You know what I’m talking about, those magic words you can’t wait to type on that first draft.
You’ll get there, but I’m not going to lie; the path there is often full of crooked roads and major cliffs.
If you are an outliner, you’ll not have as much trouble getting to the end in a logical manner, but if you are like me and write with no clear plan, it’s harder. Characters often want to go their own way.
Here are my favorite draft-finishing tips.
1) Figure out what scenes need to be in the book that you haven’t yet written—write those as fast as you can using only dialogue. Set a timer and make it fun! Or use something like 4thewords to fight monsters or challenge a writing buddy to a sprint. You can fill in the setting and physical reactions later. You’ll be surprised at how much closer this will bring you to the last words of the book.
2) How many words do you think you have left? How many days until you want to be done? Divide the words by days. Sorry for the math there, not a fan of it myself. Once that’s done, write the number of words on each of your writing days in your planner. I like The Author’s Planner by Audrey Ann Hughey because there is a lot of space to record your sprints. Once you have it on paper, at the time you promised yourself you’d write, sit down and get those words written. You’ll have progressed, and you will still have time to do something fun—like shower or eat.
3) Find an accountability partner—if you don’t finish your words each day, you have to do the horrible, very bad, ugly task they give you to do, kind of a WRITE or DIE plan. And if they are a good partner, they will know what it is you hate to do. It might be writing that newsletter or setting up social media posts for a week or worse… adding up your expenses and recording them.
4) What’s your why? Not your characters’ why, but your why. Why are you doing this? What makes you sit and write down a story when you aren’t sure you’ll make money or that anyone will ever read your book? You must want to do this to yourself as other professions are easier and come with benefits. So what is your why? Write it on a dry erase board or an index card and put it where you can see it every time you sit at your computer. Why are you writing this book? Once you have that in your mind and in your sight, it gives you a reason to sit and move those fingers or lips if you are dictating.
5) And my favorite tip does not seem to go with writing, but it does: Get out of your head! Go for a walk, a bike ride, visit a friend. Step away from the screen for a few hours. Don’t even think about watching a webinar or a course on ads. Staring at the monitor and wishing you knew more or that the words will come will not get you to the end. You must disconnect to find the story. The more you refuse to let the words get out, the more they will want to be released from your brain.
And because I’m not an outliner, I’ve found using some of the ideas from Wired for Story by Lisa Crohn helpful when I’m stuck. Crohn is big on finding your why for your character which makes reaching the magic words ‘The End’ easier to achieve. Knowing that your character refuses to eat blue cotton candy—not sure why anyone would refuse this delicacy—because the last time she ate it was right before her dad left and then again right before her bike was run over in the driveway. Eating blue cotton candy to her means bad things happen, so when she’s on a date and is offered a cone of this spidery sweet she freaks and knocks it on the ground because the guy she’s with is someone she cares for.
With powerful information about your characters’ why, you can move your story in the right direction—toward The End.
Bestselling author, Diana Lesire Brandmeyer, writes historical and contemporary Christian romances. Author of Mind of Her Own, A Bride's Dilemma in Friendship, Tennessee and We’re Not Blended-We’re Pureed, A Survivor’s Guide to Blended Families. Once widowed and now remarried she writes with humor and experience on the difficulty of joining two families be it fictional or real life.