A comment popped up recently and, after replying, I found it was still rattling around in my mind. I know it’s something that many of us struggle with, so I thought I would discuss it here:
Hi I am a new and yes very worried writer, so am thrilled to have found your podcasts. I have started several novels, but never finished them, I’m hoping that I will get inspiration and hints and tips to finish one. Looking forward to listening to the other podcasts. Debs
First off, a big thank you to Debs for listening and leaving such a great comment.
Reading this took me right back to where I was stuck for a very long time… Throughout my teens and twenties, I dreamed of writing fiction: I thought about writing, I talked about writing and I read endless advice books and blogs about writing. I was looking for the secret. The magic ingredient that would enable me to write a book.
I started stories. I would write an opening paragraph or scene and just run out of steam. Occasionally, I would manage a few chapters, but I never knew what came next so I stopped. Until the next character or opening line or bit of dialogue would pop into my head and I’d write it down, only to get stuck again.
Behind all of this stopping was fear. I was scared that I couldn’t do it and so I never forced myself past the initial spark of an idea.
Also, I was making a crucial mistake: I thought that feeling stuck meant that the initial idea was no good.
What I didn’t realise was that feeling stuck as a writer is completely and utterly normal: It’s part of the gig!
That having ‘no idea what happens next’ doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep on trying. That, essentially, writing a book is hard graft, not divine inspiration.
Also, I hadn’t realised that nested inside my surface fears (of writing rubbish and not having enough ideas to fill a book) were deeper worries about finishing. If I finished, I would have to take the next step and actually show it to somebody else – argh!
Ultimately, I was terrified that if I did finish a book and it sucked, then I would have confirmation that I was a terrible writer and would never be an author.
It felt safer to dream of ‘being a writer on day’ rather than risk exposing my lack of ideas and talent through actually trying.
So, just in case you are where I used to be (or you are Debs – hi Debs!) I’m going to reveal to you the big secret about writing novels.
The reason you are finding it hard to finish your novel is because it is SUPER HARD TO DO.
But, here is the big secret… All you have to do is slog through this first one.
It doesn’t have to be good.
There is one rule: If you get to the end, you have succeeded.
If it sucks (and, fair warning, it probably will) that doesn’t matter. Every single author you have ever loved sucked when they started writing. Just think of it as a necessary stage.
And here is the best part – the magic lies in the act of finishing. Once you have finished that first book, I promise it will transform your writing life.
You might choose not to finish projects in the future, but you will carry with you the knowledge that you ARE capable of finishing them and that makes all the difference in the world.
So, having explained why I think finishing your book is so gosh-darned important, here are a few tips to help you get from beginning to end (or middle to end):
- Don’t focus on the writing. Focus on the act of doing the work, not the writing you are producing.
- Make finishing your book (no matter what) your one and only goal.
- Break the goal into manageable steps and add a deadline.
Happily enough, there is a group writing challenge starting next week which will help you with all of these tips. It’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and it starts on 1st November. You can sign up (free) here.
Or, you can set your own version of the challenge… Remember – the only thing that matters is getting to the finish line, not how you run the race.
Also, if you prefer your cheer-leading in book-form and liked this post, why not try my guide? It’s packed with tips and advice to help you start (and finish!) your book:
Stop Worrying; Start Writing: How To Overcome Fear, Self-Doubt and Procrastination.
Thanks for reading!
Are you struggling to finish your book or have you got a tip you want to pass on?
Got a subject you would like covered or a question for the podcast?
Join in the comments or email me anytime!