How do you stop writing…?

“When writing a novel a writer should create living people: people not characters.”     Ernest Hemingway

Why do so many writers fail to complete their manuscript? Well, I think I’m beginning to understand the reasons.

Writing a novel is not easy. But I was never under the illusion that this was the case. I know it takes hard work and determination, perseverance and stamina along with a large dose of self-belief. If the doubts don’t get you it seems inevitable that the fear of success will.

It is perplexing that I am no longer afraid of failure. I know I can finish the first draft of my book. Every time I sit down to complete another scene I am one step closer to completion. It’s almost invigorating.


But once it’s done there is so much more work to do, and while I feel that I’ve learned how to write over the last year I don’t feel at all confident with my re-drafting or editing skills – if I have any! I guess this is something else that I will have to learn.

There’s also the end point. How do you determine the true end of a story that contains characters you have invented a life for? While my initial idea was to halt the novel when my protagonist died – something that is inevitable from the outset – what happens to all those that she has influenced? What about their stories: do they also end there?

Pondering such thoughts always reminds me of the book ‘Sophie’s World‘ – which is a great book on the history of philosophy that develops into the discovery that the main protagonist is actually a figment of another character’s imagination. Such a concept has always fascinated me and it places great responsibility on the author.

So, it’s no surprise that I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself to perpetuate the integrity of the world and individuals I have created. But how do you leave the people that you have spent the last twelve months with, getting to know, understand and challenge?

I guess I’m on the brink of finding that out. Perhaps in order to finish my manuscript what I need to do is distance myself from my surrogate written family and take a step back that allows me to realise it’s time to let them go, at least for a little while.

I guess I’ll have to take comfort in the fact that, once complete, I’ll be able to re-visit them all in the re-draft.



4 responses to “How do you stop writing…?

  1. Interesting thoughts. When I worked on Bronze Raiders, each time I wrote another draft, I found myself oddly more and more distanced from the story. I guess its because I was in editor mode. I was ready to move on after the second draft, actually. Getting away from it for a little while helps. Also, coming up with other new ideas that you can’t wait to get into helps too.

    • I completely agree with this, Dan. I redrafted my novel so many times that I had to give it to other people to read, because all I could see were words. I couldn’t tell if a sentence was good, bad, meaningful, poignant or funny, because all I could see were some words and commas and semicolons and such.

      Catherine, it may be a scary thought, but giving your draft to other people really helps. They will be able to pick up on a huge amount of things you haven’t even thought of, and they’ll also be able to help you with what seems to be your main problem; deciding how to end it. They will be able to tell you whether they think your ending leaves the story resolved, whether there are too many loose ends, or whether it ties everything up too neatly. Beta readers are invaluable, and as I think Dan and my own experiences prove, it’s just not possible to write a book and edit it to perfection on your own.

      Good luck with the editing! You’ll learn the skills of it quickly. Practice makes perfect, as they say.

      • That’s good to know – it’s always reassuring to know that you aren’t the only one facing writerly problems. I’m just reaching the final few scenes and then, once those are done I can focus on NaNo and come back to it after that.
        I will also certainly get myself a couple of beta readers to gauge the novel’s intensity, characterisation and climax. I already know there are a few things to fix (like setting…because I have none!).
        Just reading these comments makes me look forward to the next stage of my novelling journey. It’s great to have some support out there providing advice on my concerns. So on that note: a hearty thank you for leaving your comments! *virual hugs all round*
        Take Care, and good luck in your own writing, Cat

      • Yeah, I think we all have a tendency to think we are the only writer in the world that suffers from certain problems. I’m sure the first drafts of best-selling writers are just as bad as ours. They just have a lot of practice at making them better.

        What are you working on for NaNo? I’ve finally got a plot synopsis written and can’t wait for November to start (so naturally October is now dragging by!).

        Your welcome for the comment, and thanks for the virtual hug 🙂 Good luck for NaNoWriMo!

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