel.

Several articles I found said to start your novel already knowing how you want it to end, but to be flexible because often as you write and develop the story, the ending will change at least a little bit, and sometimes drastically. But having an idea of the ending from the beginning will give your story direction and keep you from floundering.

Many articles said to write a story outline. You won’t know every single step of the story at the start, but having a framework of what you want the story to be and where you want it to go will help you get through to the end.

My favorite article I found was Gizmodo’s Strategies to Make Sure You Actually Finish That Novel (warning: contains a few not-safe-for-work words). This article gives you 12 very practical strategies on how to write the ending of your novel, how to motivate yourself to get it done, and how to break through if you are stuck. Examples are forbidding yourself to write the end (reverse-psychology should bring out your inner rebel and make you want to finish it) or writing the story from the point of view of your villain or some other character who would have a different take on the story than the protagonist. The article has lots of great ideas that come from a different direction than the usual advice and is well worth the read.

The Writing Cooperative’s article How to Finish Writing Your Novel in 90 Days or Less is filled with excellent advice for anyone writing a novel, whether you want to do it in 90 or 30 or 365 days. This article gives you a step by step plan for how to prepare for writing, outlining your story, setting goals, maintaining motivation, creating a story and memorable characters, and planning the ending of your story. It has a 90 day timeline that you can adjust to fit the length of time you have to write your novel.

Helping Writers Become Authors has an article called 6 Tips to Help You Finish Your Book. It’s actually 6 common obstacles to finishing your novel, with practical advice on how to overcome them. Some are the usual: discouragement, distraction. But then they get into the real nitty-gritty: what do you do when your story itself is fundamentally flawed (with tips on how to fix it)? How do you tell the difference between writer’s block (with tips to push through) vs when you’re beating a dead horse (and it’s time to give up and move on)? This article will help you identify these roadblocks. Once you have figured out the problem, it gives you a three-step process for finding the solution.

For more insight into the novel-writing process, see our author interviews on The Writer’s Project to learn more about successful novelists’ writing tips and techniques.

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