Why is it so Hard to Finish a Novel?

In the 14 years I have been writing, I have only finished 1 novel with about 20 unfinished novels in the wings and a 2nd one in the rough draft stages of development. Why has it taken me so long to finish a novel? I have a theroy about that.

First, I got caught up in my first novel that keep morphing into various other plot lines and which I just wasn’t ready to let go of until December 2008. It was one of those books that should have been laid to rest 10 years ago when I finished High School and didn’t need it anymore. If you have a project like this, I found boxing it up and sticking it somewhere for a few months helps put everything into perspective.

Second, I’m a planner. Not one of those worksheet overload, over planning types of planners. But a basic planner. I need a direction for the story to go and a few points/scenes to help me along the way and I’m set. I have a very simple character sketch, setting sketches and notes about the worlds I create, along with a formatted outline which is basically a glorified rough draft. This is something I didn’t know about myself until last year.

Third, I have more ideas floating around my head then I’ll ever have the time to write. There is always this tendency for my mild ADD to kick in and for me to drop the current project for a new one. Hence, the reason that I have 20 partially written novels. 🙂 I’ve started to keep an idea folder and notebook, one on the computer and one in a three-ring binder.

And fourth, not only do I hate to let things go (abandonment issues, you know), I also fear rejection. No one fear for my house, I’m not a pack rat, but there are certian things that I just can’t let go or I don’t want to end. My fictional characters and worlds are one. Some days they are more real to me then the real world. Humm? Does this mean that I should rent out a room at the insane asylm? Probably not.

Regardless, when I first placed a piece of my work online for all to read. I was elated and nervous, this was something I wanted–I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 8-years-old–and there was that fear that my work would be rejected as so much of my writing has been over the years. Let me clarify this. I don’t fear that some one wouldn’t like my writing. I can handle some one not liking the story, its not really a personal attack as a personal preference. Its the idea that people will hate me personally for what they read in my writing. For those who think this doesn’t happen, let me tell you about the poems in the 2nd grade, the ghost story in the 6th (I think my aunt suggested my mom take me to a psychologist), or all of my High School years (I was a strange kid)….

Nay, lets not go down memory lane today. Now that I’ve told you mine reasons. Would anyone like to share theirs?

3 thoughts on “Why is it so Hard to Finish a Novel?

  1. I have to thank NaNoWriMo. For ten years I have been working on a couple of story ideas. I would start, never finish. Think of something else start again, never finish. So on. I did NaNoWriMo and I finished a story!
    It was a boost to my confidence. Even though that story will probably stay on my hard drive.
    But last August I got hit with the writing bug. I have been able to hammer out a finished story in as little as 20 days. BUT they are not ready to be published. It takes me at least 6 months to edit them to the state that I am willing to share with the world.
    But here is the sad thing. The characters I have been living with for the last ten years, now have their moment. But I have to let them go. It’s sad in a way. But at least more people can enjoy them and not just me.


  2. Well, for me it’s not a probelm to finish a novel.

    But you’ve seen the bad reviews I’ve gotten and heard of the personal emails I’ve received. Those were indirect personal attacks on me as a person. When someone writes in a review, “Poorly edited” or “immature characters” or “historical inaccuracies”, what are they really saying? They are saying I am a horrible editor, I write stupid characters, and I never do my research. Which means that I am a bad writer = I don’t like this person = personal level gut attack. I think rejection of a book and rejection of the author go hand in hand.

    And people, esp. irate family members, will always have a snarky comment in regards to you. It can be “You’re a nobody because ou have to self-publish” to “You’re a bigot, a bitch and the worst thing that ever happened to this family” (because of the Christian content of my work). I’m just saying we all face rejection, and even professional rejection striked some of us on a personal level.

    Anyway, remember when I wanted to give up in March? I was ready to walk away from writing and never jot down another word. Remember what you told me? “Don’t let them win. You do it your way.” Best advice I ever received. And now I return it. 🙂 Show those family members that they didn’t win.

    Besides, with the rise in paranormal fiction out there, the public’s not going to think you’re weird. 😉


  3. My ratio of finished to unfinished isn’t too bad. I have two on the computer that are unfinished (one of which I WILL finish someday), one on the word processor from 2003, and two in a notebooks from 1996 & 1997. As for the finished ones (not edited, just finished) I have… *counts on fingers* oh… 15 or more. Of those one is published, one is being edited, one is available for free on my blog, two more will someday see light, and the rest will languish in their notebooks and never see the light of day. Probably. But, who knows?

    The reason those books are unfinished vary. The one that will someday get finished is a funny, spoof kind of book, and i have to be in a certain kind of fun mood to work on it – or so I have convinced myself. One day I will kick myself in the butt and say, “You’re making excuses, just do it!”. Roderick and Senya are languishing for no particular reason I can think of, except that I just haven’t done it. I know the general direction it’s going in, I know how it’s going to end, it’s just a matter of doing it. The word processor book, Monday’s Child, is an orphan of a series idea I had once, but have now abandoned, and the subject matter, which was relevant when I wrote it, isn’t particularly so anymore. The other two are teen horror books (one is a sequel to a book i finished and the other is about a family vacation that goes terribly wrong) and I’ve just moved past these – not to mention I’m too lazy to convert my sloppy handwriting to typing!

    I agree though, there is some feeling of loss when you finish a book. I’m always depressed for a day or more when I finish the rough draft because that’s it. It’s like this giant, let down, almost. because once it’s done, it’s done. But, the beauty of it is that it’s not really done if you don’t want it to be, and you can always grab those characters again and do something else with them. (unless you’ve ruthlessly killed them all *cough* I used to do that a lot.)


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