Thursday, April 23, 2020

5 Reasons Why You Should Finish Your Novel

By Colleen M. Story

Part of The Writer’s Life Series

JH: Writers write, but to be an author, you need to first finish your book. Colleen Story shares five tips on why finishing your manuscript is so important.

Colleen M. Story inspires writers to overcome modern-day challenges and find creative fulfillment in their work. Her latest release, Writer Get Noticed!, was the gold-medal winner in the Reader’s Favorite Book Awards (Writing/Publishing 2019). Overwhelmed Writer Rescue was named Book by Book Publicity’s Best Writing/Publishing Book in 2018, and her novel, Loreena’s Gift, was a Foreword Reviews' INDIES Book of the Year Awards winner, among others.

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Take it away Colleen…

Are you an author with an unfinished book sitting on your desk or computer?

Have you been working on this book for a while? Have you started to doubt whether it’s worth it to hang in there and finish it?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, join the club. Hundreds of thousands of people start writing books they never finish. It’s a common desire to want to write a novel.

Colleen Story
It's rare to hang in there to the end.

You know you can separate yourself from the pack by finishing the story you’re working on. But what if it’s no good? What if you’re stuck and don’t know how to get past it? What if you’re convinced you’d be better off starting over on a different story?

I’m here to encourage you not to give up. Even if you think your book is no good, finishing it is one of the most important things you can do if you want to become a successful writer.

Here are five good reasons why.

1. Finishing a Book is Good Practice

A lot of people have a knack for writing. They can write beautiful descriptions, sparkling dialogue, and fast-paced scenes. But writing a chapter or two is a lot different than writing an entire novel.

I learned this early on in my writing career. Before I got my first publishing contract, I spent many years starting novel-length manuscripts I never finished. Each time I got to the middle of the novel, which is notoriously difficult, I would get stuck, and instead of realizing what the real problem was, I assumed my story idea was no good.

To solve the problem, I would start a new story. It would help for a while. I’d feel excited about riding again and enjoy the process. But inevitably I would get to a place where things would become difficult once again. And again instead of hanging in there, I would start over on another story.

You can imagine where this process got me. Absolutely nowhere. I spent years spinning my wheels on unfinished manuscripts. Finally, it dawned on me what my real problem was.

My ideas were fine. It was my skills that were lacking. Storytelling is a craft just like playing the piano, and we must repeat the process over and over again if we are to get good at it. In other words, we must practice.

That means not only practicing writing dialogue and descriptions but practicing writing complete novel-length manuscripts, from beginning to end.

Most likely there’s nothing wrong with your story idea. If you’re struggling, find a way to get through that struggle. Most books do require that we overcome challenges somewhere along the way. The more we practice doing so, the better writers and storytellers we will become.

The great Ray Bradbury is quoted as saying, “I know you’ve heard it a thousand times before. But it’s true—hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice. If you don’t love something, then don’t do it.” 

2. Finishing Increases Your Skill

The more you practice writing novels, the more skilled of a novelist you will become. But you must complete the novel. Writing half of it or three-quarters of it is not enough to increase your skills.

When we come up against difficulty and we find our way past that difficulty, we learn. Ask any writer—she will likely tell you she learned something from each book she wrote. I know that’s true for me.

It doesn’t mean that writing your next book—or the next, or the next—will be easy. I’ve heard prolific writers talk about the struggles they’ve had with book 20 or even book 50. But with every challenge overcome, you put a little bit more education in your skill box, and have no doubt—you’ll use what you learn in the future.

So finish the book, no matter what, even if it ends up in the trash heap. Then you can go on to the next one. 

3. Finishing Helps You Gain Confidence

Before I finished my first book, I spent a lot of time doubting myself and my ability to be able to write a good novel. Once I finish one novel, however, I had a spark of hope that I could finish another.

Every time you succeed at something, it helps you believe that you might be able to succeed again.

“Obviously, a strong belief in one’s own efficacy has many benefits,” the authors write in the book, A Study Guide for Psychologists and Their Theories for Students: Albert Bandura. “Simply put, past successes strengthen the belief that future success is possible.”

It’s natural to be plagued by self-doubt when you’re writing your first book. Or your second, or your third, for that matter. But each time you overcome that doubt and go on to finish the book, you build your confidence just a little bit, until brick by brick, you become a more skilled and confident writer.

Again, it doesn't matter if the first few books are great or not. I wrote five books before I created a publishable one. That's just practice. But it's practice you need to develop your craft. 

4. Finishing Leads to More Finished Books

As you practice, build your skills, and gain confidence, your writing will become more a part of you and more a part of your life. Finish one book and you’ll be more likely to finish another, and another. Finishing leads to finishing, whereas quitting early leads to nothing. 

5. Finishing Helps You Build a Successful Writing Career

You’ve probably heard that the more books you have on the market, the better your chances of building a good readership. And a good readership leads to a long and successful writing career.

An artist is typically judged not by one work, but by a body of work. Often writers—particularly beginning writers—focus far too much of their time and energy on one book, believing that book will pave the way to great advances and royalties. But that’s a fantasy.

Instead, to become known among readers in today’s world, you must prove your storytelling skills over and over again. With time and exposure, readers may come to recognize you and return to you for the stories they love.

Note: For more guidance on how to finish the creative projects you start—including the 5 things you must have to complete your book—get Colleen’s FREE mini-course here

About Overwhelmed Writer Rescue

Find the time, energy, and confidence you need to make your creative dreams come true!

Do you feel like you're always behind? Do less important tasks frequently flood your schedule and sink your creative motivation? Are you frustrated and out of touch with your inner artist?

After 20 years experience in the writing industry, author Colleen M. Story extends a lifeline to pull you out of the sinking swamp of "busyness" and back into the flourishing creative life you deserve.

Today's demands on writers and other creative artists are overwhelming. Not only must you produce the work you love, but build and maintain a platform and market your finished products to the world--all while holding down a day job and/or caring for a family.

You teeter on the edge. What waits on the other side are burnout, exhaustion, and a complete loss of creative motivation.

Overwhelmed Writer Rescue provides practical, personalized solutions to help beginning and experienced writers and other creative artists escape the tyranny of the to-do list to nurture the genius within. You'll find ways to boost productivity, improve time management, and restore your sanity while gaining insight into your unique creative nature and what it needs to thrive.

Ultimately, you'll discover what may be holding you back from experiencing the true joy that a creative life can bring.

In this motivational and inspiring book, you'll learn:
  • Why you feel so rushed and how you can regain control of your time.
  • Your unique "time personality" and how to use it to get more writing done.
  • Practical steps to overcome distractions and focus faster.
  • The 7 "productivity saboteurs" that plague creative artists and how to outsmart them.
  • Your personal motivation style and how to use it to increase productivity.
  • How to tap into your unconscious mind to find "writer solutions" when you need them.
  • Why affirmations don't work and how to instill true belief in yourself.
  • Why it's critical to your overall health and well being to nurture the creator within.
There's no reason to feel overwhelmed one moment longer. No matter how crazy your life is, you can find more time for your creative work, and start feeling more like yourself again.


  1. Dear Ms. Story,
    Janice Hardy said this,
    "JH: Writers write, but to be an author, you need to first finish your book." Do you agree with that statement, or do you think it should be re-worded to say written and published?

    1. You could say that. That's the implied thought behind my statement, I just trimmed it for flow. Finishing is a first step. Publishing is the last step. There are a lot of steps in between. :) Sometimes you write a line to be punchy, not to be exactly accurate.

  2. Hi, Tom!
    Good question, and so many nuances of meaning to explore there. Is a writer different from an author? And if so, what is the definition of each? I agree with Janice that finishing a book, and then another, and then another, is required to be a writer or author. (I tend to use the terms interchangeably, and usually prefer the simple "writer" to the sometimes self-important "author.") I think in finishing—and more so, "practicing with a focus on improvement"—we show our commitment to the craft, and that commitment makes a writer. Publishing is a different part of the process, and I do think it completes the circle for an artist—most need their work to be seen to feel complete, and publishing helps a writer grow. But finishing the book is a critical first step, though only a first step. Finishing must happen over and over again to truly develop a writer's chops. At what point along the way can one say one is a "writer?" It's personal, perhaps, but I think it has much to do with one's commitment—shown in "action"—to the craft.

  3. Thanks, Ms Janice. It's a great post. I've just finished my fist middle grade fantasy novel.