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Finish Writing Your Novels

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The last post was only the beginning of my opinions/advice on novel writing. Here’s the second part.

Advice to Aspiring Novelists 2: Finish Writing Novels

Originally published 9 Jul 2009.

I’m back with more advice about publishing a novel that you can comfortably ignore, given that I have never published a novel.

My first piece of advice was “perfect your craft.”

My second piece of advice is finish writing novels.

And some of you are thinking: “duh, of course!” Two things about that. 1) That is plural. Novels. 2) I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve spoken to who talk about publishing a novel before completing the writing of even one. A lot of them haven’t even started.

Here’s the thing, unless you are some kind of prodigy, you are not going to sell your first novel. You likely won’t sell your second either. Actually, you might sell them, but only after you are so hugely successful that publishers figure all they need to do is slap your name on a book to make money.

Since you won’t sell your first, nor likely your second, that’s at least three novels you have to finish before you even think of starting to plan to get published. Have you finished three novels?

I haven’t.

How you finish writing those novels and what those novels are about isn’t the issue. Get it done.

There are an infinite number of techniques for writing novels, there are fewer — though still many — techniques for finishing novels. And yes, unfortunately, there is a difference. I have 13 unfinished novels in my “Documents\Writing\Novels” folder.

I have two finished.

Just need one more.

If you have perfected your craft, you should have already figured out what works for you when it comes to writing novels. Maybe not. I’ll tell you what works for me.

An Outline

It’s all well and good to say that the story develops as one writes and that the characters take the story places one never expected it to go. It happens to me also. Thing is, I have a roadmap for where I expect the novel to go. If I do not, I meander. I get lost on side roads. And getting lost really doesn’t help on that goal of completion.

I’m not ashamed to say that without that roadmap, without the outline, I will not complete the novel. I have a strong suspicion that “A Song of Fire and Ice” has no series outline. I will bet “Wheel of Time” had no series outline. If I don’t have a novel outline, that’s what happens. It keeps going. There’s no resolution. Maybe there is a resolution, I just don’t know it, and I keep going.

I need an outline. That doesn’t mean I am tied to it, that the writing cannot take me to places I did not expect to go. What I do have is a clear destination in mind. With that outline, I might take a scenic route, but I’m still moving toward that destination.

Scheduled Writing Time

When I was serious about getting my writing done — and that was before the toddler and the infant came along — I had an hour a night set aside for writing. It might stretch into two or even three hours, but from 7 to 8 was writing time. My wife accepted this. She wouldn’t disturb me during this period unless the house was burning down.

The laptop I used for my writing could not connect to the internet. There lies wasted time uncounted. I did my research and email and sundry other tasks outside of writing time. The latop I used was an old, pathetic piece of technology that still had Wordpad on it. No spell checking. No grammar checking. Just full steam ahead writing.

It was hard at first. It did not take long, though, for the creative brain to understand that 7 PM with a laptop in front of me meant “get to writing.” And I wrote. A lot. Some of it was fiction, but there were other things. Still, I was writing. This is how I got my two novels finished. This is how I brought two other novels about three-quarters of the way there.

For me, that’s what was required to get the novel written: an outline and regularly scheduled writing time.

Find what works for you. Then get at least three novels completed.