Finishing your first novel

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Hands down the hardest part of writing your first novel is simply finishing it. Most people start but never finish. So how do you push through and defy the odds?

Make sure your plot/character arc/hook, etc. has enough steam for a whole book. Really think about it--some ideas work as short stories or novellas but are too thin to be entire novels. I personally started/stopped on a few half-baked ideas because I had nothing beyond maybe 20K of build up.

You may not be a hard outliner, but even a pantser should have their book arc in mind before they start. What's your beginning, inciting incident, mid-point, ending? Give yourself permission to follow what might be your organic process (you don't know yet, most likely)... is the only way for you to write to meticulously outline everything? Do that. Do you think outlining heavily will kill all your creative juices/excitement for the story? Don't outline. (just do that "skeleton" of major points I suggested. The rest can be pantsing).

The first third is easy because it's all set-up. The middle is THE WORST. It's not called the "muddled middle" for nothing. The key here is to fight all urges to write "perfect" or amazing prose--just barrel on through. Write whatever you have to write in order to get past the middle. You can revise later.

Do. Not. Edit. As. You. Go. This is how writers end up with 10-20K that they are forever tinkering with but never write past.

The rush to the end is usually easy (at least for me) and write whatever comes to mind, but don't get too attached to your ending. They usually change.

That said, if you get really stuck on your ending--like, the last 2-3 chapters (not the last full third!)--one trick I've used on two books: I went back to the beginning and started editing (gasp!), pushing through all the way to the point where I left off. Reading/editing the whole book up to that point unlocked the ending for me and aided me in finishing. Plus, it helped me clean up draft zero so it felt more like a draft one.

When you are done with draft zero, DO NOT QUERY IT. Let it sit. At least a month. Gear up for a major revision. All draft zeros need real work. (I don't call it a first draft until I have revised, personally)

Now the trick with all this is you won't know your writing process until you actually write and develop a writing process! I advocate being kind to yourself, and looking for advice but not following anything too dogmatic. I wasn't successful until I learned to ignore "get up at the crack of dawn every morning, force your butt in chair and write 2,000 words, NO EXCEPTIONS." and allllllll the advice out there advocating that you cannot write without a crazy detailed outline. Discovering pantsing (and that I could write at 10 PM and 200 words was as much of an accomplishment as 2,000) changed my life.

Any day you write and get words on the page is an accomplishment. Fight perfectionism. Revision is a gift. Write as consistently as humanly possible (I do aim to write daily while drafting), but follow your natural instincts, re: when, where and how you write. When you're stuck, go for a walk/run/take a shower (I've broken through more writer's blocks in the shower than I can count haha).

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