On July 30 at 3:30 a.m. I finished my fifth full-length novel--less than a month before I had to have this 148,000 word baby edited, edited, edited, formatted, and uploaded for publishing. The unexpected length of the novel was only half of the reason I am running so close to deadline on Wrought of Silver and Ravens; the other reason is that finishing a novel is just hard. So I wanted to share some tips that I hope will help you finish yours with fewer late nights.
Tips for Finishing Your Novel
1) Expect the writing, especially of those big scenes, to be hard. Don't be surprised by that but have a plan in place so you can keep moving along.
2) When you're feeling stuck, study the craft of writing. Just reading a few pages of K.M. Weiland's books on story structure or listening to Brandon Sanderson's lectures on writing science fiction and fantasy will often stimulate my brain and help me through my plot difficulties.
3) Take frequent breaks to stretch or walk or do the dishes. Your body needs the exercise, your kitchen the cleaning, and those tasks where you can put on music and zone out for a bit are great for letting your brain relax and then explore new ideas. It's easier for you to delve deeper into your characters and story world when you're not staring at a computer screen, fingers poised. So as you walk or do hands-on work, rest your mind for a bit and then daydream about the story world and characters. Your story will be richer for those details that seem to come more easily when you're not writing.
4) Listen to the appropriate music. If you have a fight scene or other heart-pounding dramatic scene to write, listen to epic music, like Two Steps from Hell or movie music. Mood is important.
5) Recharge by reading and watching things you enjoy.
6) Don't stare dumbly at the computer screen re-reading your masterpiece for hours because you're too tired or intimidated to actually write new material. Re-reading can be helpful to get you started, but if it's most of what you're doing, just go to bed and get the rest you need to do more the next day. Also, if at all possible, or unless you're a night owl, don't put off your writing until 9 p.m. when you're already tired.
7) Stick it out. Sometimes you do need to sit at the computer for hours until the words flow. Plan any late-night marathons carefully so they won't cause trouble the next day when you're bleary-eyed and possibly short-tempered.
8) Write trash. You've all heard this before--the first draft will be terrible. Writers don't write; they rewrite. You can't edit what you don't have written. So if you hit a rough patch, skip it and come back, or just write junk and then keep on and fix it later.
9) Check the plot and the characters. A difficult time writing could mean there is something not working in the story--a hole in the plot or a character who's poorly developed or not consistent--that needs to be fixed.
10) Love your characters and your story. This one might be the most important because it helps you remember why you even want to finish the book in the first place. Also, the more you know something, the more you love it (usually). So loving your characters and story means you've done your homework to make them real to you. If your characters are real to you, if the goals and problems they face are meaningful to you and not shallow artifices to move the story along, then you'll love the story more and so will the readers.
11) Enlist friends to help keep you accountable and/or to give you feedback on your story as you go along. A critique from a trusted friend often spurs me on.
12) Set a deadline and establish some kind of accountability or incentive to finish. This could be a pre-order date, a swearing-off of tv until the book is finish, or whatever will motivate you. Just be sure to set a realistic deadline for finishing the book.
If you have trouble finishing a novel, I hope these tips help you. Do you have any other tips that you would recommend for finishing writing a story?
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