- Books, Literature, and Writing
Finishing Your Novel: You Can Do It!
So you want to write a novel, but you are concerned you may not have what it takes to finish it. Maybe you have some abandoned novels in your past, eh, bucko? C'mon, 'fess up. Uh-huh. Okay. Well, pilgrim, things could be different. All it takes is a little bondage and discipline. I'm sorry, did I say bondage? I meant planning. Planning and discipline are the factors that will ensure that you finish your novel. Here's how.
Some writers say there are only seven plots and others say fifteen. Well, who the hell cares? The point is that it is best if you start out with a plot in mind from the beginning and that you STICK TO IT. Time for a colorful anecdote.
Some brilliant, I say, brilliant men in my home town wanted to move this house and they had the bright idea to wait until winter and haul it across the ice. Lake Superior freezes about six feet thick and folks drive logging trucks across it, so on the face of it you might see where it could have been a viable plan. So winter comes, the lake freezes, they get the house up on the trailer, and they plow a road across the ice to where they want to haul the house. So what do they do? For some reason they decide to leave the road they plowed. Well, of course the trailer broke through the untried ice and the house sank in fifty feet of water - FULLY FURNISHED.
So don't be like those guys. Your plot is a road map to the end of your book. If you stray too far from it, your novel may very well join the Einstein House down in Davy Jones's Locker.
Your Road Map
In the beginning, you want to sketch out the structure of your book, which action will lead to what reaction, where events will take place, the sequence of events that leads to the climax, and the warming down section afterwards that brings the story to satisfactory conclusion. This ending section should be short. Structure the story with a small peak toward the beginning of the book, then a lull, then a long section building to the climax, the climax itself, and then the satisfactory ending.
Things can change as you go along, but you need to stick with the original plan as much as you can to ensure that you will finish. Writing generates ideas, so you will have a lot of them as you write the novel, but if they don't fit in your original plot, save them for the next novel.
Good characters have strong personalities. A strong personality makes them an interesting character, but it can also make them wayward and willful. I have had knock down, drag out fights with some of my characters and sometimes they have won, but whatever the result, it is always better if the character is true to themselves and does nothing they would not normally do.
In extreme circumstances, you may find that your character's personality is incompatible with the plot. This is very bad news because in that case you have no choice really other than to start the novel over from the beginning. Luckily such instances are rare. Most of the time you can bend the plot without breaking it to accommodate your characters' idiosyncrasies. The accommodations we make for characters can be some of the most interesting parts of the story.
Writing a novel can take years. Keeping one's train of thought over that amount of time can be difficult. That is why the road map of the plot is so important. Also, over time, you might get sick of your story. You might start to think it sucks. You need to work through that and not put the story down. You will see that it will come around and you will fall back in love with your idea.
The best way to ensure that you finish is to be disciplined. Work a little on your book every day, preferably in the same place at the same time of day, every day. Humans are creatures of habit. You can use that to your advantage. Use all your willpower to keep doing it until you're done.