How to Finish Your Novel

You’ve dreamed about it and talked about it for years. You’ve even joined writers’ groups over and over again. But nothing seems to get written. Oh, sure, you keep bringing in new pages for your critique group. But it’s the same novel you’ve been working on forever. Maybe even the same chapter. When is it going to be finished? Here are ten tough love tactics to use to make it happen:

1. Decide you will write every day. Yes, every day. No excuses. No matter what else consumes and ambushes your day, commit to spending time writing your novel every day. No one else can write it for you, and life isn’t endless.


2. Give yourself a word count goal per day that is doable. No promising you’ll write 5,000 words on Tuesday. Promise you will write 500 words each day. Or fewer. Make it a goal you can achieve every day. Reaching your word count goal each day will build your confidence and your momentum.


3. Give yourself a deadline for finishing your novel. Professionals all have deadlines, why shouldn’t you? Make it a plausible one. Project the word count, divide by the number of words you can write per day, and give yourself a firm end date. You can join an internet challenge or create one with other writers. But make the commitment to a deadline.


4. Make an appointment with yourself to write. Yes, that’s right. Put yourself on your daily planner: “Me, at 6 AM.” “Me, at 10 PM.” “Me, at 1 AM.” Don’t just wait for the rest of your life to pause. It isn’t going to happen. Make the time for your writing. And as with a doctor’s appointment, demand a payment from yourself if you dare to break it. A good punishment: You have to get up two hours early for a week and write the whole two hours.


5. Assume that every other person in the world wants you to fail, so don’t let them. Toughen yourself up against the whining of people who love you, and the interference of some who don’t. Don’t let their version of peer pressure get to you. Insist that you have time for yourself. And by the way, make backups and keep your manuscript in a safe place.


6. Use the threat of public humiliation to spur you on. Tell all your friends and your enemies, especially family members, about your big writing project. Schedule an “I finished the novel” party for the day after your deadline. No worries about having it done by then, right?


7. When writing, don’t answer the phone and don’t leap up to help someone. Don’t distract yourself. Don’t stop writing during your designated hour unless the house is on fire. You can always screen calls to make sure you don’t miss something important. Even backed-up toilets can be someone else’s responsibility.


8. Don’t get hung up on story details. Don’t waffle about a character’s motivations or a plot thread and use that as an excuse to stop writing. Keep going, and don’t look back. There will be time to edit after the novel is completed.


9. Don’t give up in the middle. You might lose confidence and start to feel that you are writing garbage. Don’t pay attention to that self-defeating thought. You made a commitment to a deadline, remember? Follow through. Even a bad novel needs to be finished.


10. No cat excuses. Don’t allow distractions to stop you. Sure, the cat is cute, but get it off your keyboard; it can’t finish your novel for you. You are 100% responsible for writing your novel and finishing it on time. Do it.

Tough enough? Willing to tape these guidelines to your mirror and look at them every time you do another daily task it took discipline to learn? You weren’t born brushing your teeth; you learned to make yourself do it every day. You can learn to make yourself write every day, too. Maybe as often as brushing your teeth, which ideally you do more than once a day. Then perhaps you’ll finally get somewhere. As has been said by others, discipline is a muscle. To build it, you have to exercise it. Start now.

Good luck!


Copyright © 2014 by Irene Vartanoff


One Comment:

  1. Sigh. You guilted me. I better get back to work — I said I’d do five pages this week and I haven’t yet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.