I wrote this article for the Writers Unite! Workshop on Facebook. The workshop was reviewing how to finish a novel and the group’s administrators all contributed an article about their experiences.
So many people begin to write but for whatever reason, cannot close the deal. I have managed to complete two novels, both in edit at the moment. If I can push through and finish so can those who think it impossible.
Funny how life brings us full circle. As a child, I was a voracious reader vowing I would write a book someday. A book like the Hardy Boys or Flash Gordon or later, about pirates or musketeers, only to discover Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie, igniting my love for detectives.
I took creative writing courses in high school and college only to tuck my desire to write away while I attended labs and lectures. No time to be creative had to study. After graduation, writing became part of my daily life, but not in the way I wanted. I wrote research papers, policy and procedure manuals, newsletters, articles, while the novel I wanted to write remained elusive.
Years passed. With a marriage behind me and employed as a human resource manager, I was laid off during the economic downturn. I spent five hours a day looking for a job but what to do with the remainder of my time? Two things happened, my favorite science fiction show ended, and I was feeling the urge to write. It dawned on me I could write fanfiction about the show I enjoyed and also hone my skills to prepare for writing a novel.
I wrote over eighty stories ranging from less than a thousand words to a saga of 137, 000. I entered challenges and story exchanges, and competitive last-writer-standing groups to become a better writer. Trust me, if you read some of my early work, you would see I had a love affair with commas.
The day came when believing I had the skills and knowledge I decided to begin my novel. Not finishing it never entered my mind, I’d completed nearly a hundred stories by then. Finishing was never a problem.
Not so fast.
Writing a 70,000 – 115,000-word novel is an arduous task. I began a science fiction novel with the goal of 115k word-count, soon learning my total pantster days were over. While I don’t outline a lot, I had to regroup and maintain some order to keep characters, events, races, spaceships and weapons straight. World build? I created my worlds as I wrote them. Don’t get me wrong I’m still a pantster, but the first step in finishing a novel is planning. You don’t have to know every moment of your story. It takes the spontaneity out of the story making it static. Knowing the ending, however, is imperative to finishing.
Finding time to write was difficult, real life has a nasty habit of interfering, but I was fortunate to have two good friends, one a linguist and one a former publication writer for the Navy, who read as I wrote. Their encouragement and suggestions propelled me to finish. Being a writer is about being alone, both a good and bad situation. The solitude to write is necessary, but a writer cannot live in a vacuum. Seeking out input from my friends was an immense help.
My greatest issue with finishing is one I encountered again when finishing my second novel. As I reached the end of the story, it became increasing difficult to take what was in my head and put it on paper. I’d never suffered writer’s block, and I don’t think I would classify my issue as such, but the words wouldn’t come. Frustrated, I walked away for a bit, thinking about it occasionally. Eventually, a eureka moment occurred and how to start the scene popped into my head. Once I was past that hurdle, I was able to finish.
Despite having completed two novels, both now in the editing stage, I don’t have a magic formula for finishing. I do think that having confidence in your story, knowing your ending, being flexible in allowing the story to evolve as you write, and support from people who will be honest with you are imperative. That said, the one thing you must have is determination to finish despite all obstacles. Believe me, writing ‘The End’ is an incredible feeling.
The writing groups Writers Unite! and Writers Unite! Workshop are on Facebook.
Image found on numerous internet sites. Not intended for commercial use.