How to Finish Your Novel (After NaNoWriMo)

There’s no doubt about it, NaNoWriMo* is a rush.

And it’s over.

If you were participating this year you either made it past the 50,000 word mark or you didn’t. Yes, it is that simple.

The problem isn’t whether you got down your 50,000 words or not. The problem is getting stuck. At some point in the long haul to 50,000 words in 30 days (or even regular novel writing), the words slow down. It’s like a small pothole. It may not be honest-to-goodness writer’s block, but it also isn’t that fast paced OMG-I-am-writing-like-a-fiend type stuff that happens early on in the NaNoWriMo month–or any novel writing process.

So, what can we do to keep ourselves going when the end of our novel begins to feel farther away than Antarctica (and we’re in a row boat)? Here are five things that have helped keep me moving forward and finish writing that novel that’s sticking to me like a burr in my side.

How to Get to the End of Your Novel–In Other Words, How to Finish Your Novel and How to Get Past Writer’s Block and How to Keep Your Writing Motivation Up

(Wow. That was quite the heading.)

1. Don’t take more than two days off in a row.

Keep the momentum going. It’s much easier to stay in the rhythm and remember where you are going if you keep writing. Even if the first 1000 words per day feel like crap, keep writing. If you take days off it becomes easy to stay stopped, it gets more difficult to get back into the story and ultimately, to not finish. Plus, you spend all your writing time trying to recall where you were and where your story has been and is going.

2. Allow yourself to write crap–it may act as fertilizer. <–Click to Tweet This

You are writing the first draft. It’s an experiment. Characters are not going to be fully formed. There will be plot holes where you jumped ahead. That’s normal. Leave yourself notes (right in the document if you can) on where you are going, where you’ve been, what you want to change, but don’t go back to edit. You can change it, remove it, or edit it later. Right now, it is vital to keep it moving forward and not break your momentum.

3. Allow yourself to change direction.

Sometimes I stop writing because I’ve discovered I need to change direction on a plot line or internal character motivation. In NaNo there isn’t time to run back and change everything that has been written and will now be wrong. Shake it off. Keep going. Make notes to yourself. But don’t go back. Make your switch and keep going. (Sometimes that stuff you were going to change ends up being keepable in the end anyway!)

4. Screw the details.

I have one NaNoWriMo draft that literally looks like this: She ran down the street [INSERT SEASONAL DETAILS]. Arriving out of breath… Don’t stop to research or figure out tiny continuity pieces. Leave yourself a note, comment, or whatever you need and keep moving. You can fill in the seasonal/clothing/timing/right word/technical aspect/character name continuity bits later on. That’s what edits are for. Right now you need to keep the flow going and that story barfing onto the page.

5. Ignore the blocks.

If you feel blocked, ignore it. No, really. Keep applying fingertips to keyboard keys. Re-read the last 20 pages if you need to. Start writing a chapter or two ahead if it helps. (You can always go back and fill the in-between bits–there is no rule you have to write in the exact order it will be read.) And if all else fails, do the unexpected and push a character off a tower. No really.

I did this in a NaNoWriMo “now what?” moment. Turns out that it not only unblocked the scene, but it also provided insight into my characters, their relationship, and provided all sorts of great tension for the next couple of chapters. When I wrote it I told myself “It’s okay, nobody needs to read this. I’ll delete it later.” But it became an important pivotal moment in that story. So you just never know.

Remember: You can’t edit a story you haven’t written down. Keep writing. Even if you have to trash thousands of words in edits, it’s okay. Just keep moving forward and don’t be afraid. I’m rooting for you!

Have you participated in NaNoWriMo? What are your best ‘get through’ or ‘keep writing’ tips?

*NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. Writers from all stages of the game try to write a 50,000 novel (or more) in 30 days (November 1-30). Those who do it are able to claim a badge to display on their website or blog.

NOTE: This post was originally posted on my old writing blog.

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One comment on “How to Finish Your Novel (After NaNoWriMo)
  1. Diana says:

    Thanks for the tip I have ten more chapters.

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