Three years ago I began writing my first novel. As the mom of a young child, I knew it would take some time for me to finish the book. My writing time was often limited to early mornings or late nights. But I approached the challenge with enthusiasm and hope.
Early on, I joined a local writing group, signed up for a two-year writing program, and attended writing conferences. I desired (and still do) to learn about the craft of fiction writing and about the publishing industry.
But I soon discovered that writing a novel is no small feat. As many will attest, finishing a novel demands much from the writer—discipline, sacrifice, persistence, open- mindedness, and more. A good story idea isn’t enough.
During the last three years, I’ve struggled to finish a novel. On my hard drive, I have a handful of novels that I’ve started, but for most, I’ve only written a few chapters. For one novel (the first one I started), I wrote more than 50,000 words as part of NaNoWriMo. And yet, I haven’t finished it.
Over time, my hope of finishing a novel turned to doubt. I even questioned why I ever thought I could be a novelist.
I’ve been tempted many times to give up on writing. But I can’t. You see, I’ve loved writing since my childhood, and though it challenges me in ways I never thought it would, I can’t imagine not doing it. So I’ve continued on with writing in the midst of all my doubts and insecurities.
Oh, I’m thrilled to share that a month ago I typed “The End” on a novel I’ve been working on this last year. My first finished novel!
As you can imagine, this was a big milestone for me. Now I know I have much work ahead of me in editing and rewriting this novel, but I’m okay with that. I have a novel—no matter how much of a train wreck it seems like now—that I can work with.
So you might be asking how I pushed past my stumbling blocks of completing the first draft of a novel. One thing that recently helped was my son began first grade a couple of months ago, and now that he’s in full day school, I have bigger blocks of time I can devote to writing. But I’ve also adopted some practices that helped me to the novel finish line, including:
1. Sitting my bottom in the chair! Okay, we writers hear this one a lot. But it’s easy to make excuses as to why we’re not writing, and I’ve listed my fair share of them over the years. The only way to finish a novel is to sit down and write. :0)
2. Turning off my “editor” and allowing the creative process to unravel. I have to admit this was difficult for me. I have a strong editor within me, and it’s hard for me to stop tinkering and tweaking and criticizing what I’ve written in a first draft. About a year ago, I realized this was one of the main reasons why I couldn’t finish a novel. So I decided to turn off my editor and write, no matter how terrible I thought the writing was. Through this discipline, I discovered something marvelous—when I turned off my editor, I gave my creative muse liberty to do its magic.
3. Setting weekly and monthly writing goals. Early on in my writing journey, I learned the value of setting writing goals. On a weekly and monthly basis, I set word count goals (e.g., a weekly goal of 3,000 words or a monthly goal of 15,000 words). I’ve even created a spreadsheet that tracks my daily counts and compares it with my weekly goal. I can go back and see those seasons when I was committed to writing daily and those with little or no writing.
4. Joining a critique group. I’ve been blessed with a talented and gracious group of crit partners. This group has encouraged me along the way and given me the stamina to keep pressing on. Many of the writers in my group have finished at least one novel. One writer amazes me on how many novels she has finished, which inspired me to keep working on finishing my first novel.
For those writers who, like me, are struggling to finish that first novel, I encourage you to keep pressing onward. If this is something you are called to do, don’t give up. Keep writing and soon you’ll be celebrating that satisfying accomplishment of finishing your first novel. :0)
BEEing Real Question~ For writers who have finished one or more novels, what practices and/or encouragement helped you to the novel finish line?