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Top 6 Reasons You Can't Finish Your Novel

Jana started her first novel at age 12 (it's in a box somewhere), published another and is writing a second. She loves sharing writing tips.


Craft, the World and You

Every would-be author meets the triple trickster – craft, the world and yourself.

  • Outside influences interfere with the most prolific of writers. Like the annual flu and the tax man, there's nothing to be done except to take precautions or ride them out
  • Craft is a learning experience that never ends, a fact that can discourage the less dedicated writer. The mastering of craft is essential to produce good books but isn't as hard as the inner issues that arise from the writer's mind
  • Any author can become a craft ninja but if he or she cannot tame themselves, the “you” part of the triple threat is often the thing that kills more books before they are even born.

1. Wherefore Art Thou, Time?

Time is the biggest complaint for most new writers. Even toddler triplets, an unsupportive spouse, illness, financial problems (now put them all together) can be dealt with when you have enough hours. Chances are that time is not on your side. However, when you choose to become a writer, this new role needs its own space on the calendar – just like the roles of parent, breadwinner, community helper and a myriad of others. You cannot earn a salary by not showing up for work. Similarly, a book won't appear if it's not fed time and dedication.

1. Assess your priorities and be honest about separating the “fun” than from the “necessary” activities.

2. This is hard, but choose one “fun” priority that takes at least half an hour every day or week. If you're truly squeezed for time but want to be an author, something has got to go.

3. Let it go or put it on the back burner and use the free time as your writing slot.

4. Don't follow suggestions about getting up an hour earlier or going to bed later. Writing is not just about producing words. It's also about staying healthy to produce good work – so don't sacrifice your sleep.

You Need a Writing Schedule

A writing schedule need not be perfect, only flexible. Start with twenty minutes here and there, then increase the time as the novel progresses.

A writing schedule need not be perfect, only flexible. Start with twenty minutes here and there, then increase the time as the novel progresses.

2. Crafty Craft

When somebody hits that exciting realization for the first time – that they want to write a book – the buzz often hides a hairy fact about novels. It's not about the hundred thousand words or cliché characters have a conversation. A novel is a complex art form, either a disaster or a masterpiece, depending on how well the writer wields their craft. Craft is the structure that shapes – creating authentic characters, mastering plot and theme, writing original and magnetic work, weaving together storylines and using dialogue, description and action to tell the story.

Can you write a book without learning craft? Sure, but never underestimate readers. They're smart, read a lot of books and want quality for their money. Today's readers quickly recognize authors who write with threadbare craft and never buy anything from them again.

Craft is critical to the excellent writer. Besides building readership, it moves a book along faster. Plot and character guidelines prevent a draft from ending up a giant mess. Some novice authors write themselves into a corner with contradictory scenes that can take months to correct, if ever. Craft also leads to your own writing style, including the process that writes your future novels to completion. The first round is always the hardest because it takes writing a book plus discovering your own process.

3. Impatience and Discouragement

At one point, every writer hits the same sobering wall. A novel is hard work. After the initial honeymoon phase, when characters seem to write the story, and it just feels so great to type the words and watch the first draft grow, things slow down and become difficult.

A great book doesn't happen overnight, nor in 30 days or even two months. In a single day, anyone can churn out enough words to fill a novel – but it won't be a good one. For this very reason, there are countless bad books out there. An alluring story with fans takes time to create. When you run into the inevitable “crunch time,” beating discouragement is simple – write with enjoyment. A novel is about entertaining the author as well as the reader. If the plot bores you and you don't care about your own characters, seriously, why would anyone else?

4. Fear Is a Factor

You've probably heard of writer's block but writer's fear? It's a thing – a hairy thing with fangs and glowing eyes that hatch when there's a lack of confidence. When writers doubt their ability to “make it” as an author, edit perfectly, invent a story strangers would actually want to read, the list is long . . . and hairy . . . with fangs.

Writer's fear can be toxic. At worst, it paralyzes writers or scares them away for good. However, few realize that an adequate dose of doubt is the mark of a true writer. When you think you know everything about craft, believe that you write stupendously fantastic tales that beat everything out there, that's when you're in trouble. Don't be afraid to doubt your progress or talent. Good authors stay objective about their shortcomings and keep on learning.

The Mobile Writer

Always carry a notebook to record things you see and hear. Sometimes, just taking pen and paper outside, reflecting on one's novel, can reignite the story.

Always carry a notebook to record things you see and hear. Sometimes, just taking pen and paper outside, reflecting on one's novel, can reignite the story.

5. My Draft is Over There . . . Somewhere

Every writer has a desk or creation area as unique as themselves. Some allow their space to grow and change with them, adding what inspires them to keep writing. However, writing space must be practical as well as inspirational. Tendrils of creativity and magic cannot grow from chaos. They need beauty, whatever this may be for you, as well as a degree of neatness.

When everything has its place, there's little to cause distraction during creation. Working among scattered notes, last night's dinner plate and the memory stick's missing again isn't helpful. Overall, don't underestimate the influence of writing location on a book's chances of being completed.

6. The Pseudo Author

This may be hard to hear, but a big reason novels go nowhere is because the would-be author doesn't want to be an author. When this is the case, the person may not even realize the truth (why else would they pursue the publishing dream?). For some writers, there's a thrill connected to the idea of writing a novel that actual writing cannot compete with, nor the finished product. They're in love with the words, “I'm writing a novel” or “I'm going to write a book one day,” and then get no further. Often, they are surprised when it's pointed out to them that 15 years is a long time to write Chapter One, and maybe they don't really want to write the book.

A Worthwhile Pursuit

Writing a novel is a wonderful experience – because it's not easy. There's no triumph in creating a magnificent piece that's uniquely yours when it happens overnight. Commit to the process, test all the tips and techniques out there and keep the ones that produce exciting work when you add your imagination!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2018 Jana Louise Smit


Susan Hazelton from Sunny Florida on August 01, 2018:

This is a wonderful hub. You have gotten right to the heart of the reasons why some people cannot seem to finish a novel. I fit the mobile writer the best out of the ones you mentioned. I have to carry a notepad to jot down my ideas.