Finishing a Story or Book

I’m stuck on my story. How do I finish?

This is very common. Sometimes you lose interest, or you hit a wall. Here are some things I do:

Go back and read something you liked in your own story or book. Read the first few pages of your story or the first one to two chapters of your book. Or read a scene that you really liked and had fun writing. I do this to see if that gets me excited about the story again and to remind me that I actually am a decent writer! If reading a good scene gets me jazzed up again, I want to keep going so I do. The same could happen for you so go back and read that good stuff!

Write a scene out of order. If you’re a rule follower like me, you may think you have to write your story or book in chronological order. WRONG. There are no rules when it comes to how you write the story or book.

Write what excites you. If you are looking forward to writing a fight scene that happens later or a scene when your main character really tells off the mean girl, WRITE IT RIGHT NOW! Writing a scene you are excited about will get your creative juices flowing and really motivate you to write other parts of the story or book.

Figure out the end of your story. You don’t have to know the exact scene or final line but have a sense of where you want your main character to end up. The best way to do this is to know how you want your main character to grow. For example, in Click Here, Erin starts out insecure and moves toward self-confidence and standing up for herself and what she wants. Because I knew that, I knew that the end she have a scene showing her confidence and feeling better about herself. If you can, write the last scene first so you know where you’re going.

And then what happened? One question I have up on my wall is: And then what happened? If things are slowing down or your losing interest in what you’re writing, it may be that you’re just writing “filler.” Examine the scene. Is there any conflict? Conflict inside the character (she’s really frustrated) or between the character and someone else (he’s fighting with his mother) or a physical challenge to overcome (she has to climb out of ditch with a broken leg to save herself). Conflict drives story. You must have your character overcoming obstacles. If s/he isn’t overcoming obstacles, get those obstacles in there!

Plan it out. I stink at planning my books or pre-writing. I get an idea I’m excited about and want to jump right in and start writing. But I’ve found that I waste a lot of time that way. More than once I’ve written 30-40 pages and realized I don’t have enough story for a whole book. So now I’ve actually started planning before I write–I know, the horror, but it really does help. With the Click Here unsequel, I jotted down every scene I thought needed to be in the book in 1-2 lines and any bits of dialogue or scene conflicts that came to me. It’s also a good idea to put these scenes on index cards so you can shuffle them in any order before you start writing.

Free writing. Try some free writing that has nothing to do with your story. The Internet is full of writing sites that offer writing prompts to help get you started. Sometimes working on something else opens your mind to moving your story forward.

Know when to move on. This isn’t always easy and usually comes with lots of writing practice. If you give up on a story, it may just be because you aren’t willing to invest the energy and time required to finish it. Or it may be the story just isn’t working and you need to put it aside work and on something else. If you find that you can’t finish ANY story or book you start, you may have to look at your own writing practice and your motivation for writing.

I have lots of ideas but after working on one for awhile I get bored with it.  Should I keep working on my current story or start working on another idea?

If you are getting bored, that’s either a sign that you aren’t ready to write a complete novel, or that the idea you are working on either isn’t big enough to sustain an entire novel or you haven’t fleshed it out enough. If the new ideas you get are smaller ones that fit with your current book, that’s great that you are able to fit them in. But if you are really wondering where to go with your story, that’s another challenge altogether!

Moving from idea to idea can be the wrong way to go—especially if you would like to actually finish a book! But you also may be trying to find the idea that really grabs you and won’t let go; you  are best equipped to answer that.

What I do when another idea pops into my head is write it in my idea notebook—I write down as much as I can—bits of dialogue, scene ideas, etc.  Once I’ve got it out, I can go back to my other book and focus again.

I’ve been writing and writing and now I think my stuff is horrible. How do I stay motivated to keep writing?  

EVERY writer goes through this, no matter how old they are and how many books they’ve written or published! When I re-read my stuff and think it’s horrible, I just keep going because often the next day, I think it rocks. It’s important to try to push through to the end and then go back and start revising. I do some revising as I write a first draft but I’m really trying to get to the end and save that for the second (and third and fourth and fifth you get the picture) round.  Also, go back and re-read sections you particularly like or think really worked. These sections can remind you that you ARE a good writer and you CAN do this!

Join the conversation about finishing your story below!