Nano Tip #29: Finish Everything

As we all approach the end of NaNoWriMo, you may be thinking, “Well, I might not ever finish this sucker, but at least I got my 50,000 words done. And that’s what I set out to do, so I’m awesome!”

Um, no.

You need to complete your NaNoWriMo novel, even if it takes you till next November. Here’s why:

Finishing is a habit, and it’s a very important ones for writers to cultivate. In fact, my very first writing advice post, back on June 26, 2005, was about finishing. So let me end my month of Nano Tips by reposting that long-ago advice, which is as true today as it was back then . . .


Finish everything!

There will always be a part of your brain that wants to give up when characters aren’t behaving, when you don’t know where to go next, when the inspiration has faded. Don’t give the start-something-else part of your brain any extra leverage, or it will win every time. And once it starts winning . . . Well, let’s just say that the not-finishing habit is a hard one to break.

It’s easy to think up logical reasons to stop writing a story. You say to yourself: “This sucks. Why waste any more time? I’ll start something new that inspires me!”

Yeah, well, the inspiration of a new story is exciting. But if you wind up not finishing ninety percent of what you start, guess what happens. After a few years you’ll have written 100 beginnings, 40 middles, and only 10 endings. Which means you’ll be great at writing beginnings, only so-so at middles, and you’ll suck at endings. Which means you will almost certainly keep faltering between the middle and the end of every story, which means you’ll keep giving up and not finishing . . . Rinse, repeat.

And that’s a hole you don’t want to fall into. So finish, even if you know this story isn’t going to win you the Nobel Prize–it’s good practice to type THE END.

That’s it from me! Good luck with the remaining hours of NaNoWriMo. Don’t forget to check out Justine’s post yesterday, and her big finish tomorrow!

I’ll see you in December with non-writing advice posts. Phew.

33 thoughts on “Nano Tip #29: Finish Everything

  1. PING TO EVERYBODY INCLUDING THE ALL IMPORTANT SCOTT-LA! Anyway, that’s just great about the whole next year thing since I haven’t even started yet. 🙁 So in my case, I’m gonna make December be my Nano Wrimo. It’ll be easier since I’ve got half the month off for X-mas. 😀 I came to comment on another word I’ve been overusing lately: ironic. 😀 Also, Scott-la, I’m normally not one to correct, but you’ve got a typo. It’s month not moth! 😀 haha it’s okay that’s why I use spellcheck! G2G again and 2nd COMMENT! 😀

  2. Thanks for the advice Scott now I am going to finish my letter to the U.N. to prevent genocide. I had lost hope in it because it is so long and I started thinking it wouldn’t help anyone but what the heck its worth a shot right? 😀

    A) I AM LAZY,
    C) It’s my birthday today!

    Thanks for making NaNoWriMo (and my birthday) better by blogging, Scott-la.

  4. Ping to Holly-wa,
    lol ok, anyways that was actually really inspiring Scott-la!
    and my teacher anounced on fri. that we’re going to write a 20 page story each. JOY. I don’t like writing stories. I like reading them. gahhh.

  5. Great advice. And you know, to elaborate on it, I think those who didn’t hit 50k should “finish” to 50k. (And then when they hit 50k, finish for real.) Just because November’s over doesn’t mean our work is done! Just means we’re not tracking each other obsessively on the site anymore. 😛

  6. I think I can finish tonight, probably, if I manage to think of enough words. So thanks for all the great tips this month, I will be trying some of them out later during December which is going to be “edit the NaNo month and beat it into shape.”

  7. Appreciate all of the tips this month from you and Justine. They were much needed during my writing lulls. Today’s post, yeah, I hear ya. Enough said.

    Looking forward to Leviathan when my hold comes up in the library queue!

  8. I reached 50K today, so I call myself a NaNoWriMo winner in that I did what they laid out. I’ll still write tomorrow to get at least the daily word count out as well. Because bottom line, this exercise was about training myself to write everyday, a substantial amount every day.

    Did I do it every day? Noooooooooooo, no no no no no. Heck, last Wednesday and Thursday I didn’t write a single word, and then Friday-Saturday (without sleeping) I got 8K written. So it balances out in a sense, but that’s not what’s important. What’s important is that December 1 I’ll try to write at least a thousand words, and I’ll do it again December 2 and 3 and 4, and I’ll keep going until I finish this monster.

    And I do mean monster. I didn’t finish part one of this story until last Tuesday, and the way I keep adding characters and secret plans keeps making the story more complex to the point that I’m having trouble keeping track of who knows what and who knows who knows what.

    Thank you Scott and thank you Justine for all the tips. It’s always good to hear practical advice, rather than “rules” or lectures on things must be done.

  9. wow i sooooo did not even get my 50,000 words hehehe i kinda suck at deadlines…

    but thats ok cuz TODAY IS MY BDAY! woooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooot!

    its pretty exciting hehe

    -Lizzy-wa OUT! 😛

  10. the OTHER Tally Youngblood (be afraid…) I’m doing the same thing! I had fun reading over this NANO but I guess I’ll be doing NADE … doesn’t sound nearly as cool but december will be THE month.

    THANKS SCOTT-LA for the awesome advice, I can’t wait to put it into practice 🙂

  11. correction to self. it’d still be NANO. but the Mo at the end of NaNoWriMo would secretly be substituted for december-when-i-have-time-slash-make-time 😛

  12. I’m glad I was able to finish writing, but I didn’t do the 50k. Started out smaller.

    I had my older sister read it and she felt that the ending wasn’t right. So I re-ended, I feel better with the ending I have now. But I want to keep re-writing it. Hopefully when I’m editing something will come up that will be a good ending.

    Thank you, for the wonderful tips from my favorite author.

  13. A tip I really needed.
    Even at 84,000 words, with the end so clearly in sight, I find it hard to take the time to reach that final ending.
    I’ll keep trying.
    I’ll do my best!

  14. OH, Scott! I finally bought Leviathan! And then I decided to be stupid and had it sent to my home address instead of my dorm address. 🙁
    So I’ll be reading it in two weeks. Yay!

  15. Thanks for the pep talk. Like I said, I’m not NaNo-ing, but I was stressing about finishing up my JulNo this morning even though I hate it.

    You, sir, are an answer to prayer.

  16. Thanks for an amazing month of advice, Scott-la. It really helped me a lot, and even though I didn’t reach my word-count goal (I’m in the same position as Stephy-la), I’ll finish this sucker eventually. Please continue this tradition (can you even call it a tradition because this is the first year?), and everyone keep on writing!

    *Ping to Holly-wa and Lizzy wa: Happy Birthday! Even though I’m probably a couple days late! Still, it’s the thought that counts 😉

  17. This was exactly what I needed to hear. This exact line of thinking has been hovering at the edges of my mind ever since I started writing but the whole “this is no longer inspiring” thinking remained dominate. Now it’s been shoved aside. 🙂 You’ve give me new inspiration to keep going with my novel.

    Many thanks. 🙂

    -Amelia Robinson

  18. I thought this was such a great post. To be honest… it took me 10 years of wanting to write before ever completing my first manuscript. Now I have completed 4 and I realize that it really is a habit you have to form. It’s easy to give up on writing but the feeling of writing that last sentence of a manuscript makes all of the hard work of writing more than worth it!

  19. that’s actually the best advice ever. i didn’t take part in NaNoWriMo but, about two years ago, i started a story, made it to 69 pages, then at one point, my computer lost the file. i found about 57 pages of it, but didn’t want to re-write it, so i ended up putting it aside, then at my grandparents place this summer, my grandma wrote it up again. i had printed a copy that had all 69 pages, and i had done it (as luck would have it) right before the comp lost the file. but i’ve been putting it aside till now… i may just return to it. i read leviathan, so that makes my list of ‘Scot Westerfeld series’ reach three. i respect you a lot, Scott, so i’m going to follow this, and get back on it! and all the other tips are going to help too… who knows, i may just leave an acknowledgement in it for you! not that i may extend past emails to my grandparents… but still.
    thanks for all the mini half inspirations and tips, Scott. it means a lot. 😀

  20. I missed NaNoWriMo, but I’ll try these tips anyway.

    This is great advice! The thought never struck me about never finishing stories. I always start it, yet never end it. Not one of my leisure stories has an ending.

    But I’ll try this time. I must!

  21. Scott,
    This is a huge thank you for these tips! Because of this tip in particular I was not tempted to stop writing the moment I hit 50,000 words and instead finished my novel. In 15 days….Whew. This thank you is long overdue, and since actual validating started today for August CampNaNoWriMo, I remembered!
    So, thank you again, and to Justine! These tips are awesome and I keep coming back to them….Thank you!

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