The #1 Reason You’ll Never Finish Writing Your Novel

by Suzannah Windsor Freeman

Woman frustrated

Feeling frustrated at how long it’s taking to write your novel–especially that all-important first draft?

Some writers can bang out a novel in a manner of weeks, but for most of us, it’s a long and arduous task.

If you find the process taking longer than you want, and you’re beginning to lose motivation to finish, consider if you’re making any of the following choices that affect your writing:

  • Are you stalling to correct typos, spelling mistakes and grammar?
  • Do you feel the need to perfect a passage of writing before moving on?
  • Are you obsessing over whether to delete things you might not use in the finished product?
  • Do you find yourself constantly interrupting your writing to conduct research?
  • When you re-read passages you’ve already written, do you stop to criticize yourself?

What do these 5 behaviours have in common? What is the #1 reason you’ll never finish writing your novel?

You Aren’t Actually Writing

Making corrections isn’t writing. Conducting research isn’t writing. Re-reading, criticizing and tinkering aren’t actually writing. The ugly truth is that you’re actually procrastinating.

If you’re engaging in these 5 behaviours, you’ve become your own worst enemy. You’re not allowing yourself to move on. You’re not letting yourself get the first draft written.

And (at the risk of sounding obvious) if you don’t write, you can’t finish your novel.

How to Get it Written

Don’t get in the way of your own success. Follow these tips to help you get back on the road to finishing your book:

  • Don’t self-edit. Don’t worry about making minor technical errors, or spend time fixing them. That’s what revision and proofreading are for. Besides, you’re more likely to notice these mistakes once you’ve given your first draft some room to breathe.
  • Use a writer-friendly program. Writing a novel in a regular word processor seems like madness to me–only, that is, after I discovered a number of wonderful writing programs. Scrivener is my choice because it makes it easy to organize my scenes and chapters. When I wonder whether I should delete things or hold onto them, I simply create a new text file and paste in the passage. That way it’s easily accessible whenever I want to refer back to it. No obsessing needed.
  • Research later. The major research you need to do for your novel should be done ahead of time. But, when it comes to minor details or fact-checking, simply highlight, underline, or otherwise mark areas that need to be researched. You can then continue writing, uninterrupted, and not forget to fill in the details once you’ve got your first draft completed.
  • Get down the bones. Some writers make the mistake of worrying about getting every scene perfected before moving on to the next. Spending too much time perfecting means you’ll be moving along at a snail’s pace–hardly good for productivity. If you know a scene must appear at a specific time, but you’re having trouble writing it, simply jot down some dialogue or description that indicates what will take place when you flesh out the scene. Move right along to the next scene, and come back to the difficult one a bit later.
  • Be kind to yourself. What are the chances you’re going to write perfect prose in the first draft? Not likely. Instead of looking back at what you’re written and beating yourself up over its lack of refinement, give yourself a pat on the back, and remind yourself of how far you’ve come. Remember, you’ll probably be making significant changes later.

If you’ve committed to writing a novel this year, quit procrastinating and get it written.

In what ways do you prevent yourself from writing? What other tips to you have to share for finishing a novel?

Previous post:

Next post: