Skip to main content

4 Things to Avoid When Finishing Your Novel

**GIVEAWAY! Emily is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks.** Emily Adrian, author of 2015 debut novel LIKE IT NEVER HAPPENED, shares 4 things to avoid at all costs so you can finally sit down and finish that novel.

When you’re halfway through a draft or a major revision, it’s easy to recognize and delight in your novel’s strengths. It’s easy to imagine that you will—someday soon, tomorrow probably—correct every single flaw. But as you near the end of a draft, and your book remains imperfect, you might start to panic. You might make some bad choices. Here are four things to avoid.

GIVEAWAY: Emily is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).

Emily-adrian-author-writer
Like-it-never-happened-book-cover

Column by Emily Adrian, author of debut novel LIKE IT NEVER HAPPENED
(June 2015, Dial/Penguin). Her novel was given a stared review and called
"Original and intriguing; a powerful debut." by Kirkus Reviews. Emily Adrian
was born in 1989 in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon. After graduating from
Portland State University, she moved to Toronto, Ontario, where she worked
as a receptionist while secretly writing books. Emily currently lives in Toronto
with her husband, Dan, and their dog, Hank. Connect with her on Twitter

1. Don’t call it quits prematurely.

I have a habit of growing frustrated with my manuscript and deciding, abruptly, that the book is as good as it’s ever going to get. I’ve come all too close to turning in a typo-ridden document with my own furious comments—“WHAT IS THIS PARAGRAPH EVEN?”—hovering in the margins. Don’t do that. Chill. Ask yourself how much time you have to finish your book. Make a list of problems you can reasonably fix within that timeframe. Take a break.

2. Don't Google yourself.

While taking your break, you may feel compelled to Google yourself. Particularly if your debut novel came out last month, or you just released some other sort of publication. Because maybe a kind librarian from Houston has been blogging about how brilliant you are, and maybe her praise is the fuel you require to finish your work.

Don’t. Best case scenario: someone in Houston thinks you’re a genius and you decide to Google yourself again in twenty minutes. Worst case scenario: you have three new one-star reviews on Goodreads.

(Have questions about what genre/category you're writing in? Here are some tips.)

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 3.39.23 PM

Your new complete and updated instructional guide
to finding an agent is finally here: The 2015 book
GET A LITERARY AGENT shares advice from more 
than 110 literary agents who share advice on querying, 
craft, the submission process, researching agents, and
much more. Filled with all the advice you'll ever need to
find an agent, this resource makes a great partner book to
the agent database, Guide to Literary Agents.

3. Don't delete spasmodically.

When looking over your novel for the last time, try to avoid haphazardly deleting words and sentences that suddenly seem clunky and bad. Maybe they are clunky and bad, in which case, your editor will let you know. More likely, those details that only start to feel gratuitous as you near your project’s end are, in fact, totally necessary. When I’m finishing a draft, I find myself skimming lines that I know are powerful and focusing instead on the understated bits in between—which, out of context, are as jarring as potholes. But what’s really jarring is when an author has deleted all the small actions and observations that carry the reader from one crucial point to the next.

4. Don't download your manuscript.

After submitting your book to your agent or editor, do not obsessively download your own attachment, fearing you accidentally changed the font to Wingdings and/or submitted an old college term paper in place of your novel. You didn’t. I promise.

---------------------

Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers' Conferences:

Do you have an idea for a great novel? Are you at a loss
for where to start? Look no further. 
You Can Write a 
Novel, 2nd Edition
, gives you 
concrete, proven
techniques to get from idea 
to manuscript to bookstore.

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 4.12.53 PM

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

Channel Your Inner Authorpreneur for Your Writing Labor of Love

Channel Your Inner Authorpreneur for Your Writing Labor of Love

As self-publishing continues to become an attractive and popular options for writers, it’s important to know what you’re getting into and to have the right expectations. Here, author and entrepreneur Tom Vaughan shares how to channel your inner “authorpreneur” to help your book find its readers.

Mark Kurlansky: On Coincidences Driving Memoir

Mark Kurlansky: On Coincidences Driving Memoir

Award-winning author, playwright, and journalist Mark Kurlansky discusses the experience of channeling Ernest Hemingway in his new memoir, The Importance of Not Being Ernest.

In-Between: Writer's Digest 2nd Annual Personal Essay Awards Winner

In-Between: Writer's Digest 2nd Annual Personal Essay Awards Winner

Congratulations to Alyssa Rickert, Grand Prize winner of the 2nd Annual Writer's Digest Personal Essay Awards. Here's her winning essay, "In Between."

Things To Consider When Writing About Ghosts and the Supernatural in Fiction

Things To Consider When Writing About Ghosts and the Supernatural in Fiction

From maintaining subtlety to visiting haunted places, author J. Fremont shares everything to consider when writing about ghosts and the supernatural in fiction.

6 Effective Steps To Promote Your Forthcoming Book on Social Media and Feel Good About It

6 Effective Steps To Promote Your Forthcoming Book on Social Media and Feel Good About It

Social media is a daunting albeit important aspect of promoting our work. Here, author Aileen Weintraub offers six steps to promote your book on social media authentically.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 609

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a world-building poem.

Writer's Digest Presents podcast image

Writer's Digest Presents: World-Building (Podcast, Episode 5)

In the fifth episode of the Writer's Digest Presents podcast, we talk about world-building in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, including interviews with authors Whitney Hill (fiction) and Jeannine Hall Gailey (poetry).

Heirloom

Heirloom

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, someone's shown up demanding your narrator's family heirloom.

May Cobb: On Stolen Moments

May Cobb: On Stolen Moments

Author May Cobb discusses offering readers a summer of mayhem with her new novel, My Summer Darlings.