On Tuesday, Devin Berglund, a fellow author of mine, talked about how to stick to and finish a story. Now, in Part Two, I share my own thoughts:
During the years, I have started many novels, but had a hard time getting even close to finishing one. New ideas would always come up, or I would lose interest. It wasn’t until I started on Heavenly Lights that I realized why that was. Here are a few tips:
1. Outline. Some writers are what we like to call pantsers (people who just sit down in the chair and begin writing whatever comes to them), then there are those like me. We outline our stories. I spent about three weeks outlining Heavenly Lights. Though I find myself straying from it many times, I can at least look at it and know that I have an entire story planned out. The biggest relief of having an outline is getting the “Sagging Middle” sorted out. That is where I find myself, and many other writers, going astray. That is the point where you have to think about whether or not your story is keeping the reader interested enough to keep reading.
So yeah, outline.
2. Don’t Tell Others About Your Story. “What is your story about?” is a question that you as an aspiring author will get a lot. I mean, A LOT. I am asked this by every single person to whom I mention that I am writing a novel. But I don’t tell them. My reasoning? If I tell the story to somebody, then I will consider the story as having already been told, although not in its full form. Not telling others helps me retain that excitement about the story, resulting in me excited to write every single time I sit down at my computer.
3. Find a Theme. Although there are those who don’t agree with me, I find having a theme that is very dear to me in my novel a big reason why I keep going back to it. It can be religious (like Heavenly Lights) or deal with self-esteem, societal issues, etc. There are countless challenges to write about, and it can be as overt or as subtle as you want it to be.
Now that I have given my advice, I asked some of my fellow writers to give their thoughts on the matter. Check out what they have to say below:
When I actually get started writing a novel I set for myself a daily minimum word count of 500 words. That’s a pretty small number and one that I can typically hit even if my head’s not in the game, which goes a long way in holding off discouragement. Even if I end up deleting all 500 words later on. -Erin Healy, Bestselling Author
As a winner of NaNo three years running, I think for me it’s just sheer determination. I outline, and then I jolly well stick to that outline until the book’s finished. It helps me get through the dreaded inspiration-less grind of 40%-80% completion.
The first 40% is easy: I’m inspired, I’ve got this sparkly new plot and I love my characters, I’m writing scenes I’ve been imagining for weeks. 40%-80% is pure griiiiiiiiiiiiiind: my inspiration has been used up, my plot sucks and I hate my characters, and I have no mental scenes for this part. And then 80%-100% is equal parts YEAH STUNNING CLIMAX WITH PLOT TWISTS AND VIOLENCE AND EMOTION and OH NO I’M NEARLY FINISHED WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. -Rachel Wilson
I’d say finish one project before you move on to the next. You can start the next book the day after drafting this one; you can write it while you’re letting the first one sit or while you’re waiting for edits; but dropping one partially-finished manuscript for another partially-finished manuscript is a good way to make sure neither of them get finished. -Rachel WilsonWhen my excitement dwindles, I just plow on through. I might take a few breaks here and there so I don’t burn out, but like Rachel said it’s mostly about the termination. I also find that you can be inspired simply from writing a lot, even if the particular story point isn’t speaking to you deeply/has already been in your head for a while.
When it comes to other story ideas distracting me, sometimes I do take a break from my original story to write that inspiration down. That’s only when I’m so excited for the second story that I can’t even focus on the first, & I stop writing the second one as soon as that passion for it begins to die off a little.
Then I switch right on back to the first one. You won’t do justice to your story if you’re too busy thinking about another one, and you won’t be able to find inspiration again for your first story if you don’t write out the other first. Being truly inspired is rare and beautiful enough that you should never waste, postpone, or ignorant, even if you’re working on a deadline. -Lindsay Morrison
I wonder if the ones who can do that don’t check their Facebook feed too often. -Kevin Cunningham
Do you have any stories that you haven’t finished? For what reasons have you put them aside?