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Are You Ever Really Going to Finish That Novel?

We'll see—find out if you've got what it takes to reach The End.


Statistics say that almost everyone in America is working on a novel. But how many of them will actually finish it? The percentage is so small that it doesn't even compute on nonscientific calculators. Are you one of the few, the elite, the unrecognizable percentage who will actually finish your novel?


Circle the multiple-choice answer that best exemplifies how you'd respond. Remember: No one's judging you, except most of your family, God and the person who picks up the magazine after you and curses your choice to take the quiz with a permanent marker.

1 InOn Writing, Stephen King says he likes "to get 10 pages a day, which amounts to 2,000 words. That's 180,000 words over a three-month span, a goodish length for a book." On average, how many pages do you write a day?

A. 15-20. Stephen King is a lazy wuss.

B. 5-10. Stephen King is pretty damn accurate. In fact, I remind myself a lot of Stephen King.

C. 3-5. Stephen King is rich, famous and doesn't have to clean up after his stupid husband, who insists on cutting his toenails in the den.

D. 0-1. Who's Stephen King?

2 Pick which answer best describes your daily work routine.

A. I get up at 5:30 a.m., take a brisk walk, have some oatmeal and then write, with no breaks—not even to use the restroom—until "Oprah" comes on.

B. I get up at 8:30 a.m., eat, check my e-mail, read the paper and then try to write for three hours unless it's really nice out or there's a special guest on "The View."

C. I'm like the person described in B if you replace 8:30 with 11:30; the paper with Us Weekly; "The View" with "Maury Povich"; and three hours with one hour.

D. Um, I think it's a little presumptuous to assume I have a "daily work routine."

3 Agents like a brief selling handle summing up the book's main plot. Which answer most closely resembles the state of your pitch?

A. My book is about a terrible incident involving a lost puppy, a lovelorn woman searching the Internet and several shirtless firemen. In a crazy twist at the end, the lovelorn woman finds the puppy via the Internet, rescues it and realizes that one of the shirtless firemen is in love with her. It's a Romantic Thriller.

B. My book is about a terrible incident involving a puppy, a woman and some firemen. There's some sort of twist at the end involving the puppy, the woman and a fireman. Fireworks ensue. Not literal fireworks, although I haven't completely ruled them out. I think it might be a Romance.

C. My book is about a pet, a woman and some guy who's either a cop, a fireman or something hot like that. Things happen in the book, and characters change. There's conflict, and it's resolved. I've narrowed down the pet to either a dog or a domesticated alligator.

D. My book will have several chapters and a main character who's probably going to be a woman. Or a man. Definitely one of the two.

4 You cruised through the first 80 pages of your book, but now you're reaching the dreaded middle lull. How do you overcome it?

A. What middle lull? It took me two days to write the middle, plus I made Quiche Lorraine.

B. I just keep plugging away. It's all about pounding out a first draft.

C. I'm taking a week to clear my head by spending some of my hypothetical advance at a casino/day spa.

D. A novel has to be more than 80 pages? What about the novella? Is that shorter?

5 Your protagonist is:

A. Please consult the 30-page background bio I made when the quiche was in the oven. It's alphabetical and cross-indexed in order of appearance.

B. Complicated. Or complex. Yeah, complex. Plus, he changes during the novel. In a good way.

C. A guy, I'm pretty sure.

D. Don't tell me. Seriously, don't tell me. A protagonist is...all right, I give up. Tell me.

6 Your critique group suggests major revisions and possibly a POV change. What do you do?

A. Attack the manuscript with vigor. Start at 4:30 a.m. instead of sleeping in until 5:30.

B. Get a second opinion from someone else and then, if that person's opinion is the same, suck it up and make the changes.

C. Find a public restroom, lock myself in the stall and have a good long cry. Then take another trip to the casino/day spa for some R&R.

D. You mean there's more than one draft? Sheesh, why have an editor if I'm doing all the work?

7 You're trying to sleep when a great idea hits. What do you do?

A. Hop up and start my writing day right there. Being in bed just makes my mind race, anyway.

B. Write it down on the notepad I keep on my nightstand and pray that it'll be legible in the morning.

C. Call my mother and dictate the idea so she can write it down.

D. Like John Cusack in the movie Serendipity, I'm very clever and believe in fate. So if I don't remember it in the morning, then it wasn't meant to be.

8 The reason you've decided to write this book is because:

A. It's what the universe intended me to do.

B. I have this damn story stuck in my head, and I need to get it out.

C. I'm not good at organized sports.

D. I just bought this computer.

9 You're about to finish your novel, you're making great progress, when you realize it's your wedding day. How do you handle this?

A. If my significant other truly loves me, then she'll realize I need to finish the climactic fireman-puppy-Internet scene before I can even think about saying "I do" with a clear conscience.

B. It's my wedding day, so I guess I'll write only in the morning.

C. I'd hope that I would've realized I was getting married beforehand so I could get a haircut.

D. Who am I marrying? Are they cute?


Mostly As: Congratulations. You're the most prolific of writers, willing to sacrifice sleep, laughter and sanity in exchange for a very high production level. Not only are you going to finish your own novel, you could probably finish other people's novels, as well. You may or may not be Nora Roberts. At some point, you should shower.

Mostly Bs: You just might have what it takes to finish your novel and lead a relatively normal life (which means you're probably lying).

Mostly Cs: You may finish your book, but it's going to take a long time, and you don't seem overly concerned. You look for excuses not to work and have no trouble passing the blame when things aren't going well. Actually, you might already be a professional writer.

Mostly Ds: You probably won't even finish this quiz let alone a book-length work. Go back to sleep.

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