Writing a book is hard. That should come as no surprise to anyone reading a book blog. I’d be willing to guess that most people who love reading have tried their hand at writing (after all, that’s how just about every author I know got started). Re-Coil (*cough* releasing March 3rd *cough*) will be my fourth published novel, hard as that is to believe, and that doesn’t count the three finished-but-unpublished manuscripts that sit in my metaphorical desk drawer (okay, so in a random file on my computer). It’s a long, brain-draining process to write a novel and one that more people start than ever finish. So, here are my top tips on finishing that book you started and keep telling yourself you’ll wrap up one day…
- Consistency is key. The only way to finish writing anything is… wait for it… to write. Seems like a no brainer, but I know from personal experience how easy it is to say, “Oh, well, too busy today. Guess I’ll get on that tomorrow.” But if you want to take ground on a novel, you’ve got to write. Maybe not every day (lives vary, after all) but you must have some sort of consistent plan where you set aside time for writing. If you make a habit of it, your word count will start to crawl up and before you know it, you’ll have a “finished” work on your hands. More on the quotes around “finished” later.
- First drafts suck. First drafts are supposed to suck. That’s their whole purpose, their entire raison d’être. You can waste a lot of time in an endless edit cycle trying to perfect one page before moving on to the next. But here’s a secret – the page will never be perfect, no matter how much time you spend on it. Writers have an uncanny ability to fiddle and tweak, but “fixing” an existing page doesn’t get you any closer to being done. Let your first draft suck. Fix it later.
- Consistency is key, but sanity is key-er. Okay, that didn’t come out as pithy and clever as I’d hoped, but sometimes your brain is gonna say, “Not today, buddy.” And that’s ok. Develop the habit of writing, but it’s also important to understand that creative drain is a real thing. Sometimes you have to walk away from it and do something to refresh your mind. For me, the best choices for this are to head out into nature (for me it’s the beach, but your nature of choice may vary), to do something physical (work out), or to do something that requires an entirely different form of concentration (for me that’s shooting sports). Your method will vary, but the important part is to realize that not all walls can be battered down by bashing your head against them continuously. Sometimes, you absolutely need to walk away and do something else.
- It ain’t over when it’s over. So, this goes back to that “finished” work quote back in #1. Once you have bled and sweated and cried over your novel and finally written those last few words, you might be tempted to declare it a finished product and immediately send it out to every agent and editor you can think of. Don’t do it! It’s not ready. First drafts suck. Now you have the joy (if only there was a sarcasm font) of editing. Now is the time to go back and pick all the nits and look for consistency. Refine your characters; make sure your plot makes sense; fix all the nagging little issues that you forced yourself to skip before. As frustrating as this process can be, if you’re sending your work out to be looked at by professionals (or even just to be read by friends and family), you want it to be as good as you can possibly make it.
There are a million other things you can do to help you finish a novel, but I’ve found that these four basics are what give me the ability to keep plugging away. There is one final thing though: don’t get discouraged. Like I said, writing is hard. No one is born good at it and only in fiction does someone sit down at the keyboard and produce a masterpiece in a three-minute montage. It’s going to take time. Sometimes you’re going to want to quit. But don’t give up. Anyone can write a novel. You just have to keep on keeping on.
Oh yeah – I have to end with the obligatory plug. If you want to see where the path above took me, go buy Re-Coil, available March 3rd. 😊
Re-Coil is published by Titan Books and is available to buy from Amazon and just about everywhere else that sells books. And if your chosen, and preferred, book seller hasn’t got it on their shelves, ask them to order Re-Coil for you. You’ll be glad you did.