A key skill in writing a novel is finishing it. I call it a skill, because seeing an entire novel to the end is not an easy thing to do.
First, there’s seeing a novel through to the end of the rough draft. That means figuring out an ending and, perhaps even more important, creating a middle to get there. The middle of the story can be a quagmire where story ideas go to die. With the momentum from the beginning gone and still far from the exciting conclusion, it’s easy to run out of ideas. I try to combat that by starting off with something big for the beginning, end, and middle before I start pumping out words. Everybody is different, but I find coming up with a big event for the physical and/or emotional plot at the middle of the story keeps me from getting stuck.
That’s not to say endings are easy in comparison. Coming up with a good and satisfying conclusion is no simple task. I’m not sure how you start a novel without knowing the ending, but I’m sure some people can pull it off.
Reaching the end of the rough draft is an exciting moment, but what makes a good ending? I like an ending to be challenging for the characters. I like it when the lead-up is to something that feels near impossible to overcome whether the obstacles are physical or emotional. But I also like solution to not be cheap. I think cheapness can be a real weakness in the fantasy genre where the hero pulls out a new ability or power that’s never been hinted at before. Like if Evil Overlord person strikes a fatal blow at Hero Dude only to discover that Hero Dude’s pet cat is really a mystic being that can heal any wound or something–ugh.
So you put together beginning, middle, and end to make a rough draft. That’s far from the end of the novel because revision looms ahead. Here lies the trap just waiting for perfectionists. How the heck do you decide if you’re done revising? Right now that’s where I am, attempting to finish up my novel Dragonfire. I still have some feedback to collect and still have some things to fix, but I feel like I’m coming into the final stretch. I know it isn’t perfect, but I also know I could go through it a hundred more times and always find something to tweak. If I let my perfectionist tendencies take over, then I’ll be forever stuck. Revision is the dangerous area for me.
So when is the right time to let go? I suppose for me it would be when I can read through it and decide that it’s equal to a book I’d pick off a shelf, and I don’t find too many tweaks I feel need to be made. Too many and I’ll need to read it again after fixing them. Just a few, well I can fix them, and call it good.
So, if you are a novel writer, what’s the hardest part of getting a novel done for you?