How to Finish Your Novel When You Want to Quit

Hi writing friends! I’m happy to introduce you to Nicole Pyles, a writer working on her first novel. She’s tackling a great topic that I’m sure will be helpful for a lot of us: how to finish your novel! Make sure you check out her blog, World of My Imagination, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter (@beingthewriter). Enjoy the post!

Yesterday, I came across a job for a writer on Craigslist. The headline read, “Need help from a writer for my manuscript.” It was a cry of desperation. They couldn’t finish editing it, the ad read. They were exhausted and needed help.

It struck a chord with me. A part of me was dying to respond to the ad, not with a helping hand  but rather a kind word to the writer. I wanted to remind her to keep going and to not give up. I wanted to tell her: yes, you can do it. You can finish your novel.

Finish Line

Photo by jayneandd

I wanted to say this because I needed to believe that it was possible. I’m on the last few chapters of my novel and some nights it feels like I will never be done. I’m still on my first draft, too, so I have even more work to go after I finish the first draft.

So how do you cross the finish line? How do you overcome that block that seems to get in the way during the last leg of your journey?

Visualize It

I am a big believer in visualization. I visualize being done with my novel. I visualize writing the last word. I visualize having the energy to rewrite that page one last time.

Visualize your finish line. Imagine crossing it. Imagine that feeling of victory. Because if you can’t even imagine being done, then you will probably never get there. Believe in yourself enough to imagine it.

Try a New Path

I’m a planner when it comes to my novels. I have to outline otherwise I will never stay on track enough to finish that race. I’d probably be just going in circles trying to find my way. But sometimes that sluggish crawl to the end is a sign—a sign you’re boring yourself. And guess what? If you are boring yourself, you will bore the reader.

Don’t be afraid to change things around and break free of that outline. You will be surprised to find out that you are more excited to get to the next scene than you have in a long time.

Stay Disciplined

I don’t know about you but sometimes writing reminds me of going to the gym. I hate the process of going to the gym. The going really sucks. But the second I get on the treadmill and blast my music, I completely forget about the burden of going.

Sometimes sitting at your computer is half the battle of writing. If you have a writing schedule, or a word count to get to, then stick to that schedule. Don’t have a schedule? Make one. And stick to it. Even when it sucks. Because the moment we cave in, it gets so much easier to quit.

Listen to Your Characters

Every now and then, a character will speak up and request a change in plot line. This happened to me just last night. Something told me to write a scene that wasn’t supposed to happen for two more chapters. But when I did I felt energized and excited.

My main character was telling me to quit dragging things along. She wanted to take the reigns for a while. If your character speaks to you like that, don’t worry, you aren’t losing your mind. It’s okay to listen.

Take a Break

Okay, this may not work for you if you are under a deadline like our Craigslist Writer here, but if you can, step away for a while. Work on something else. Do another creative thing. By doing this, you can go back to your manuscript with fresh eyes and a new way to look at this world in your hands. Taking a day or two off will not hurt the productivity of your novel and it can be the best thing for it.

And last but not least, post on Craigslist for an assistant!

I’m kidding, of course. Seriously, don’t do that. Writers aren’t that desperate, are we?


Spend fifteen minutes brainstorming different options and ideas for the ending of your novel. While you write, listen for the voices of your characters and any intuition that may be telling you to take a new direction. You may be surprised about what comes up.

Post your brainstorming session in the comments. And if you post, consider giving your feedback to a few other Practitioners.

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

  • Nora Lester Murad, Palestine

    Great post! At one point I was dragging and feeling bored and boring. I threw in an earthquake and that moved me along. Next I know, the earthquake morphed into a car accident, which was perfect (I’m mean perfectly terrible). The earthquake was a placeholder for a disaster that I couldn’t see quite yet. It all worked out that time, but overall, I’d say it’s a lonely, scary, tiring uphill battle. Thanks for your advice!

    • Nicole

      That’s Nora!! Nothing like an earthquake to shake things up a little! I love when one idea thrown in sort of helps influence the next change in events, even if that certain event doesn’t stay!

  • Carrie Bastyr

    I so needed this post this week! Great advice. Thanks!

    • Nicole

      Thanks Carrie!

  • I just started sending my novel to my critique partners. It’s not finished. In fact, we’re about three weeks away from when I have to send off part of the mess. You can bet it won’t be mess anymore when I send it. I expect too much of myself. Sometimes you need a kick in the pants like that. For me, this will work. (Well, talk to me again in three weeks).


    • Nicole

      Good luck Katie!! Critiques from other people are definitely a way to get a kick in the pants. Some how I get more energized when I get that feedback!

  • Back in November, I had two ideas for a novel and I started to outline the details but now, it’s March and I haven’t really finished that outline, nor started writing my novel/s. a bit frustrating but I’ll work on the tips you gave and make these stories not boring! Thank you!

    • Nicole

      Thanks Unisse! Sometimes getting your feet wet and getting started on the story itself (even if the outline isn’t done) can also help you get a great visual or idea of the atmosphere of the story. I have rewritten outlines (several times) and I figure its part of the evolution process!

    • Oddznns

      You might just want to “free write” ythe very last few paragraphs of the ending. I’ve found it helps provide the light at the end of the tunnel.

  • I told my Doctor that my characters spoke to me, she gave me a deep furrowed frown, followed by a long pause of disquiet. She reluctantly let me leave, after I agreed on a follow up “appointment”.

  • DMarieMichael

    encouraging advice. Thanks

  • Allyhawkins

    Luckily I have a writing coach that gently allows me to set deadlines of when he’s going to get the next chapter. With the exception of a very few times, I always made them. I wrote my first YA novel that way, and he’s on board the current one. He will definitely be on my acknowlegement page that day when the book/s are presented to the world.

  • Lena

    Joe, thanks for inviting Nicole. I always like her posts.

    Nicole, I enjoyed reading the post! Very nice advice!

  • This is very true. Thanks, Nicole – I’m working on the first draft of my fiction novel, as well, even though I am primarily a nonfiction writer. There are times when I’m looking at it, and I can’t help but think…this really, really sucks.

    But then I realize that the first draft doesn’t have to be perfect, and can always be edited. What’s important is to finish it, to get it down on paper, and that is where it requires dedication and momentum.

  • Thanks Nicole! You helped me realize what I’ve been fighting myself over! It’s ridicoulous the conversations I have with myself, and then I get advice or read advice, and I realize I should listen to myself a little more often and stop fighting. I’m on my first draft and it’s taken 2 years for me to write this because I’ve been outling 4 or 5 other novels that took away my attention. It’s been a long and grueling process for me to finish the first draft.

    Listening to my characters isn’t the problem for me, they talk non-stop in my head… it’s irritating and it gets VERY crowded! But, you are right, I need to listen to my main girl and ignore all the others that bustle for the attention. Thank you again! You’ve awakened the fire inside me once more.

  • Diana Shallard

    Excellent tips and good timing as well since I’m in the same boat – finishing that first draft. I almost miss the days of corporate work since those “real” deadlines kept me focused. Good to realize my characters are in charge this time, and that’s OK. Kudos to all of us for plugging away.

  • Pingback: Finish Your Novel | Jennifer Greenleaf()

  • Marilyn Johnson

    I am in the same position…and I feel like if I try and solve their biggest dilemma it will lead into another book…