Writing outlines is all good. Writing each day is even better. Finishing your writing is where it gets really hard.
There’s excitement when you start writing something new, and it doesn’t even have to be a novel! It could that pesky essay, or a poem or a short story. This also goes for all sorts of art: music, painting, sculpture, dance. Whatever’s your jam (mine’s strawberry), we usually approach the beginning with a head full of vibrant ideas. For writers, sometimes even that first blank page isn’t daunting. You even get to say that you’re writing your novel, not working on it. The first step is often the easiest.
Then comes the middle. Maybe you’re going through something tough in life. Perhaps your outline just didn’t foresee what should happen here. For some of us, our characters suddenly want to do something different than we foresaw. Or the excitement from the page has just drained away with each passing word. Writing just feels like going to the dentist’s and hearing that dreadful buzz.
A lot of people give up a few chapters in and go write something else. They promise that “oh believe me, this idea is so much better.”. I’ve had my fair share of those. I’ve visited the “chapter two” and decided to not go any further. Other ideas pop up into our heads. What seem like better ideas, more colorful. Some of them even take from the current work in progress. But they’re just the same as the one you’re focusing on right now. They’re not any better, they’re just ideas for books.
Although the first step may be easy, it’s often not the only important one when it comes to writing. The next step is just as important. And the next. Even when you’re ate the 90% mark, it may seem like it’ll never end. But you have to push through. Force those last few words. Don’t go back and edit what you’ve written. That way lies madness. Just go on.
If you’re struggling with finishing a novel, go for something smaller. I think that a great way to develop “finish habits” is to write a dozen or so short stories. Then move on to novellas. Then novels. Then you can write those 500 000 words A Song of Ice and Fire doorstoppers. When you reach the end, you’ll look back on your first draft and say “it’s crap”. But it’s your hard worked for crap and you’ll be damn proud of it.
And a “finished” novel isn’t the same as a finished draft one. The editing process is just as, if not more, important. Take it a word at a time. For some, the first draft is the building materials. The cement and bricks and wood from which you’ll build your lovely writing house.