Ah, yes, one of those topics that sounds so simple. In order to finish your book, you should write, and if you write, you will finish your book. Case closed, right?
Of freaking course not. Because writing doesn’t ever work like that at all.
I recently (finally!) finished my second story, Nemesis, and it took me about twice the time it took to finish Hubris. There’s no rhyme or reason to how easy or difficult writing will be for you. As we all know, you will have good days and you will have bad days. But the goal is to have a day when you finally finish that book.
Fortunately, there are a few things that you can put in place that will help you get there. While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, the following tips will help you reach that finish line that you’re daydreaming about instead of writing.
Keep Up the Idea
I know the struggle–the really, really big struggle–that affects authors trying to finish their book: you fall out of love with your current work-in-progress and in love with a half-formed idea in your head. You then decide to throw out the old idea for the new one.
Look, writing isn’t marriage. It’s not ’til death do you part, your work-in-progress and only your work-in-progress, through sickness and in health. You can have multiple projects at once. A new idea seems intriguing, by all means, explore it. You should let your creative candle burn wherever it shines the brightest at the moment.
What you should not do is give up on your current work-in-progress completely. Put it aside, but come back to it occasionally. Make sure to check in with it. Working on other projects serves to keep the creative juices flowing and helps to try out new writing techniques you may not have been quite sure of. These factors combined with giving yourself some breathing room from your work-in-progress will serve to build some inspired writing when you’re ready to come back to it. I usually have a couple of stories going at once, but I always have one story that I absolutely have to finish, no matter what. It’s a mentality that I adopted with Hubris and, by proxy, had to have with Nemesis and will have to have with Catharsis, being that it’s a series and you can’t just stop a series. Having a hard rule that a book has to be finished makes you more likely to finish it.
Work According to Your Own Speed
While having a hard rule that a book must be finished is great, don’t have a hard rule that it has to be finished within a certain time period. One of the things that will ensure you finish the story is that you have the flexibility built in to just have awful writing days or take a short hiatus from your work-in-progress. There were times I couldn’t even be bothered to think about Nemesis, let alone write it. Give yourself an ideal time that you would like to finish for the sake of making a writing schedule. Give yourself hard, weekly goals and soft, daily goals. But even in hard goals, understand that you won’t always meet those, and that’s fine. Writing in spurts is still writing.
I spoke before about how you will not write every day. Accept this as a given fact and plan for it in your plans for your book. The point of remembering this isn’t so that you have an excuse to just not write at all, but so you aren’t discouraged or convinced that your book can’t be finished when these days happen. That way, even on days that you just write 200 words, you know that you’re doing great. If it takes two years to finish your book, so what? Unless you’re writing for a traditional publisher that holds a contract you signed saying you will release a book by a certain date, you have nobody to answer to about how long your book is taking.
Write Your Own Fan-Fiction
I cannot even tell you how many short stories based on characters from “The Siren Tragedies” I have started. One of these is set to be published in a new literary journal in May. Writing these stories helped me build more insight into the world I created, the history of my characters and the motivations that make them who they are in the official series.
To start, pick your favorite character from your story. Maybe it’s your main character, maybe it’s your villain, or maybe it’s somebody else entirely. Hone in on their weakness–what holds them back or makes them resentful? Write about how that came to be. Pick another character, one who doesn’t have an easy time in your story. Write about a day where everything went right for that character. Write about a day in the childhood of one of your secondary characters.
The idea is to explore your characters and their story from a new perspective. Filling in gaps in the history of your characters will help inspire you to add to your work-in-progress and will create those life-like characters that people keep turning pages for. As I’ve mentioned before, some of the most common compliments I get are about how realistic and compelling my characters are and how they have their own, unique voices. This is partly due to my writing their stories, regardless of whether I plan to publish the stories later or not. Give your characters some extra attention and you may just find your muse again.
Draw Your Own Fan-Art
If you like to draw, consider drawing your characters. As you can see on the Art page, I do this, as well. (I actually have many more pictures than these on my tablet of my characters.) Spending time doing this helps to make you focus on your characters. If you’re anything like me, as well, you will zone out and contemplate the character while you draw. Drawing scenes can help you visualize your story in a different.
Again, pick your favorite character. Draw them in various stages of emotions and at various ages. Put them in a scene with a character they may not interact with often in your work-in-progress. Draw your hero and your villain side-by-side. Focus on learning how to do various facial expressions, clothing styles, art styles, etc. Again, this will change the perspective and help you to see your work-in-progress in a new light.
Write Out of Order
Your story should read linear, but that doesn’t mean it has to be written so. If you have an idea for a part that you aren’t at yet, and are struggling to get through the part you are at, consider writing the part that you’re inspired to write. You can always come back to the part you were working on later, and maybe you’ll find more inspiration to finish it if you treat it as a bridge from one completed portion to another.
Write for Quantity, Not Quality
As I’ve said before, you should know that you’ll have a painful, mind-numbing editing process ahead of you. Knowing this, just write to get the first draft done. Don’t worry about how awful it does or doesn’t sound. Write down everything that progresses your story. Obviously, consider the progress of the story as you write, but don’t spend too much time worrying about whether it sounds like a New York Times Bestseller right now.
When I find that I have days of zero inspiration to write anything at all (even one of my other projects), I edit a little here and there. Days of no writing are useful for cleaning up some grammar or expounding upon a scene that you really wanted to go into more detail with. There will always be those days that you can do this. Writing days should be used solely for writing days, and worrying about having a completely edited piece will stifle whatever muse you have going for you right then.
For these days, it’s best to find some distraction-free programs. My personal favorite is Ommwriter. There’s a small fee to download it, and you’ll have to add your formatting in later, but it’s a great, simple app that has a couple of backgrounds, keypad sounds and background music to choose from that, somehow, create’s this inspired writing experience. (I usually turn off all of my lights and put my headphones on when I use it.) There are other apps that offer distraction-free writing, so choose one that’s right for you and use that for whatever you’re writing at the moment. The point is to get the word count up and get closer and closer to the end.
It’s amazing how finishing a rough draft feels like a major achievement. It’s something that you can look at, a finished product of planning, writing, re-writing and planning some more that have come together and gives you a tangible measure of your work. Getting there can be a slow, tedious journey, but it’s always one with an end if you tell yourself that there’s no choice but to finish. Keep writing and keep telling yourself that one day, this will be finished, and you’ll get there.
Until next time!