Can’t seem to finish that novel? Here a some of the roadblocks that might be hindering your progress, and what you can do about them.
The first draft:
- Trying to edit as you write the first draft. This can easily result in an endless cycle of editing and re-editing, with the first draft never actually getting finished. Just remember that the first draft is supposed to be terrible, and to keep writing anyway. As Terry Pratchett said, the “first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” Hemingway noted that the “first draft of anything is shit”, and Joyce Carol Oates advised that the “first sentence can’t be written until the final sentence is written.”
- Lack of planning. Prior to beginning you need some sense of where your story is going and how you’re going to get there, who your characters are, and how they are going to develop. Some lucky folks might be able to keep track of all of these things off the top of their head, but I need some kind of outline, even if it is just a few sentences describing the major plot points and character arcs. I usually do a complete scene-by-scene outline, though these will evolve as the story is actually written. Outlining does not limit your creativity, but helps you remain focused and keep track of the most important points in your story.
- Losing the plot (in the literal sense). Even if you plan, it is possible to stray off on irrelevant tangents that lead nowhere, or get tangled up in a minor subplot that tries to take over the story. Take a break, remind yourself where you’re going, maybe backtrack a little if you have to, and get back on the right path.
- Getting bored. Writing a novel can seem to take forever, which is another reason why it is important to get the first draft down as quickly as possible without worrying about editing.
- Self-doubt. As soon as I figure out the answer to this one, I’ll let you know 🙂 The best I can say for now is to just keep going, no matter what. You can always fix everything with editing (hopefully).
After the first draft is finished:
- It’s time to edit – but you have no idea how. Fortunately there are plenty of articles full of advise out there for this one, and I’ve included a few links below.
- Loss of interest/focus. After you’ve read through your novel 50 or so times checking for character arcs, plot consistency, spelling, grammar, style, formatting, etc., it is easy to start loathing the very sight of your manuscript, and hating everything about it. Put it away for a while, maybe work on a new project yourself, and/or send your manuscript to be read by a fresh set of eyes, such as a beta reader or professional editor.
- Over-editing. Your manuscript will never be completely perfect. There is no such thing as the perfect novel, and the words we put on paper will never quite meet the vision we had in our heads. That’s okay. The important thing is knowing when your book is ready to be released into the wild, when it is the best it can be. If you wait for it to be completely perfect, you will be trapped in an endless cycle of editing and revising, and never finish.
Links to editing tips:
Your NaNo Novel Is a Hot Mess! How to Edit Your Book by K M Weiland via HelpingWritersBecomeAuthors.com: https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/nano-novel-hot-mess-edit-book/
Self-Editing Basics: 10 Simple Ways to Edit Your Own Book by Blake Atwood via thewritelife.com: http://thewritelife.com/self-editing-basics/
How to Edit Your Book in 4 Steps by Mike Nappa via writersdigest.com: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/how-to-edit-your-book-in-4-steps
TOP SELF-EDITING TIPS FROM PROFESSIONAL REEDSY EDITORS by Ricardo Fayet via kobowritinglife.com: http://kobowritinglife.com/2015/12/07/top-self-editing-tips-from-professional-reedsy-editors/
Other Useful Links:
Your ISBN: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions by Steven Spatz via BookBaby.com: http://blog.bookbaby.com/2016/01/book-isbn-answers-to-frequently-asked-questions/
The 6-Part Process to Successfully Self-Publishing Your Book by K M Weiland via CulturedVultures.com: http://culturedvultures.com/6-part-process-successfully-self-publishing-book/
What Words To Avoid In Your Writing by K Ross via ryanlanz.com: http://ryanlanz.com/2016/01/20/what-words-to-avoid-in-your-writing/
Why Writing Isn’t Enough—The Savvy Writer’s Guide to Success by Kristen Lamb via WarriorWriters.wordpress.com: https://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2016/01/25/why-writing-isnt-enough-the-savvy-writers-guide-to-success/
The 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2016 by Marisol Dahl via thewritelife.com: http://thewritelife.com/100-best-websites-writers-2016/
Best of luck in your writing adventures, and have a great weekend.