10 TIPS FOR FINISHING YOUR NOVEL
- Write an outline. Even if you are half finished, it will help get your plotlines organized to envision the scenes. Just as one writes a storyboard before a film is made, an outline can create a skeleton for the novel to be fleshed out upon.
- Record your dreams. Most good stories resonate with the subconscious. Your dreams, no matter how absurd, are trying to tell you something. Take themes directly out of your dream diary. Re-interpret a memory you had repressed for fear of the pain of it. Forever Fifteen was written over a year’s period because it was inspired by a recurring nightmare.
- Read and re-read your favorite novel. Standing on the shoulders of giants is never a bad idea. You don’t have to plagiarize your favorite author, but re-reading your favorite novel will give you time to observe the details of the storytelling you need to capture in your book.
- Read and re-read a horrible piece of crap. Read a low-brow pulp novel with multiple plot holes that isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Go see the lame movie, if there is one. Pick apart the plot points: what could you have done with the story to make it more interesting? If you were forced to write the exact same story, how would you do it?
- Don’t be Beethoven. Beethoven was a severe perfectionist. His musical alcoholic father both trained him and beat him. He wrote some of the most beautiful music ever. You are writing a novel. You want your novel to be perfect. You want your novel to make you immortal, like Beethoven. Know when to say when, let yourself write and finish an imperfect novel, daresay even a pulpy novel. It’s okay not to be Beethoven.
- Stop watching TV. Every minute spent watching the tube is time you are not writing and studying your book. TV is comforting, but it also lowers your self-esteem, makes you dissatisfied with your life, and is a colossal time-suck.
- Lose the English teacher. The time for editing is not now, but later. Don’t stop working to look up the proper usage of a preposition or to fix a run on sentence. Take a get-r-done attitude and silence your inner grammarian. Grammar and usage is secondary to telling a good story anyway.
- Claim your right to be a writer. Say to yourself, “I am a writer” until you believe it. There is no option of not finishing your novel, because writing is what you do. Take yourself seriously, even if you are not published or accolladed by the world.
- Write a fairy tale. Make a short project out of writing an extremely short story. One of Grimm’s or Aesop’s lost fables without any real plot detail, a comic book yarn or morality allegory told in the span of two large type pages or less. Where did it take you?
- Let yourself go into the dark. Unearth your darkest fear or sickest fantasy and make one of your characters experience it. Explore the suicidal/matricidal/homicidal tendencies outside of rational thought. Exploit taboos. Recollect your most awful romantic split and cry your eyes out. The best novels deal with dark subjects and treat them with humanity.