Part 1: Introduction and overview

2.  Why Don't You Finish That Book?
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“Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it - for action has magic and grace in it.”

-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Beginning a book is a thrilling experience: Everything seems possible. Finishing one is much more difficult.

Why do people abandon their work? What pressures – internal or external – convince so many writers that they can’t (or shouldn’t) finish their story? Here are some of the reasons I hear most frequently.

  • As we've already seen, the book turns into something different than the one the author set out to write
  • The writer loses interest in the idea
  • The writing, if it’s going to be honest, gets too personal – it could harm others or it’s painful for the writer
  • The writing process gets boring
  • The writer hits a wall -- gets hopelessly lost, with no idea of how to proceed – somewhere around the mid-point of the story, the section I call the Dread Middle.
  • Every writing session turns into a battle with writer’s block that consumes most of the writer’s creative energy
  • The writer becomes convinced that he or she just doesn’t have what it takes, or that everything written so far stinks.
  • The would-be novelist holds his or her work to an impossible standard of perfection and then fails to live up to it.
  • _______________________________ (Fill in your own reason)

There's good news here: every one of these reasons can be dealt with, and we'll be talking about all of them. There's only one possible exception: the writer loses interest in his or her idea. And there are ways to get around that, too, unless the idea just isn't the right one for you. That's why we'll spend so much time on checking out your idea in the Getting Started section.

The secret to finishing a book is so simple it's practically not worth stating: keep writing. The central issue on this site is how to keep writing when these problems (and others) arise.