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Completing my novel--the hard part....

Updated on August 30, 2010
ACSutliff profile image

A.C. Sutliff has been a teacher since 2010. She self-published a realistic fiction trilogy for teens and is now writing a fantasy trilogy.

Completing Your Novel... Finishing What You Sta....

I've been working on my first novel since my college years (at least five years ago!), and for me, the challenge revolves around scheduling and motivation.

Here's a scenario for you:

I wake up at 6:15 AM and have about 45 minutes to get ready for work (until recently, I was a substitute teacher, so this time included finding a job for the day at a school who needed a sub). If I get ready fast enough, I have ten-fifteen minutes to write while I eat breakfast. Most of the time, I spent this time trying to remember where I left off last time, or trying to type up what I wrote last night while at work.

Then I hop in the car and scoot to my job. I have to be there by 7:30 and because of where I live and the fact that I never know where exactly I'll be, I give myself about half an hour to make sure I am never late. Getting ready to teach a new class full of kids I don't know is hard work! Teaching them is a whole 'nother round of hard work! If I'm lucky, I might get a couple hours during the day when I don't have kids in the room, and I can write. If I'm not lucky, I get the half hour when I eat lunch and that's it.

Then, after a fun-filled day of class clowns pushing my buttons, I get an hour or so of free time and then I'm off to work again (I work closing shifts at Wal-mart almost every week day.) In order to get as much writing time as possible, I will stay at the school I ended up teaching at that day and write while I eat my supper before heading over to Wally World. That means that every day, I take lunch and dinner with me, and a change of clothes for my second job.... Plus all my writing stuff (flash drive, note book, how-to books).

If I'm lucky, I get Thursday and Friday night off and all day Saturday off (I work a full shift at Wally World on Sunday). So when my evening off rolls around, I spend time with my husband and my friends and try to get some writing done. On Saturday, I'm usually so tired and starved for a day off that I can't make myself do anything except maybe read (reading is way easier than writing!). I also have to get food ready for the upcoming week, so I spend a lot of my Saturday cooking.

So imagine your life with my hectic schedule. Maybe then you would say that it is understandable for me to still be working on my novel even though it's been four years in the making. (At least when I was in college, I only had classes and one job, instead of the two jobs that I have now. I can't wait for next school year, when all I have to do is teach my classroom full of kids and then plan for the next day and go home to my computer and write all afternoon and evening! I'm going to finish my novel this year, I just know it!)

Other Concerns....

Now, even if I had a completely free schedule where I got paid to write (that is so hard to imagine, but I will give it a try) I would still have problems finishing my current work in progress. The next biggest issue to attack would be my detrimental writing tendencies.

(I'm curious to know if any of you other writers might do any of these...)

Let's start with the problem I have with my current novel. I let it get out of hand. I started working on it when I got this super fun idea, and I let my characters take me on a wild fun ride. People who read my work in progress encouraged me by commenting that they loved my characters or they wanted to know how the hero would ever manage to reach his goal, etc., so I kept on going, convinced that my characters would bring me to the ending that I had in mind. But because I think writing without creativity is extremely wrong (a downright sin sometimes), I would always indulge myself and let my characters go where they wanted to go. I would also change my idea of where I was heading if I came up with a more creative idea. Needless to say, my book ended up taking too many wrong turns. Rewriting is my only option now, but at least I know exactly where I'm going this time, and I don't have to start over from scratch. :)

Another writing habit of mine, which I'm convinced is going to make it hard to finish my book even with only one job, is my addiction to revising and rereading what I write. I'll admit it, I am my own biggest fan, and I entertain myself with my writing more than I've ever entertained anyone else. I spend whole days off just rereading my book, sometimes from beginning to middle (It's too long to finish it all in one day!). While I read, I make little changes, nothing major enough to actually call revisions. Just tweaks in the language here and there. Mostly I end up reading for fun, even if my goal is to make sure the dialogue sounds genuine or to check my grammar, spelling, and typos. Talk about a waste of a potentially productive day of writing! Ugh!

My last bad habit, and probably my worst one, is being encouraged by hubpages right now, as we speak. I seek feedback that leads me to make dramatic changes to my novel while I'm still in the middle of my first draft! Without even finishing it from beginning to end, I end up having people read it and finding out that they want to know more about _____ or they don't like what a certain character did, or any other number of suggestions. My husband's suggestions are the most notorious in this regard. He has motivated me to change the beginning and the middle of my book so many times, and each time my book got a million times better. I'm glad the changes were made, but it was a setback that never would have happened if I had waited for reader's feedback until I was finished writing. Without that feedback, my book would have been completely different, not as good, and finished a long time ago. In my opinion, I would rather change my book while I'm in the middle of writing it than redo it all once I'm done, so I wouldn't have had it happen any other way. Nevertheless, this is still the biggest reason why my book is still not finished.

In Conclu....

As much as I love writing, it's not my whole life, and finding a balance between reading books, working, hanging with my friends, and writing my novel is never easy. Last year, I was also looking for a teaching job on top of everything else, and I ended up sacrificing my social life in order to write while still working two jobs.

After all that, my motivation wasn't high very often, but when it was, I was almost always at work, forced to sneak away for fifteen minutes to quickly jot down my thoughts in the break room. I still have a whole notebook of stuff that I haven't had time to type up yet! Talk about an editor's nightmare, hah!

Thank you, Website Examiner, for asking the question that resulted in the creation of this hub. I hope other hubbers can find comfort in knowing that they are not alone with some of the obstacles that stand in the way of finishing what you sta.....

What about you?

What is your biggest obstacle with finishing your writing?

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    • profile image

      Website Examiner 

      8 years ago

      Whatever transpires hereinafter, you should know that your writing and your personality are very special and important; I cannot possibly imagine that you will not succeed in the end. W.E.

    • ACSutliff profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      I think we all have those same problems! I would love to brainstorm some ideas on what to do about those sorts of scheduling nightmares. I will let you know when I add to this hub with some tips for you!

    • Anna Marie Bowman profile image

      Anna Marie Bowman 

      8 years ago from Florida

      My problem is I never have time. I am always working, cleaning, sleeping, trying to find time to paint or write. I can't imagine working a second job as well. I also have a problem staying focused. I start one thing or another, then get bored and start something else. I have like 4 hubs in the works right now, and a notebook of other ideas that haven't been started yet.

    • ACSutliff profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      K Alto,

      Thanks for coming by to comment on this hub! I am already feeling the withdrawal symptoms myself. I haven't written anything in at least a week.... :( God, it hurts! I hope I can write something this weekend!

    • kaltopsyd profile image


      8 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

      I never commented on this Hub? I thought I commented on all your Hubs. Oops...

      Well anyway, you sound a lot like me once school rolls around. I leave home around 6:30 AM, return home more than 12 hours later and, depending on the day, I have dance, piano, church, etc... At school, I'm sometimes writing parts to my story on little sheets of paper (yes, even sometimes during a lecture... horrible, I know). Don't worry though, I got all A's both semesters last year.

      Last semester, I never ate lunch because I was stuck at the library or computer lab typing like a crazy person because I had been holding in so many ideas for long.

      I started a story when I was 10 years old and would you believe that it's still a work in progress? It's like 270 pages but every time I go through it, I change something drastic. I mean, it's complete, but not so much...

      I enjoyed reading this Hub because I totally understand you. And HubPages has definitely worsened my writing addiction. I'm going to spiral into a full-blown withdrawal once school starts. I just know it!

    • ACSutliff profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago


      Isn't it unfair how you have to write from the heart AND weed out all those nasty typos too! It's so hard as a reader to overlook all that stuff, but since I'm a teacher, I'm used to reading the sloppy stuff kids create and still finding something good about it. :)

      Thanks for stopping by, Meow! I want to read more of your serials with Starqueen when things settle down!


    • meow48 profile image


      8 years ago from usa

      wow. being the amateur that i am, i would never be able to write a novel. never have been very good at description or coming up with an original idea. but i love your article. it was enlightening. me, i write from the heart, typos, grammar, word usage be damned. of course that is also probably why no one really reads my stuff, hee hee. take care meow48

    • ltfawkes profile image


      8 years ago from NE Ohio

      Hi, AC,

      You've identified an important pitfall for all writers: endless editing. Editing before you've completed your first draft, especially if you're working on a novel,is bad, and it's cheating.

      It's what we do because we want to feel productive, but it's much easier to go back over old turf than it is to forge ahead. NEVER go back until you've gone all the way to the end. ALWAYS move ahead. Even when it hurts.

      As to your problems with your current project, it sounds like you aren't sure where you're going, so you're wandering all over the place. I read one of your chapters, and I can see that technically you've got the right stuff, but it did seem like you were a little directionless.

      My advice would be either:

      1. Write the scene you had in mind when you started and see if you still love it as much as you did in the beginning. If you do, make an outline that will get you from where you left off to that scene.

      Outlining sucks. It's horrible. It's torture. But if you sit down and do it in one hideous nasty ghastly session, you'll save yourself endless hours of wandering around in circles.

      (It sounds like you're going to have a lot of cutting to do AFTER you've finished the rough draft. That's okay. Revising is a lot easier when you have too much than it is when you have too little.)

      When you do your outline, remember that nothing you've written in your earlier chapters is carved in stone. You can put your story wherever you want it to be. Later, you can bring the earlier stuff in line.

      or, 2. Set what you've done so far aside for a few months and let the ideas simmer on a back burner while you try other things. Keep a regular writing schedule, that's very important, but don't work on the novel.

      After you've let it age a little bit, bite the bullet, write yourself an outline (to give you a little framework, avg. novel - 300 pp double-spaced. Avg. chapter length - 10 pages. Ergo, avg. novel - 30 chapters) and go at it with fresh purpose.

      You talked about feedback from hubpages. I suppose there are a few unusual souls who might be helped by feedback on a novel while they're still writing the rough draft, but I think that can be pretty destructive for most of us.

      I know for myself, I never even discuss my ideas as I'm working on a rough draft. I seem to need to keep it all bottled inside in order to create the steam pressure that will keep me going.

      So my advice would be keep posting on hubpages, but don't post chapters of unfinished novels. Write other stuff for hubpages.

      You might be thinking, but that's a waste of my time. I disagree. Your time is never wasted when you're writing, beause every writing session strengthens your skills that much more and teaches you new things about the craft. Experiment with forms. Play with voices. Expand your skills. Stretch. Hubpages is a perfect venue for that.

      Sorry for the long post. This happens every time I get going on the subject of writing. If you manage to plow all the way through this, I hope it helps.


    • ACSutliff profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago


      Great to see you come by! Again, I knew others would have similar issues. It feels good to know that I'm not alone in this. My next project will be to write a hub about what to DO when these problems pop up.

      After writing almost 500 pages where my characters walked all over me and did whatever they wanted, I have decided.... NEVER AGAIN! I will admit that I enjoyed trying to fix things, strangely enough. And I have the stamina! Yes I do!


    • ACSutliff profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago


      How awesome to see you stop by! Thank you for taking the time to read one of my hubs! I couldn't agree more with you on writing to see what's there. I love the directions my book took when I wasn't looking, but now I have to choose one of the many different possibilities! Oh, that's going to kill me. Wish we could get paid together!


    • ACSutliff profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Hey there silverfoxygirl!

      Thank you dearly for coming by! And the compliment is well taken, thank you! I knew there would be writers out there who could relate to me!


      PS: I'll be over to visit you too! Promise!!!

    • Lynn Nodima profile image

      Lynn Nodima 

      8 years ago from United States

      Hi, AC Sutliff,

      I have issues with all the above in your list of items to vote on. I wrote a 400 page novel many years ago. It took more than five years to complete. I no longer have it, it was saved in an obsolete file format that nothing I have would read, and someone (I won't mention who) threw away the floppy disk it was on. Anyway, halfway through the resolution, I realized that I had written my hero into a corner he couldn't get out of. I had to backtrack and rewrite a good chunk of the book to fix it. Hopefully, someday I will finish the werewolf (second) novel I started. I should have time to work on it sometime in the next two years. :-)

      My favorite author, who was in my writer's group at one time, once told me her novels were complete when her character rode off into the sunset and wouldn't talk to her anymore. When I asked if she was going to write another novel about that character, her reply was that the character had not yet told her. I think having characters take over your writing is an occupational hazard. I know mine do, and sometimes cause all kinds of problems for me to figure out how to fix.

      Best wishes on your novel. If you wrestle your characters long enough, they will behave. Question is, do you have the stamina? LOL.

    • Shadesbreath profile image


      8 years ago from California

      Well, for starters, wow, what a hectic schedule. The fact that you maintain the discipline to write at all is awesome. It shows you are a writer at heart. A lot of people talk about wanting to write but always find excuses not to. You are getting it done. So, that's awesome! As for finishing it, I think you're doing what you ahve to. Like you said, you're going to rewrite it now knowing where you are going. WRiting is a journey and you have to discover what the story is, and sometimes that takes writing around into places to see what's there. It's exploring things. I usually outline to a degree so I have an idea where I'm headed, keeps me from wandering too far off. BUt sometimes, you wander off and you realize you have a better or a different story. Then, well, now you have two to write. LOL. There's no one way to get it done. But as long as you are writing every day, it will get done. (Coming up with that payment to write full time, well, that's another deal all together. I wish I knew how. I need to get paid for one of mine at all first, then we'll see about full time. How cool would that be though, eh?)

    • silverfoxygirl108 profile image


      8 years ago

      My story is going okay... I have it all thought out, it's just that I want it to be done so much that I can't wait to finish it before it comes up on a hub! And then I concentrate so much on wanting people to comment and give advice that it never gets done. Thank you for the amazing hub and I sympathize! I like your writing style and I'll be coming back for more!

    • ACSutliff profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago


      Thank you so very much for the question! I am wondering exactly what you expected me to say, but I'm glad to have surprised you. And trust me, I am working on tuning out everyone else and just writing. I am determined now to stay true to the ending I have come up with for Inside My Head, and now the only thing that stands in my way is making the time to get there.


    • profile image

      Website Examiner 

      8 years ago

      Thanks AC, for responding in this fashion to my question. Much I have learned about you and your creative situation, and the answers I've received were somewhat different from what I'd expected. I can relate well to what you are experiencing on the creative side of things. Your hub has given me something to think about, certainly I've come to know you much better.

      Don't worry, you'll get there - find that quiet space inside and listen to yourself. And when the time has come, surrender control and admit that a writer is at some point unable to objectively evaluate the quality of her own work.

    • ACSutliff profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      I want to write another hub to go along with this one...

      A hub about what people can do to overcome their challenges with writing. I plan to ask all my followers what their biggest obstacles with writing are, and then I will write a hub about what you can do about it. If you aren't following me, leave your obstacle here in the comments for me!



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