The Biggest Roadblocks to Finishing Your Novel + Some Useful Links

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

Self-Editing Basics: 10 Simple Ways to Edit Your Own Book by Blake Atwood via

How to Edit Your Book in 4 Steps by Mike Nappa via


Other Useful Links:

Your ISBN: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions by Steven Spatz via

The 6-Part Process to Successfully Self-Publishing Your Book by K M Weiland via

What Words To Avoid In Your  Writing by K Ross via

Why Writing Isn’t Enough—The Savvy Writer’s Guide to Success by Kristen Lamb via

The 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2016 by Marisol Dahl via

Best of luck in your writing adventures, and have a great weekend.


Articles: Advice on Writing and Publishing

The Holy Grail for Authors: 5 Reasons to Self Publish

“The subject is one I find particularly interesting for many reasons. I for one, would think as many others do, a book deal is the “holy grail” for authors. You know the whole “stack of rejection letters” thing. The urban legend that Stephen King had to get a bigger nail to hold all of his to the wall. If you have been around five minutes, you know what I am talking about.

Sheri McInnis is one author who has been there, done that and her take and perspective has been enlightening for me.”

Read here:


7 Things I Have Learned About Publishing

“I recently attended a writing conference and had the chance to meet and mingle with people involved in and knowledgeable about the industry of writing, and publishing books. I wrote a more inspirational piece about it here: but for a less fluffy and more boiled down version of the information here is a summary of the information I took away from the conference.”

Read Here:


Using Grammar to Strengthen Our Voice — Guest: Julie Glover

“Yet have you ever thought how grammar—the system and structure of a language—can deepen your voice?

Grammar isn’t merely parts of speech, where the commas go, or which words get capitalized. It’s a whole system of language to convey the meaning you want to give. We have societally agreed-upon rules to facilitate communication, but you can use those rules in different ways—or even break the rules—to leave the desired impression on your readers.”

Read Here:


13 Things I Learned About Writing Faster

“The speed of publication is one of the biggest advantages of self-publishing. No longer do you have to wait one year (or more) between release dates. You can publish whenever you’re ready. And when you publish often, especially if you put out books in the same series in rapid succession, you get increased visibility & greater reader engagement.

But to publish faster, you also need to write faster.”

Read More:


A. L . Kennedy on Writing 

“It would hardly be fair if a reader was asked to expend mental energy and invest their interest in a fiction inhabited by characters who seemed unfeasible and frankly less interesting than the genuine, human people they could be meeting and interacting with, if they weren’t suffering through this or that dreadful book. Hopefully, the effect of a finished character will be convincing, involving, idiosyncratic, natural – in short, real.”

Read Here:

How to Write a Short Story According to Edgar Allan Poe

“Paying Homage to the Pioneer of the Short Story on his Birthday.

“Literature is the most noble of professions. In fact, it is about the only one fit for a man. For my own part, there is no seducing me from the path.” [From a letter to F.W. Thomas, 1849.]”

Read More:

7 Great Websites for Writers

Great Websites for Writers 
The Allen and Unwin Book Publishers website is loaded with great content for writers, from getting started and getting ideas, to thinking like a writer and getting published:

Web Design Relief features a great blog with plenty of tips for improving your social media engagement, designing a great author website, and optimising SEO:

You are probably already familiar with Writer’s Digest, but this list would not be complete without including the Writer’s Digest site. Filled with tips on every aspect of writing and publishing, there are also regular writing contests with great prizes on offer.

Literary Rejections is the place to go for inspiration and writing advice, particularly when the stacks of rejection letters are starting to weigh you down.

Magical Words – advice, reviews and handy freebies for writers, with a distinct fantasy flavour.

Helping Writers become Authors – incredibly detailed advice on taking your writing to the next level, covering topics such as structure, character arcs, common writing mistakes and inspiration.

Live, Write, Thrive also features some great tips for writers. For example, their series of articles on the Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing:

I hope that you find these websites useful as well. Are there any others that you would recommend?