|Photo credit: Johan Larsson on Flickr|
I know a lot of writers who struggle with this—especially when they haven’t fully completed a novel before. And let’s face it—finishing a novel from start to finish isn’t easy. It’s difficult enough to put together a coherent first draft and even harder to take that first draft and transform it into a fully revised, layered story.
But truth be told, I feel like finishing the first book is more of a mind game than anything else. If you have a pattern of not finishing, it can sometimes be difficult to overcome that little voice that says the reason you haven't finished a novel is because you can't (which isn't true, by the way. The little voice lies). It’s often a matter of self-confidence, of fighting the underlying doubts that tell you inevitably something is going to happen to keep you from completing your story—whether it’s a gaping plot hole, loss of inspiration (or interest) or something else.
There are a million and two reasons to stop writing a novel. When battling these doubts, what you need to find is the one reason to ignore everything else and write it anyway.
For me, finishing a novel from first draft to last revision takes two very important things:
- You have to LOVE your book. Really. You're going to be working on that baby a long time. If you don't love it, it's going to get exhausting very quickly, and another shiny novel idea may very well pop out of the blue and rip your attention away.
- Patience/perseverance. I know technically those are two different things, but they go hand-in-hand. You don't need to survive just one round of revision—but anywhere from 3-10+ drafts, and that's before you even try to get it published. Not only that, but you need to be patient with yourself. You need to accept that you’re still learning, that it isn’t going to be perfect, and that it’s ok.
There’s a third thing too, that mostly ties in with the second point—understanding and acceptance. I’ve talked about this before, but not every novel you write is going to get published. Not every story is meant to be released to the world—some of them are meant for you, the writer, to learn from.
You need to understand that you may very well spend a couple months or even years working on a novel that will sit in your desk drawer. You need to understand that it’s only natural to write two or three (or five or seven) novels before you’ve developed your writing skill enough to be ready for the publishing world.
You need to understand that if you really want to be a writer, you’ll need to go through this process many many times. And sometimes you’ll get tired. And sometimes you’ll get bored. And sometimes you’ll wonder if you’re wasting your time with your current WIP and if you should start on something else or if you’ll really be able to survive a couple rounds of revision.
And all of that is ok.
Love your book. Have patience with the process and with yourself. Push through the obstacles, both mental and physical, until you have a gleaming, fully polished novel.
Then go write another one. You are a writer, after all.