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Top 6 Reasons You Can't Finish Your Novel

Jana started her first novel at age 12, published another, and is writing a second. She loves sharing writing tips.

Wondering why you can't seem to finish your novel?

Wondering why you can't seem to finish your novel?

What's Holding You Back? The World, Craft and You

Every would-be author meets the triple trickster—the world, craft, and yourself. These things all manifest, in one way or the other, when you struggle to complete a book.

  1. The world is any outside influence that can interfere with any writer's goals, even the most successful authors.
  2. Craft is a learning experience that never ends, a fact that can discourage many unpublished writers.
  3. You come with your own emotional hurdles, like believing that you are not good enough or capable enough to write a novel, steal years of productive time from writers.

1. You Don't Have Enough Time

Toddler triplets, an unsupportive spouse, illness, and financial problems can be dealt with when you have enough hours.

But the chances are that time is not on your side. Time is also not unlimited. When you choose to be a writer, this new role needs its own space on the calendar—just like the roles of parent, breadwinner, and a myriad of others. But how do you carve out space on your planner for writing when your day is already full?

  1. Assess your day. Divide activities between “fun” and “necessary.”
  2. If you are squeezed for time but want to be an author, something has to go. That thing is a "fun item." Sad face.
  3. Use this freed-up slot as your writing time.
  4. Don't follow suggestions about waking an hour earlier or going to bed later. Writing is not just about producing words. It's also about staying healthy so you can produce good work—so don't sacrifice your sleep.
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. You Haven't Mastered the 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. Writing a book is a complex form of art. You have to master the plot and theme, create authentic characters, write original and magnetic work, weave together storylines, and tell the story using dialogue, description and action.

Can you write a book without learning any 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 with threadbare craft and never buy anything from them again.

Craft is critical to an excellent writer.

  • It earns you fans.
  • Good craft can quicken the pace at which you write.
  • Craft can also reduce the moments that you write yourself into a corner where plot lines or scenes conflict with each other.
  • Craft also leads to your own writing style.
  • It helps you to discover your own process for writing a novel. This blueprint ensures that your second and third novels will go faster.

3. You're Discouraged and Impatient

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 feels fantastic 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. An alluring story that earns 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?

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4. You're Afraid

You have probably heard of writer's block, but what about writer's fear? It's really the same thing—a hairy thing with fangs and glowing eyes. It thrives on low self-confidence. When writers doubt their ability to “make it” as an author, edit perfectly or invent a story that stands out above the noise, then things go south.

The good news is 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 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.

But when the fear becomes paralyzing, that is different. At its worst, this fear causes writers to abandon their dream of becoming an author. If you find yourself feeling stuck because of fear, remember that any small step moves your draft forward. The only way through this fear is, well, through it. One step at a time.

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. Your Workspace Isn't Tidy

Every writer has a desk or creation area as unique as themselves. Some allow their space to grow and change with them, adding things that inspire 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.

Distraction is a huge thief of time. But when everything has its place and you block access to addictive social media, then nothing will interfere with your creative juices. Don't underestimate the influence that a neat writing spot has on a book's chances of being completed.

6. You Don't Actually Want to Write

A big reason novels go nowhere is because some would-be authors do not want to be an author. Huh?

When this is the case, the person might not even realize the truth (why else would they pursue the publishing dream?). But for a good percentage of writers, there's a thrill connected to the idea of writing a novel. They're in love with the words, “I'm writing a novel” or “I'm going to write a book one day,” and then, unfortunately, go no further.

A Worthwhile Pursuit

Writing a novel is a wonderful experience, despite the fact that it's hard. But don't forget to have fun. Discovering what excites you when you write. Gather all the craft tips that make you want to go back to your draft and create another scene. Ease into the commitment of completing a draft, slowly but surely.

This is your story, so take your time to enjoy the process and learn everything that you can. Even if you write 20 minutes a day, your novel will move forward, so don't give up!

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 Northern New York 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.

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