Tips on Finishing a Novel…For Those who Have an Inner Critic that Convinces You that You Can’t

7 Feb

the worst thing you write

 

I know, I know. I just posted yesterday! I’m trying to flex my writing muscles every day with a blog post before returning to my novel.

Today, I’d like to talk a little bit more about writing in general. Everyone has their own style, their own techniques, their own (insane) ways of doing things.

I’m going to share what I found has worked best for me.

Years ago (ok, not that many years ago), I struggled to finish anything longer than a short story. I started several ‘novels’ but never made it past page 30, if I even got that far. Usually, it would be less than 10 pages. Why, you ask? Because I would go back and re-read every single line to make sure it was as perfect as it could be. This led me to believe that it was just a pile of sh#t instead, and I would scrap the entire piece.

Now, I’ve learned what works for me. I’ve completed three novels and am working on the fourth. I learned to never go back and read it until it’s done, or at least almost done. Now, this may not work for everyone out there, but for anyone who is like me and has an inner critic who tells you that you suck beyond belief and you begin to believe it, then this might actually work for you.

The trick is to silent the inner critic (for now). (S)he will come back out eventually. But for now, you lock that inner critic away in a closet in your mind for a while. Let them take an extended nap because you’re not going to need ‘em for a while.

The only reason I’d bring her back out before the piece is finished, is to make sure everything is as good as it can be. Before I finish a novel, I’ll read it, from beginning to almost-end (where I left off writing). This helps me see what I may have forgotten about, what could make it better, and what needs to be written to tie everything together. And since I’m almost done, there’s no way I’m going to scrap it now! Hell, I even realize that it’s actually pretty f#%&ing good. Take that, inner critic, aka evil judge.

Blah, blah, write some more- and it’s finished. I feel good. I congratulate myself on finishing it. Then, I sit around and dread the revision process. I sit around and dread it some more. The process of revising an entire novel seems so daunting and terrible to me that I put it off for a little while. I need to see it with fresh eyes anyway.

I read a book or two. Or four. Or six.

I go back. I drink a lot of coffee. And I get to work. I print out the entire manuscript and get a highlighter and pen ready. Step 1 is simply the editing. My inner critic comes back out. Where are my/her errors? Comma errors, too many coordinating conjunctions, repetitive verbs/nouns/adverbs. Change them. Fix them. Finish.

Step 2 is the revision stage. The inner critic is really out now. In fact, I hire her. I go back and have to go through each sentence, seeing what needs to be changed. Seeing what’s too wordy. What sounds wrong? What sounds right? Check the rhythm. Make sure it reads smoothly. Finish, and put it away.

Read another book or two.

Step 3 is the most exciting for me. This time, I’m only a reader, not the author. I go back, and read the finished manuscript. I decide if it’s the best it can possibly be. Does it read smoothly? Do I enjoy each/most of the sentences? What do I wish, now, as a reader, there was more of, or less of, for that matter? If it’s not all there, I go back to Step 2.

Now, like I said, this won’t work for everyone. But I figured it was worth sharing, as after years of trying and wanting to finish a novel, I have. I hope it will help at least one person out there who is struggling with the same thing.

You might think you can never finish a novel. You might think that it seems like such a long, grueling process. But that’s not how it is. The trick is to silent the inner critic/evil judge who is telling you that you’re not good enough to write something with any merit. Because the fact is- you can. It takes a lot of dedication. It takes discipline. It takes courage. Most importantly, it takes passion. If you love to write, sit down and write. Every day. That’s what it’s about. The more you write, the easier it will become. And let me tell you, when you finish that novel, you’ll have a feeling better than any high out there. I’m not even going to try to put it into words, because it’s beyond that. The first novel is the hardest to finish.

But keep in mind, your writing isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Don’t try to please everyone. Write the book that you want to read. When you do that, you’ll love it.

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