Finishing Novel Drafts

If there’s one thing I’m really bad at when it comes to drafting, it’s finishing the draft. At the end of each NaNoWriMo, I’m never done with the story, but I’m so burnt out from writing every day that I have to take a break from my project. That usually leads to another problem – not returning to the project after I’ve recovered from the burnout.

There’s something about writing after NaNoWriMo that I struggle with. Or maybe it’s a struggle to write outside of NaNo in general. Whatever it is, it leaves with with unfinished drafts that I have to push myself to go back at the end of the year or beginning of a new year.

This has led me to try a bunch of different things to finish my novels. In the early years, I left my drafts until a Camp NaNoWriMo came around and then I would finish writing. When I got to college, I tried that and it sort of worked. What worked best was in 2017 when I told myself I would finish the book by the end of the year. Once winter break began, I started writing again and was able to produce the most solid ending I’ve ever written for a novel. In 2018, I just skipped to writing a crappy ending so I could hit my word count.

Of course, that begs the question of how I finish my stories in general. I think the biggest thing I need is a deadline. It’s the main difference I see in my ability to finish a fiction story and an article for work. I do really well working on deadlines, and it’s rare that I’ve had to ask for an extension for my work at The Pulse.

Of course, that begs the question of how I finish my stories in general. I think the biggest thing I need is a deadline. It’s the main difference I see in my ability to finish a fiction story and an article for work. I do really well working on deadlines, and it’s rare that I’ve had to ask for an extension for my work at The Pulse. What helps even more is if I have someone waiting to read my work after the deadline. In 2017, my writing group and my roommate expressed interest in reading the finished novel, so I actually had to turn in the whole thing (even though it had a really crappy ending).

Now that I’m working on re-writing my novel from 2015, I’m wondering how I can motivate myself to finish writing the story. Being only four or five chapters in, this shouldn’t really be a problem, and yet I find myself struggling to want to keep working. The advice I’ve always heard from other writers is to keep writing and to make it a daily habit. For some reason, I haven’t been able to make that work for me in the same way.

The times when I have pushed myself to sit down and write, it’s gone pretty well. But I think there’s a part of me that dreads that the writing process will reveal how unprepared I am for the overall story to take its form. I struggle a lot with sticking with a story when I hit roadblocks or when I write myself into a corner. It’s worse when I can’t quite tell where the story is going. Being a huge planner, this makes it so hard for me not to feel discouraged, even though I know it happens to the best of writers (except maybe the ones who don’t believe in writer’s block).

All this to say, I don’t know what the most effective method is when it comes to finishing my stories. I use goals and deadlines as best I can to encourage myself to keep writing. When it comes down to it, I guess it depends on how badly I want to finish a story so I can tell it to the world some day.

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  1. Maggie

    So remember that time I said “I’ll finish my senior project novel in the next few months”? I have not even THOUGHT about it since the end of the semester. Whoops.
    But yeah, if it’s any consolation, you’re not the only one who struggles to finish things. I find I also sometimes need a deadline to motivate me, even if it’s self-imposed. I find that a lot of times when I’m writing outside of assignments or NaNo I’m a perfectionist, so having deadlines and goals pushes me to move forward without laboring over the same paragraph for three hours.
    I don’t really know my most effective method yet either. Maybe part of the writing process is just finding out what works to keep you going.

    1. Charmaine Lim

      I never thought about it as being part of my writing process, but that makes a lot of sense.
      Always love hearing your perspective on writing.

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