When I was first starting out, I was told that for newbies like me, agents and publishers didn’t even want to talk to me unless the manuscript was finished. That’s because it is so easy to not finish a novel. To write a few chapters and walk away. And as ridiculous and simplistic as it sounds, the only way to be published is to Finish. Your. Book.
It's something all writers have to learn, including me. I've written and sold 19 books since my first "the end," and I've streamlined my writing process so that I can begin and complete a novel in 30 days (sometimes less).
So if you’re struggling to reach the end, here are some tips that I’ve used to make sure I complete my novel:
1. Butt in chair.
There is nothing more effective than blocking out time to write and then writing. It might be 10 minutes or four hours. Whatever time you can set aside to write, do it. By telling your subconscious that it is time to work, you’re putting yourself in the best position to commit to completing your book.
2. Write the end first.
I know this is hard for pantsers like me, but if you’re finding it impossible to cross the writing finish line, there is hope. Figure out what the ending is. Know what you’re building toward (I think this is much easier when it comes to genre fiction because the ending is already built-in). When you know where you’re going, it’s much easier to get there.
3. Nobody’s perfect.
Give yourself the freedom to be imperfect. To write a truly horrible first draft. To write stereotypical, flat characters who don’t have arcs. For your prose to be weak and uninteresting. Just write and tune out the voice in your head that tells you it’s terrible. It’s okay if it’s awful. You will have time to edit and rewrite it. As the great Nora Roberts says, “You can fix anything but a blank page.”
4. Focus on one story at a time.
From being a fanfic reader, I see this happen constantly. Someone will have a great idea for a story, which they start, and write a few chapters. Then they think of another new great idea, and they start a new fanfic. Which they abandon when a third great idea come to them. You have to stop being distracted by shiny things. I get it—it happens to all of us. But create a document or have a journal where you write down all your shiny plots/characters, and then turn your attention back to the novel you’re working on!
5. Push through.
Make a commitment to yourself. Maybe even tell some friends or family members who will keep you accountable, and promise yourself that you’re going to finish this book before you start another. Just keep going until you hit “the end.” It’s a marathon, one that will feel like absolute drudgery at times, but you have to prove that you can write a full manuscript and finish your book.
If you’re making resolutions for the new year, let one be “I will finish my novel.” As a fellow writer, I can tell you that there are few things quite so satisfying as completing a book.