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Why You Will Never Finish your Novel

Why You Will Never Finish your Novel

mindset motivation Nov 30, 2023

Ask any author - writing your first draft is not a walk in the park. Unless the „walk” is a six-month long journey and „park” is Middle Earth. In that case, yes, writing a book is like a „walk in the park” and you’re a tiny hobbit in the midst of it all, carrying your story on your heart and hoping you finish it before it finishes you.

We know it’s not easy and we hope that it will be worth it. After all, there are many monsters along the path.

But we cannot let the fear of the enemies keep us from the adventure. Take the journey with me right now, in your head. Let’s see how we can save your novel from these creatures of the dark!


6 enemies of the writer and how to defeat them


1. Perfectionism

Forever chasing the unattainable, the Nazgul are tragic, terrifying creatures. Yes, they were once men. Now they lurk in limbo, forever.

Are you in danger of becoming one? Well, are you the kind of writer who never lets anyone read their work until it is polished up to perfection and ready for their debutante’s ball? Does your writing always seem to you almost ready, but not quite the way you want it to be? 

If so, it will always remain hidden away from the world, all its potential wasting away… 😔


How to conquer it:

Allow someone to read your work…finally!

Of course, I know that you know your story best. I know you want to reach the best of your ability. But there always comes a moment where the story itself needs to be seen by a new set of eyes. You can fight me on this -  I’m 100% convinced that every writer needs a friend who will just read their work and offer their honest reader’s opinion. 

Start with someone you trust. It doesn’t have to be an editor - a friend, a fellow writer, an old teacher who always supported you… there’s bound to be somebody who would gladly help you fight your perfectionism. After all, the Nazgul would have gotten Frodo so many times, if it wasn’t for Sam. Who is your Sam?



2. Waiting for the perfect moment

You are not special. If life feels busy right now, you are pretty much in the same boat as everyone else, aside from babies and senior citizens in community homes. And yet, there exist busy people who write books, edit them, publish them…

Are you waiting for the perfect moment to start writing your brilliant idea? If so, you might be waiting until you yourself start playing saturday night bingo with your roomies. Of course, if that is your idea of a happy retirement, by all means, put the notes in the drawer. But what if you’re just fooling yourself? What if Saruman has entrapped you in a nasty web of lies?

  • „As soon as I finish this company project next month, I will start my novel…”
  • „As soon as I have a steady income, I will get to it…”
  • „As soon as my child turns 5, I’ll make time for it…”

Promises, promises. I’m familiar with these „as soon as” and they rarely ever come to fruition.


How to conquer it:

Prioritize writing.

I don’t mean leave your family or quit your day job or whatever; I mean find those moments in your days and nights where you are just being lazy (another Netflix binge?); or doing something that brings no productivity to the world whatsoever (ironing underwear anyone?); or worrying (tossing and turning for hours?). Saruman is grinning, and that’s not good news.

Transform excuses to good uses: Bored? Write. Too busy? Go full Marie Kondo on your schedule and write. Worried and can’t fall asleep? Write. Too tired to write? Read.

It’s time to slash Saruman’s throat and get back on the road, Writer.



3. But I'm just an amateur...

Hold my horses. First of all, that word, it’s not what you think it is. Check our other blog post "Death of the amateur"Second, if there was ever an „amateur” monster, it’s the Stone-troll. I mean, all the dude does is eat, then turns to stone once the sun comes out. And he still thinks he’s the sh*t?!

So what is stopping you

Think about it. Is it something someone once said about your writing? Is it because you didn’t major in Creative Writing in college? Is it because you’re new to the writing world and feel like such a freshie?


How to conquer it:

Name it and immediately do one thing which proves it wrong.

Whatever your reason for feeling unworthy is, you can take baby steps towards proving the “amateur” argument wrong.

Example: if you don’t feel trained well enough to write your amazing idea, don’t give up, train. The "3-step system to a well-written dialogue" is a blog with a ready-to-go process for writing dialogues; The Writer's Toolboox are resources available to help you build your story’s world; The Power Plotter is a 1:1 coaching program for outlining your first draft. All here, at the Plottery. 

Moreover, you can sign up for a creative writing course in your community, join a writer’s circle or create one! Any way you see fit - train your writing and watch the troll turn to stone in the sunshine.



4. Project overdose

If you carry the Ring for too long, it starts to carry you.

It makes sense that to finish a novel, you have to put in the work. So you write. And write. And soon you’re writing ’round the clock, constantly thinking about it, planning, worrying, avoiding human contact to bask in the beauty of your words… alas, the story takes hold of its creator.

Letting your writing take over is good for periods of time. But obsessing over it without end - not so much. You might eventually fall into the perfectionism trap, or you might end up… hating your writing.


How to conquer it:

Let yourself take a break.

Obsession with anything often leads to destruction. And one would rather build themselves up than destroy a life, right? Right?

Rest from your plot line, characters, setting. Bounce off other creative ideas and take the heat off your novel. Write thank you notes, letters, a journal… As important as your novel is, remind yourself of the other important things in your life. Taking breaks from carrying the Ring is crucial to remaining immune to it.



5. Denying constructive criticism

Denethor had big plans. Yet, his addiction to power was his demise.

Perhaps, even gladly, you let other people, be it friends or editors, read your work. Unfortunately, once you hear a word of criticism, it becomes the old „in through one ear, out the other.”

I get it - your story is sacred to you, Writer. You work so hard for it. But the truth is, we often fall in love with the fantasy of how our story is - we only see what we want to see, claiming that only we know the true reason behind every aspect of the plot, therefore, only our opinion matters. Any different outlook is unacceptable.


How to conquer it:

Take your editor’s advice and see what happens.

Don’t think of your editor as someone who is in the way. Instead, think of them as someone who has a clear point of view on dangers that are invisible to you from where you stand. You can always take a different turn along the journey. Where would the Fellowship be without Gandalf?

The Plottery’s editors are here to help at any step along the path to your destination.

And Denethor? All he had to do was listen. Sad.



6. Getting defeated by constructive criticism

The Army of the Dead is a thousand men… feeling eternally shamed and useless because of their mistakes.

Do you shiver at the thought of what someone might say about your piece? Do you die a little inside anytime you hear something along the lines of: „the thing I would consider changing is…?” If so, then it’s time to arm your weaknesses for the big battle.


How to conquer it:

Take it, apply it like medicine.

Constructive criticism is a general term for a wide range of literary aids, medicines, surgeries. Sometimes you just need a small pill for a few days - and sometimes you need to cut out a tumor. Either way, the point is to make you better. 

You know you’ve got weaknesses - sure enough, they steal your peaceful sleep at night. So when someone points those out in your writing and proposes solutions, don’t think of it as a stab. Rather, see it as the procedure you need. The sooner you correct your problems, the sooner you can move on.

Write and win the fight or give it up. Either one is better than limbo forever.


I’m glad you made it here, Writer.

If my words were uncomfortable to you at some points, good. Remember, when the doctor applies pressure to areas, asks „does this hurt?” and it actually does, those are the places that need fixing.

Get to work.


I believe in you, Writer.

M.B. Auburn


 M. B. Auburn
Written for The Plottery

M.B. Auburn: millennial wife and mom of 2, dancing her way through her 30s and finally bravely claiming the title: Writer.



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