Wednesday, March 9, 2011

How To Finish Your Novel

As I approach the end of my first novel this year I'm getting a lot of questions on how I do it so I thought I'd share my secrets with you. Many of you already know I carry a notebook everywhere I go and write everything long hand first, then I enter it later in my computer. This gives me the freedom to be able to write anywhere, any time. I write on the way to work (don't worry, I car pool), I write on my breaks at work, and whenever I find a free moment at home. I have a few more tricks up my sleeve though.

First I set a big goal such as, finish this book in six months. Your goal doesn't have to have such a tight timeline but it should have a time that you plan to have the novel completed. After that I take a guess at how long I think my novel is going to be. Based on that I figure out how many pages I have to write a day to reach my goal in time. Those pages become my secondary goal. It's is usually three pages a day. Again, your goal doesn't have to be nearly that much. The important thing is that you have a goal.

There is a key to reaching your writing goals, something you must do otherwise you risk never reaching them. This won't be easy for many of you because it isn't within a writer's nature. Are you ready to commit to it? Okay, here it is: allow yourself to write a rough draft. If you try to perfect your novel every step of the way it will take years to write and the process with frustrate you nearly to death. Get that first draft done from start to finish without a single edit. I give you permission. Once you're finished with it you can go back and put it through the ringer, but you must write it first.

Join us this Thursday at 6:00pm PT on the #WritersRoad chat on Twitter to discuss the topic farther and to get that much needed support for finishing your novel!



  1. Good advice. I think a lot of people think that when you sit down to write a novel that it has to be perfect. This is SO. NOT. TRUE.

    All the books that we love were revised and edited to get to that point.

    The first thing you must do is write it out. Even if it's ugly. I struggle with this myself. You think, "This will never get published." And you're right -- because it's a draft. You never send out draft. You revise it and polish it until it gleams.

  2. I am soooo taking your advice, Heather. As you know, I've done the research and background thinking for my next book, a historical, and am now ready to write. I am refusing to fall into old patterns that keep me from finishing that messy first draft. Thank you!!

  3. Karen, exactly, yes! I love how you put that, you never send out a draft. I think sometimes we don't let ourselves believe that and it's so important!

    Linda, power to you! I'll be cheering you on all the way!

  4. Great advice. I don't usually have the problem. I'm dying to see how it ends, even if I have outlined the book first. ;)

  5. Heather, this is excellent advice. I would never have finished my novel if I didn't first write the rough draft. And... it was so rough. I'm still working on it. Thank you so much for sharing your secret!

  6. I'm in agreement about the rough draft. It's a necessary step for me too.

  7. Stina, I love that! I hope you can drop in on the chat tomorrow. It sounds like we need your advice!

    Karlene, rough is good! LOL! We can only improve from there. ;)

    Lydia, if I didn't allow for a rough draft I would never finish! :)

  8. Hi, Heather...

    You're almost finished.... YAY! Congrats...

    I always finish first draft first. There is plenty of time to run it through with a fine tooth comb.


  9. So true Michael! There is always time for editing later! I like to get the full idea down and then go from there. It goes much faster that way for me!

  10. First drafts are so important. "You can't fix what you don't have." I have no idea who said this, but it stuck like glue! LOL One thing that really helped me see the light was participating in NANOWRIMO. Get the story down and worry about the edits later. I look forward to Novemember every year now. :)

  11. NaNoWriMo saved my life! Even though I cheat a bit. I write with no pressure throughout the year. I work on poetry and my submissions at a steady pace, but I don't stress out about it. Then I sign up for NaNo and bust my but to finish what I've started. It's the only time I can breeze over typos a supress the urge to fix them. Then I spent the next year fixing them (this is ultra boring to me so I usually intersperse it with something new)
    My other fav thing to do is get my draft bound. I'm so impatient and I want to see it in print right away! I go to and design a cover and everything. Then I hand out copies to my critique group and let them pencil in corrections. It's a satisfying and inexpensive way to hug my manuscript.
    Soooo... I guess every author has a different way of doing things, but whatever works right?

  12. Melissa, I love that saying! So true! NaNo is fantastic for getting that focus.

    Phyllis, that's excellent that NaNo helped you so much! You're right, you have to do what works for you!

  13. I think your advice fits everything for achieving goal.Yeah without having goal,Of curse we cannot achieve our goal.let me share my goal.
    My Goal: To be an airline pilot.
    For achieving this goal.
    Get English certification(TOEFL 80 for IBT)

    Join flight safety academy in US.

    Get license which is needed for applying airline company.

    Apply airline company.

    Become a pilot.

    I don't think I can go through everything smoothly though I do my best to achieve them step by step.