How to Actually Finish Your Novel

Written by Caitlin Jans

As a writer it is a lot easier to start a novel than to finish one. I started at least 5 before I ever wrote one from beginning to end. Before I finished my first novel, I would get different new ideas all the time.

I wrote at least twenty first chapters before I ever wrote a second one.

One does not complete a novel by writing twenty first chapters. You don’t complete anything that way.

In my defense, I was thirteen at the time and I did manage to finish my first novel by the age of fifteen.

I have a friend who is thirty-four and has been working on the same novel for the last fifteen years. It is still not finished. In all likelihood it will never be.

I’ve written a dozen or so manuscripts over the years, and since I turned fifteen, I’ve never not finished one. So, while these manuscripts are of varying qualities, I do very much know how to finish one.

In my experience, the key to finishing one is setting clear achievable goals for oneself. A lot of writers do this by joining NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, a yearly event where people from around the globe attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in a month), and that works for some people, but not everyone.

I’ve found that setting myself a deadline of six to nine months works so much better in terms of quality.

After setting this deadline, which takes real life (like children and work) into consideration, I like to announce the goal publicly on social media, or privately to my family and friends.

Other writers I know like having accountability partners. These are other writers that hold them accountable to their goals. This is a good strategy to do if you’ve struggled with meeting your goals in the past.

Goals are all well and good but they don’t work if you don’t actually set aside time to write, so make sure to do that. Make sure you have time booked off to write. Maybe this means seeing a few less people or going to the gym less often, but it is almost always possible to make it work.

I’ve written novels in six months with two children and a full-time job. It is doable, even if it involves saying, “No I can’t go out, I’m busy.” when all you have to do is write.

Another strategy writers have to keep themselves motivated is to reward themselves with something they really want if they complete their novel within a certain time frame. This can be a trip or a fancy purse, or just giving yourself a week off from chores.

Now none of these strategies guarantee that you will finish writing a novel, but they certainly will help.

 

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