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8 Tips for How to Finally Finish Writing Your Novel

Bijgewerkt op: 21 nov. 2023

Starting with writing a book is often the easy part. It’s finishing your book where a lot of writers get stuck.


This makes sense; it can take a long time to finish your book. Especially if it’s your first novel.


If you’re having trouble finishing the first draft or getting your book ready for publishing, I have some tips to help you complete your book.


First, we’ll look at some possible underlying reasons that prevent you from finishing your book. Then, I’ll give you some of my tips, like creating an outline, setting deadlines, and preparing for your editing.


8 tips for how to finally finish writing your novel

Why can’t you finish your book?

If you want to know which tips will help you finish your book, it helps to know why you’re struggling to finish. When you identify the problem, you can come up with solutions. Some of the main reasons are…


Struggling with self-doubt

All writers have moments where they wonder whether they’re actually good enough to be a writer. You can read some tips here to overcome your self-doubt.


Lack of motivation

It can seem like a never-ending process to write your book, and this can decrease your motivation. Write down why you wanted to write that book in the first place and put it somewhere you can see it!


No clear direction

It can be difficult to write without a clear outline. When you’re a discovery writer, you like to work without an outline, and I get it. If you’re stuck, try using outlining methods and brainstorming to generate new ideas and get your creativity flowing again.


Perfectionism

Perhaps you’ve already finished your first draft and consecutive drafts, but can’t help but keep going over your manuscript. At some point, more editing isn’t going to significantly improve your manuscript. It’s time to let go and go ahead and publish it.


Distractions

Most of us aren’t full-time authors. Which means the day is full of distractions, such as your job and family. And then there are also the distractions we all face, like social media, streaming services, and video games. Go over your schedule and see where you can block out some time for your writing, even if it’s just 30 minutes.


How to finish writing your book

1. Identify your fears

You might struggle with self-doubt or perfectionism. Or you might not fully understand why you’re procrastinating. Often, fear is the underlying emotion. Even when you don’t feel it directly.


Our thoughts often hold us back. Our brain is trying to protect us from possible criticism or other hurtful feelings by convincing us that we don’t really want to finish our book.


The best way to deal with this is to identify your fears. What is the worst thing you think can happen when you finish your book and publish it? Can you get comfortable with that potential outcome?


 
 

2. Set aside the time

Do you find yourself often distracted? Or do you argue with yourself that you just don’t have the time to finish your book right now? Then it’s time to take a critical look at your available time.


If you’re working during the day or taking care of your children and household, you’ll likely won’t have time to write. But what other times are there available? Could you perhaps wake up a little early to write?


Or can you skip watching an episode of your favorite show on Netflix and use that time for writing instead?


Once you’ve found your time, block it out. And make sure you let your partner and children know that this is the time you’re going to write. Put on some noise-canceling headphones if you have to.



3. Create an outline

It’s easy to start writing—we often have an idea of the beginning in our minds. But then the middle comes, and we get stuck. It’s at that point where an outline would be really beneficial.


Pick one of the many outlining frameworks available (for instance, Save the Cat!, Super Structure, The Hero’s Journey, or my personal outlining method), and start brainstorming.


If you’re a discovery writer, feel free to only brainstorm the points that you need to keep going.


What can also be helpful is to brainstorm your ending climax. Once you know how your story will end, it can be easier to envision how you get there.


4. Make a plan for your edits

While you may get stuck writing your first draft, you can also get stuck while editing. If you’re a new writer, you might not have even thought that far ahead. You’re just happy that you’ve finished your first draft (and you should! It’s a great accomplishment).


But it’s also crucial to make a plan for your edits. In particular:

  • How are you going to analyze your first draft?

  • Are you going to hire a professional editor for any of the stages?

  • Are you going to hire beta readers at any of the stages?

  • Which edits will you do yourself?

If you’re not sure what the different stages of editing even are, let alone how to do them, I’d suggest starting with educating yourself in this area. This will save you a lot of headaches and regret later on.


I have an article that outlines the different types of editing and a free self-editing course where you can learn some of the basics of editing.


If that’s not enough, I started a series called ‘First Draft to Finished’ on my YouTube channel, where I guide you through the editing process as I work on my own novel.


Once you have a good understanding of the different stages and which ones you think you’re able to do yourself, have a look at your budget. Estimate what the different types of editing will cost and which ones you absolutely need.


If it doesn’t fit your budget, is there a way to cut costs? (Have a look at my articles on the estimated costs for each service with budget-friendly options, starting with developmental editing.)


Once you have a budget plan in place, start requesting quotes and sample edits from different editors to get a feel of their style. Pick the editor(s) you're most happy with in terms of quality and price, and plan out your edits accordingly.


5. Have clear goals & set deadlines

Since you’re self-publishing, there’s no publisher hounding you about finishing those pages. That’s great, but it can also lead to procrastination. Sometimes you need deadlines.


To make the most out of your deadlines, set clear and realistic goals for yourself. For instance, if you want to finish your first draft, estimate how many words your novel will be. How many words can you write in a given week?


Then create daily, weekly, and monthly goals until you’ve reached the big goal—finishing your first draft. Then you continue with the next step (the second draft). Make sure your timeline is realistic and adjust it if necessary.


If you find it still doesn’t work, it can help to put some type of consequence in place if you miss your bigger deadlines. For instance, tell a friend or partner that you’ll finish your first draft on that date. And if not, you have to pay them a certain amount (or do something for them that you dislike).


Whatever you think will help you commit to that deadline.



6. Join a writing community

Writing can be a solitary journey sometimes, but it doesn’t have to be. When you’re lacking motivation, it can be great to be part of a supportive community of other writers. This can be joining a Facebook group of writers in your genre (and being active) or finding a coaching group online or in real life.


This way, you can also ask for feedback on your writing and help fellow writers with their books.


7. Work on one story at a time

It’s very tempting to start one story, come up with a new idea you love, and start writing that story. While some writers can juggle working on multiple stories at once, you might not be one of them.


Especially if you’ve never finished a first draft before, it’s better to focus on one story at a time. Stick with it instead of moving on to something else, thinking you’ll get back to it (you won’t).


8. Recognize where you need help

It’s perfectly possible that even after following these tips (or other tips), you still feel stuck and unable to finish. If that’s the case, ask for help!


Perhaps you can ask for help from your writing group. Or you can ask for help from a professional writing coach or developmental editor. If you’re stuck on your book and don't know how to continue, they can provide helpful guidance.


If that’s outside of your budget, consider having a friend read your story (someone who reads a lot in your genre) and ask them how they think the story will go. Getting an outside perspective can be a great way to get unstuck, and it’ll help you brainstorm some new ideas.


Ready to finish your book?

Hopefully, the tips above will get you ready to write and finish your book, so you can publish it. If that’s truly what you want to accomplish, you can definitely do it! As with all things, it helps to have a clear plan in place.


And if you need help, feel free to contact me via email.

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