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Finishing Your Half-Finished Novel

Updated on November 4, 2009

Writer's Block: It Happens Every Time

You worked hard on your novel for a few months, you’ve got five or six solid chapters down and it’s looking good. Then you run into a tough plot decision. You go make some tea to help clear your head. You doodle. You surf the web, complain on Twitter, re-connect with some neglected friends on Facebook.

Finally, you sit down again with your work and draw a blank. You think to yourself, maybe it’s time to take a break, I’ll come back to it when the idea makes itself clear.

That was four months ago. The ideas simply won’t be forced, and all you can do is go back through what you’ve already written and pick through the words, changing things here and there but never really progressing anywhere.

Following are some suggestions of ways to re-inspire yourself to keep cranking out those precious words. Keep in mind that what works for some may not work for others, so it's important to have an open mind.

Use Music

This is a bit of a unique approach to brainstorming and may seem a bit excessive, but I did this spontaneously once and it helped me immensely. Sound is a way to help you feel what your characters (and readers) are feeling, and to really connect yourself with the story.

Find a song that speaks to you, and has a sort of musical plot line of its own. I used “The Poet and the Pendulum” by Nightwish, and would recommend this to anyone as a perfect example of what I mean. The song is almost fourteen minutes long, and has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It sounds like a movie soundtrack; starting off gentle then with a bang, progresses to a main event and then slows down, and you get the picture. The music conveys all the emotions that a good, dramatic story should, and it’s a great tool to help plan out a story’s progress.

How I used it: I got a handful of markers in various colours, and assigned different emotions or types of events to the appropriate colour. For example: Yellow is comedy, blue is sadness, red is drama or evil, etc.

Listen to the song with a blank sheet of paper in front of you, and as you feel the drama in the song, write down the words in sequence.

Hopefully you’ll end up with a list of events or emotions that a story or character progresses through, in the order that they typically happen. If, for example, your writer’s block occurred on a “suspense” scene, you may not have anticipated that a “sudden calm, ie. sadness or relief” scene could follow. This exercise could definitely get the ball rolling again.

Read Books About Novel Writing

It seems a bit self-helpish but they really are good for their purpose. There are tons out there, and they are immensely useful to refer to when you get stuck. These books have sections on breaking writer’s block, planning your novel, character traits, and all kinds of suggestions and insights into why we read fiction, how to relate to the reader, etc.


Try to force it. Even if you end up writing, erasing, re-writing over and over again. Even if your work is complete garbage, at least you’ve done something. When you go back and re-read that part you’ll think to yourself, “That’s crap. I should do this instead.” And viola, you’ve successfully continued your book.

Make a Map or Web

Remember those assignments they had us do in grade school, where you wrote a word in the center of a page, and made a ‘web’ of related words surrounding it? You can do the same sort of thing here, writing your character in the center of the page to give you new perspectives. You can also use this same concept to create a plot map, where you summarize each scene in one word, using arrows to connect them. It’s an easy and concrete way of visualizing your plot and can definitely help you to see where things are going.

Read a Different Book

The idea is to take a breather from your own writing and focus on something newv for a bit. Perhaps reading a different story within the genre you’re working on will rekindle your enthusiasm for your own story.

However, you may notice a few things you don’t want to happen:

1. You may come back to your novel feeling discouraged. There are thousands of authors out there who have succeeded, and thousands more who have failed. What makes you think you have what it takes to win?
2. Your writing may start to sound like what you’ve been reading. You “lose your voice” in a sense.
3. Your newly energized ideas are suspiciously sounding like twisted versions of those in the book you just read. It happens easily, so be careful.

On the other hand, reading a different book could help refresh your mind and re-energize your initial enthusiasm for writing, and as long as you’re careful to stay original, you may find yourself back on track.

Draw Some Pictures

This can be a great, simple way to renew your ideas, whether you’re artistic or not. It can help you visualize a character or a scene in more detail than you had before, and it can introduce new angles to a situation that you may not have considered. This can only be beneficial as you start to get excited about your ideas again.

If you have a very visual mind, drawing can also help you to organize your storyline. Sketch different scenes on separate sheets of paper, and move them around to make a sort of graphic novel.

Another way to use this idea is to incorporate music with your drawing. This adds the visual and audio aspects to your story, which will make it seem more lifelike than ever...almost like a movie.

Putting these new dimensions into your imagination will help you to describe fictional scenes as though they are real events, and can help you break right through that pesky writer's block.


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    • Derek D profile image

      Derek D 7 years ago from United States

      Great tips.........

      Thanks for sharing :)

    • Katelyn Weel profile image

      Katelyn Weel 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks for the feedback! Yeah the colours for emotions is interesting, I find it really useful when I'm first designing the plot.

    • 2patricias profile image

      2patricias 8 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      This is a very interesting Hub - will probably come back to it.

      I particularly like the idea of using colours for emotions.

    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 8 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Great advice - I need to get back to mine.

    • Katelyn Weel profile image

      Katelyn Weel 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      LOL Lady_E, I'm the same way... I'm actually working on my own NanoWrimo book right now, it's what inspired me to write this hub in the first place.

      I've learned that neither my hotmail inbox or my fridge ever have new ideas hiding inside, and that more interesting food doesn't appear the more times I go back for a snack.

      Thanks for reading, good luck!

    • Lady_E profile image

      Elena 8 years ago from London, UK

      Excellent Hub - Bookmarked. :)

      I love the practical advice. I tend to keep on visiting the kitchen, thinking: "by the time I've finished this chocolate cake, an idea would have come". (Honestly!)

      If any of the NanoWrimo guys are getting stuck, I shall share this Hub with them.

      Best Wishes