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Having a Hard Time Completing My Novel

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Have any of you ever worked on a novel, gotten to the last few chapters, and even though you have it completely outlined, you've had a hard time finishing it? I'm slowly getting more and more behind. My novel started posting with me being ten weeks ahead of the chapters, and now I'm only two weeks ahead, but I have a hard time sitting down and writing it.

I've been able to work on other things, like the short story I have mostly finished for the "turning ten" theme, but I'm just not enjoying writing the ending to my novel. I've never completed a novel before, so I have no idea if this is something that happens often, or just to me. Either way, I need to figure out how to get out of it.

Any suggestions/comments?

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One thing I discovered some years back is that you can take out all the discovery in writing a novel by over-plotting it too much in advance. With my first novel 14 years ago, I just made some vague notes, created a timeline so I know what happens and when, plus a character list, then dove in and wrote it almost start to finish. The second novel, I wrote from a very detailed outline, but I ran into the exact same problem you did: towards the end, it became drugerous to complete, mostly because I already knew too much about what was going to happen.

All I can say is, maybe back off and just try to complete just three pages a day, and see if that eventually gets a chapter done every couple of weeks. You figure if you can even write 500 words a day (which isn't that much), in 14 days, you'll have at least 6000 words done, which is pretty much a chapter, the way I count it.

As far as getting novels done, they're done when they're finished, and not before. I've written a novel in 30 days, I wrote another novel in five years, and I wrote another one in about 16 months. Each one was a different experience.

One key for when you stop writing every day: stop while you're right in the middle of a paragraph, even in the middle of a line. That way, when you jump back in the next day, you can re-read the previous few paragraphs and you'll understand the thought progress of where you intended to go. I find that little trick to be very helpful. Resist the urge to actually finish the scene, because then it'll be that much harder to start up again.

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I had the same problem with my first novel. The second I was fine, but the later novels were also a challenge.

For me, it was the desire to tie off loose ends. I eventually came to the conclusion that I don't need to tie them all off. It's good when I can, but I only really need to complete the main story arc and other things can be unresolved, because life's like that.

Something that may work is to start at the end and work backwards. I've had problems where I knew the ending and knew where I was, but I couldn't get the join between the two to go smoothly. So what I did was to have the ending, and then keep writing scenes before that ending until I'd worked myself back to where I was in the story.

Best of luck!

PS: I almost never do much of an outline. I have a mental idea of where the story goes, but I only have minimal notes written down. The one exception was my second novel, but most of that was written while I was away on holidays using pad & pen. I wrote each chapter as a sequence of fine detailed events, and when I had access to my computer, I typed them up, putting in the extra bits to make it readable :icon1: That's either just another technique, or it's the extreme in over-outlining, as I was effectively outlining the content of each scene in the story....

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Here I was all set to jump in and help you out and DAMN! Graeme beat me to the punch! I was going to say what he said: write the last chapter now, and then all you have left is bridgework, tying what's already done together. That makes it much easier.

Surprisingly, I agree with both Graeme and Pec: I do almost no outlining at all. I find if I do the writing becomes mechanical and onerous and loses all of it's appeal. Knowing exactly where you're going takes the mystery out of it and doesn't allow the characters any room to speak for themselves, which is a very strange occurrence when it happens, but it seem to happen to us all. However, most successful writers do outline, so do what works best for you.

Taking some time off may help, too. You don't have to post on a regular schedule. Ask Pec about that! Taking away some of the pressure might loosen up the stoppage.

Good luck!


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What Pecman, Graeme, and Cole said. Here's a trick that might help. Start writing from where the last chapter you've completed ends, but write only dialogue. No narrative. None at all, not even any internal narrative. Dialogue only. Your character will write the rest of the chapter by talking to each other. Then go back and add narrative then remove parts of the dialogue that are redundant or clumsy.

Colin :icon_geek:

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The ideas above are all good. My problem is always with a blank page (screen) and me sitting in front of it wondering why the story doesn't type itself.

The only answer I have found is to just begin typing, realising that the first page or pages can always be junked, or changed later.

This method has the advantage of producing a large number of opening pages that are next to worthless. I say this is an advantage because the ideas that spring forth form an outlet, if not a repository, of ideas that are often not as worthless as first thought.

I found that also works when in the middle of a story, it seems as if the muse wanted a rest. You can't force it, but magic happens and a real story begins, or continues.

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Surprisingly, I agree with both Graeme and Pec: I do almost no outlining at all. I find if I do the writing becomes mechanical and onerous and loses all of it's appeal. Knowing exactly where you're going takes the mystery out of it and doesn't allow the characters any room to speak for themselves, which is a very strange occurrence when it happens, but it seem to happen to us all. However, most successful writers do outline, so do what works best for you.

I don't know if I'd say "most" or not. I know that Stephen King has said he has no clue what's going to come out when he sits down and starts banging at the keyboard, so apparently, he outlines very little... unless it's a historical piece that requires research (which he says he did do for 11/22/63, his time-travel/Kennedy assassination novel).

What I've been doing the last few years is keeping the outlining to a bare minimum, just jotting down the bullet points I need to hit in a particular chapter: so-and-so finds the treasure, the other guy almost gets shot, the sheriff catches them and puts them in jail, they meet a guy who helps them escape. If I know four or five highlights, I can flesh out the rest to create the chapter. There's always, always unexpected twists and turns that sometimes cause the thing to derail, or inspire me to throw out the notes and go into a different direction. I still make a timeline so I know when and where we are, and I also write up a synopsis after the fact so I know what's gone down before, and I keep an ongoing character list so that if I said Mr. B was 6 feet tall and had blond hair in chapter 3, he won't suddenly be 5'6" and have dark hair in chapter 11.

I think of it as going out on a mystery tour, where I have a vague map and a sense of direction, but not necessarily the precise path that goes from A to B to C to D. Sometimes, I might go from A directly to D... sometimes, I might stumble upon ten more places to visit on the way. But at least I know where the destination is going to be.

Stephen King has said there are quite a few books where he wasn't aware of what the ending was going to be until he was about 3 chapters from the conclusion, so there you go. Anne Rice and J.K. Rowling, on the other hand, have very tightly-plotted, super-organized outlines for every single chapter, story arc, and character. All of them have made hundreds of millions of dollars as writers and sold millions of books, and (generally) gotten very good reviews as well.

I will give Cynus one last tip: sometimes, it is stimulating (as Colinian says above) to write a later chapter first, then figure out a way to go backwards and lead into the final piece. I've done that a few times, or even started writing the middle before the end or the previous chapters, just to jump ahead to work on different parts of the puzzle. It literally is like assembling a large jigsaw puzzle, and you don't necessarily have to work on it in a linear fashion, even though that's how the reader will ultimately digest it.

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This has all been very helpful. Thank you to all of you. I've actually already done the dialogue writing trick, but I haven't tried writing the ending yet. I think that may be just the thing I was looking for.

I normally don't outline, either. The only reason I did in this case was because I was getting stuck, and I figured I might as well try something different to see if it got me anywhere. It worked for awhile, but then I got stuck again, which brought me here. I'll try to apply your suggestions, and see where it goes.

Thank you for all your help.

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Another good way to get stimulated: write in a totally different place. Grab a laptop and go to the park under a tree... go to the public library... stop by the local Starbucks, grab a Mocha Grande, and try writing it there. Sometimes, just different surroundings help a lot.

I know of some famous Hollywood writers who get totally blocked writing in their million-dollar homes, so they'll drive off to the desert, rent a cheap motel room somewhere, and just stay there for a week until they've banged out an entire script. So that's another idea.

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I'd rather sit by their million-dollar pools, being fanned by several muscular hunks. (It hit 77 degrees today in LA.)

77 degrees? That's just great temp...very comfortable. We're expecting 78 tomorrow/ Thursday, a week later it is forecast for 84.

Seems like our summer hasn't finished with us yet. I'd love to be fanned by all the hunks' muscles.

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  • 2 weeks later...

An infinite number of cats will finish your novel for you.

Haha! Good thing I can tap into the Mystical Plane of Cats and summon as many as I need.

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