I ran across this article at HollyLisle.com a few days ago: How to Finish A Novel. Just quoting the headers here. I’ve bolded the ones I think are pertinent to finishing, i.e. getting to “The End,” as opposed to just writing a novel in general.
- First, know how it ends.
- Write your ending, and then write to it.
- Create five or six “candy-bar” scenes, and use them to keep you moving forward.
- Write about people you enjoy spending time with.
- Use an outline.
- Allow yourself to be surprised.
- Write because you want to, not because you should.
- Write what you love, not “what sells.”
I think knowing how it ends and using an outline are the most important. I’ve given up thinking you can write your way to the end of a novel (a short story, sure) without at least a semblance of an outline. You can start without knowing how it ends, but you can’t finish. At least I can’t. I’ve realized that I need to be writing to something. If I can visualize where the story needs to go, what the next big scene is, then all is fine. Since I usually have most of the story worked out, all goes well for a time. But the closer I get to the end, the harder things get, because I’ve always been vague about how things end. I think this is my downfall. Time to figure out how things end.
Almost forgot: You know how I always joke that there should be a National Novel Finishing Month—well, there is! NaNoFiMo.
NaNoFiMo is a challenge to write at least 30,000 words on your unfinished novel draft and to reach a conclusion to the novel, between Dec. 1 and Dec. 31.
Also, more about outlines:
First of all, it helps you know where the story is going, so you don’t run into dead ends or run out of steam. It can help you find the slow spots in your narrative, it’s much easier to add scenes and characters to an outline than a novel-in-progress, and it helps you focus on the craft of the story, as opposed to the art of writing.
An outline is also extremely helpful when it comes to motivation. Once the story is down on paper (in outline form) all you need to do is add the bells and whistles; the action, dscription, and dialog. You don’t need to worry about what happens next because you already know. That frees up your mind to create characters and settings and scenes without having to wonder if the book is working, or if there’s enough conflict.