How to Finish Your Novel When You Want to Quit
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.
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?
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.
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.