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From the Blog: Tips on Finishing Your Novel from the NaNoWriMo Writers Board

Do the characters in your unfinished novel haunt your dreams? Does your incomplete story call your name from its dusty place in your “drafts in progress” folder? Introducing #NaNoFinMo (National Novel Finishing Month)! This special Camp track is jam-packed with fin-tastic resources to help you finish your novel.

We asked our talented Writers Board to share some tips for finishing first drafts. Read on to discover what these authors have to say!

Sarra Cannon

Sometimes what holds us back is that all we can see is this huge gap between the sucky draft we think we've written and the masterpiece we want our novel to be. Stop looking at the gap and thinking about how impossible it feels. Instead, take it one word, one scene at a time. Finish it piece by small piece. Each step of the way, a little bit more of that masterpiece you're writing will reveal itself. I promise. There are things about your novel you can't see from where you're sitting, but a few steps forward and suddenly, there's a bit more clarity. Stop expecting yourself to make an impossible leap, and instead, show up every day and take a single step forward. You can do this.

Aya de Leon

One step at a time. I start by going through my draft and finding all the places where I wrote things like "DESCRIBE THE CAFE" in all caps. Once I've filled in the gaping holes, I read it through the whole book and edit the things that seem off. If there are bigger issues that seem to need work, I keep a separate running list of those. Then I go back and address those bigger issues. Then it's time to get someone to read it, to see what it needs next!

Susan Dennard

Don’t worry if your ending—or your middle or your whole book!—is a mess. Revision is the next step of the creative process, no matter what, but you can’t revise what you don’t have! So just get words down and worry about making them good later.

Grant Faulkner

The irony of the moment when you think about giving up on your novel is that it can also be a moment that’s ripe with opportunity if you just keep going. After a lapse, it’s important to forgive yourself, readjust your goals, and give yourself a fresh start so that a bad week of writing doesn’t lead to a bad month of writing, which then turns into a bad year of writing. I pick a “milestone day”—the first day of a new month or a new week—and start again. It’s all about designing your life around the things you rationally want to achieve instead of sinking into the powerful claws of more impulsive needs (such as quitting).

Life goes by too quickly to wait for next year or our next novel. I don’t want to die with a list of all of the novels I wish I would have finished. The main thing about any achievement isn’t necessarily starting it, but restarting it over and over again.

Mignon Fogarty

Find someone who will hound you mercilessly until you finish.

Kami Garcia

Even if you only write one page a day, at the end of the year you’ll have a book. Books aren’t written in first drafts. They’re written in revisions. But you can’t revise unless you finish.

Hugh Howey

If you are having a difficult time finishing your novel, try writing the final chapter! Too often, we get lost in the middle of our books, unsure of where we are heading. Create that final destination, then go back and write scenes that get you a step closer. Don't worry, you'll clean it all up in the revision process. The important thing is to have a rough draft with a complete story.

Mary Robinette Kowal

I always bog down at about the 3/4 mark, when I'm switching modes from opening questions to closing them. Now I treat that as a feature, not a bug, and take time to reread what I've written. I make notes of major dangling plot threads and then start giving my main character some wins as a way to start tying up threads.

Mur Lafferty

The first badge of a writer is writing an awful lot. NaNoWriMo winners have done that. But the next badge is finishing something. Storytellers of old didn't just get up from their campfires in the middle of their stories and wander into the woods.

Or, pithier:

You're not a storyteller if you don't finish your stories. Don't be a Storyte

Devi S. Laskar

Alas, it involves math! Make a list of all the items you have left to write (scenes, bits of dialogue and/or description) to complete a draft and then divide by thirty. Then you will know how many you have to tackle each day for the month. The keys are to keep the goals small (doable) and to set aside a bit of time to do these tasks every day!

Marissa Meyer

Remember that it's okay to skip scenes, chapters, even whole sections! If trying to write the middle of the book has put me in a slump, and I'd rather jump straight into the big, exciting finale, I'll do it. Once I've hit "the end," it helps motivate me to go back and fill in those empty spaces.

Emily X. R. Pan

Truth or dare! I'll go first.

Truth? Okay: Even as a professional author, every novel I write is a terrifying new challenge—I never know if I'll reach the end. But I do know that the books I don't finish are never going to be published.

As you might have discovered in November, it’s about figuring out how to keep going.

Here’s how I fight the overwhelm: Stop worrying about the whole book. Break it down into bite-sized pieces. Can you just write the next paragraph? Can you just write for fifteen minutes?

Do it today. Do it again tomorrow. Do it the day after. I dare you.

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