Why We Don’t Finish Writing Our Novels

There is a lot of pressure that comes with the first draft. We invest a mountain of effort in our work. Questions and self doubt swirl and often collide and cause a terrible panic. Every word has to be perfect! When they are not we believe are horrible. The End.

That first sentence is terrible! (So we rewrite unto oblivion.) I need a better opening! (We work on this for months!) Then we stop look around and think, wow this writing thing is hard. I’m going to take a break. Then six months later, I’ve only written three miserable pages? Ugh.

But, the simple fact is – no one sees those terrible first drafts (or they shouldn’t!). You are going to cut pages, rewrite scenes, and remove them. I cut about 20,000 words on the second go round of my first novel and plan to cut another 15,000 on this next edit (my eighth).

The first draft is a learning phase and you have permission to make mistakes. Repeat, you can make mistakes and each line can be okay, it does not have to be awesome, yet. You can fall, scrape your knee, and try again. Think of yourself as a baby. This might be marginally silly, but no baby takes a step and then decides to race Usain Bolt the next day.

So move forward. Don’t keep interrupting the flow of your book. You’ll have to rewrite and cut scenes and later anyway. Finish your draft first, then you’ll know what to improve. This is the time to take risks and try things with your characters and plot.

For now, write like it’s your job. Especially if you want it to be some day. But remember to have fun and that you’ll learn so much more about your novel when it is done.

Keep writing, friends.

“If want to be a novelist, you need to learn to finish things.” – Neil Gaiman

See You At Jot!


One thought on “Why We Don’t Finish Writing Our Novels

  1. I haven’t finished a novel yet. My problem isn’t that I am nervous or over critical of my work, but I am an easily distracted person which makes every step of the writing process, from generating ideas to character development, take 10X longer than it should. I think your tips should still help me. Thanks!!

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