How to finally finish that book you’re writing

Sita from the Bay Area recently wrote asking for tips about how the finish her novel. She’s about three-quarters the way through it.

Her problem is not uncommon among writers. Many writers have unfinished novels and short stories sitting on their hard drives or as printouts in a desk drawer. Often coming up with a story idea isn’t a problem, but finding the time or knowing how to finish the work is.

There are several approaches any writer can use to finish their story:
• Set a deadline – Sometimes nothing works better than the challenge of a deadline. This forces you to avoid waiting for inspiration and to get down to the hard work of writing. Simply set a realistic goal for how many words or pages you will write a day. Figure out how many words/pages you still need to write to finish a work. Then divide those number of words/pages by how many words/pages you can write in a day. That gives you the number of days needed to complete your novel, and that many days out is your deadline. For example, suppose you can write 1,000 words a day. A short novel is about 70,000 words; suppose you’ve written 40,000 so far. That means you’ve got 30,000 words to go. At 1,000 words a day, that means you could finish the novel in 30 days (30,000/1,000). If today is Jan. 1, that means your deadline is midnight Jan. 30.
• Outline the rest of the book – Often writers get stalled because they’re not certain where their book is going. Plot out the rest of the story, describing beat-by-beat how you want the story to develop and how you want the main character to resolve the tale’s • Find a writing partner – Someone else who also is trying to finish their story can be a great inspiration. He can offer encouragement and critiques of your work. If you meet regularly, ensuring you have text for one another to read can serve as a “deadline”.

Of course, sometimes the story is so poorly done in its opening sections that there really is no good reason to finish it. Despite that the story may be unpublishable, I’d recommend finishing it anyway. Completing one story makes completing the second one all that more easy, in the same way that completing your first 5k run makes finishing the second 5k run all that more easy. Finishing the story gives you the full experience of writing one, after all, and that may help you avoid pitfalls on the next go.