On Finishing Novels



The goal of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. I wrote 50,000 words in 3 years. There’s a big difference there, but to me, it’s just important that I reached 50k. While hitting that golden number that meant I had written a short novel means a lot to me, what’s even more important to me is making sure what I’ve written is good quality. Well, as a first draft, it’s of course not going to be good quality–ever–but if it has a good plot, and the characters are all there, and there are no plot bunnies (well, maybe baby plot bunnies), then it’s pretty good quality.

The rest of the novel can be revised, rewritten, redone. But it’s hard to fix a novel that’s veered so far off course that there’s no plot, no characterization, NOTHING to work with. As long as there’s plot and characters, there’s still hope.

Of course, most of this novel WAS written through NaNoWriMo–nearly three word sprints to the finish line in a month. In July, I wrote 18,000 words of this novel. 18,000 in a month during which I was actually very busy. During November, I wrote another 25k words at least. But–thank goodness–my novel isn’t done yet (I’d probably be very emotional and probably typing “DIE (INSERT CHARACTER NAME HERE) DIE!”), and I’m trying to see how long my novel will actually be. Right now, an hour and a half before 2014, I have 51,000 words, and I just realized how I want my novel to end (or how it should end; how my characters are asking me to end their stories), and I’m busy feeding the plot bunnies with extra stuff (characters which I’d created but thought would never appear in my book) and stuffing my novel to be even longer.


I had hoped to finish my novel in 2013, but sadly, that was not possible. What WAS possible, however was getting half of a promising novel out of myself. If you look at my 2014 Bucket List (i.e. what I hope to accomplish before the 2014 year “dies”), writing a novel is at the top of the wish list. I have so many other, half-developed novel ideas which have the promise to turn into something really great, but right now, right here my novel is half-written, and I can’t just leave all of the characters whom I made a promise to write his or her story and just abandon them. A lot of people say that the difference between a person who WANTS to write a novel and a person who DOES write a novel is that one person finds time, sits down in front of the keyboard and writes, while the other does not. But that’s not necessarily true.

The difference between a person who WANTS to write a novel and a person who DOES write a novel is not the fact that was aforementioned about sitting down and writing; sometimes, both people, want-to-be novelist and soon-to-be novelist sit down and write. But something strange happens, as NaNoWriMo has proved, time again and again and again. One of the writers finishes their novel while the other still sits, plods along, churning away at the keyboard. And while Now-Novelist (to give him or her a name) is clutching a newly-printed, published copy of their great work in their hands and showing it to all of their friends and they are NOW A PUBLISHED AUTHOR, Want-to-Be-A-Novelist (to give him or her a name) is still typing away at the keyboard, trying to figure out what to do with his or her characters, trying to see what the point of it all is. Sometimes, they slowly lose hope that their novel will ever be published, will ever be FINISHED, for that matter. But while Now-Novelist is sitting happily at his/her keyboard, churning out a second sequel novel to his already-published one, his agent and his editor and all of his fans urging him on, No-Longer-Want-to-Be-A-Novelist’s half-finished manuscript sits in the corner forgotten and forlorn, waiting for its Big Moment when it will finally be Finished.

But for the No-Longer-Want-to-Be-A-Novelist, there will be no finish. There is a difference between the No-Longer-Want-to-Be-A-Novelist and the Now-Novelist, just one difference (though it is big): while Now-Novelist never gave up (maybe he wrote his novel in a month, or a year, or however long it took him), No-Longer-Want-to-Be-A-Novelist DID give up. They were both trying to tell excellent stories, and if No-Longer-Want-to-Be-A-Novelist would have finished his novel, he would have found himself spending 13 weeks on the NY Times Bestseller list.

Okay, well, maybe not all unfinished novels would’ve spent time on the bestseller list IF they had been published. But you never know. Did J.K. Rowling know her books would be so much loved? What if she had given up on the idea, the first word on the first page? Where would she be then? She would still be a sad, lonely divorced woman. But she didn’t give up. Rowling wrote her book, and she published it, and then she wrote six sequels. SIX SEQUELS. And (at least by my judgment) they were all as good as (or even better than) the first one.

My novel, even though it’s a half finished, 109-page, 51,502-word wreck, inspired me to keep writing it. It’s changed my life (and some of my decisions about my free time) in so many ways. Even if your novel doesn’t get published, WRITE IT. I’m not one of the believers in a novel is an author’s idea. A novel’s idea was ALWAYS THERE, floating out in the far corner of the universe, waiting, just waiting, for the right person to come along and tell it. YOUR novel idea, YOUR story idea, YOUR inspiration chose YOU, and only you, to write it. It may take 30 days, 3 months, 6 years. It might even take 30 years. But your novel idea is yours, and it is yours for telling. I agree that some novel ideas, some have waited too long to choose a prospective writer, or when it chooses a writer, that writer is already busy working on another project. Some novel ideas grow diseased, some eventually die out. But there are those few–those thousand million few–which make it into writers’ brains and squeeze themselves through the writer’s hands, and eventually push themselves onto the paper where their story is told.

So go on. Don’t be afraid to write. Don’t worry that nobody will read your novel. Your novel isn’t for the readers. It’s for you. (Of course, the readers ARE a side effect of writing a novel, but still…) That’s why your novel chose you to write it. Please take care of it. Please write and cherish and nurture it, help it grow into a big, fat book that changes lives. Because you have the power to change lives. But first, your novel must change yours.

My final novel-word stats for 2013!  READS First Word on the 100th Page: WAS 50,000th Word: WAS Last Word of 2013: THAT Final Word-Count of 2013: 51,502 WORDS

My final novel-word stats for 2013!
First Word on the 100th Page: WAS
50,000th Word: WAS
Last Word of 2013: THAT
Final Word-Count of 2013: 51,502 WORDS


Okay, so here’s the part where we get to talk about me. This is, after all, my blog. And I am, after all, writing this blog post. But you don’t have to read this part if you don’t want to.

So, my stats for 2013. Well, I definitely wrote more than 60,000 words this year, whether it be on novel planning or character sketching or my class essay writing or something or the other like that. But I don’t really care how that goes. I’m really only interested in my creative writing (oh, and that essay score…).

This year I…

  • Wrote a mini short-story anthology, which I hope to make available on the Kindle store… but more on that later
  • Planned and wrote 51,502 word of a novel (of course, there’s no relation to the outline… but still… Who even uses outlines anymore?)
  • Scored well on the essays I wrote
  • WON NANOWRIMO (a full 50k for the first time… and on my first try, too… I’m so happy! 🙂 )
  • Hit 50k words on one project in less than a year for the first time in my life
  • … Somehow managed to make my 50,000th word and the first word on the 100th page (the first word on the 100th page was not the 50kth word) both “WAS”
  • Somehow manage to make my last word of 2013 “that”


Novel Length at End of 2013: 51,502 words

Novel Length at Beginning of 2013: 0 words

NaNoWriMo Finished Word-Count: 50,484 words

How Accomplished I Feel (1-10, 10’s highest, 1’s lowest): 10!

Happy New Year!

– S

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