How To Finish A Story

The Achilles heel of many. And with NaNoWriMo coming, sometimes we need a little help to figure things out.

Português: Funeral do papa João Paulo II.

Clearly, whoever you’re going to kill will be popular. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So here are my top tips—tip tops, heh—on finishing that first draft.

1. Start with a plan. This isn’t always possible; sometimes we just want to fucking write, and fair enough. But having a plan, or at least a goal in mind, can help you get to the end. Try an outline, especially if you don’t usually use one. Or just a three-sentence synopsis.Those of you who are afraid it will ‘kill your creativity’, grow a pair. A good idea is not an asthmatic glass-boned puppy: some handing won’t kill it. If anything, the good ideas are more like Vibranium. The more you hit it, the stronger it gets.
But what if you’ve already started? Isn’t it too late? I’m glad you asked. It brings us to…

1b. Continue with a plan. Stuck halfway through? Now seems like a great time to outline. Make thyself a roadmap, word monkey.  You got this far on gut instinct, but now it’s time to make some plans. Lay out your pieces and figure out what the fuck comes next.

2. Change things halfway through. Why the fuck not? Just leave a note for yourself with the changes and move on. You can edit them in after. Like mystery writers say, you can always go back and leave the footprint in the flowerbed when you realize you need it. Writing is a very specific time machine.

3. Silence the doubt. With booze. Hah, no, that doesn’t work. Nothing does, really. But learn to recognize the midway slump for what it is: doubt and fear. Things feel like crap when we’re in the middle of them because we lose confidence. Find it again. Or fake it and go on to the end. Which brings us to…

4. Hum a few bars and fake it. Sometimes you really don’t know what happens next. You don’t know how this mess you’ve made sorts out. Next time it happens, try this: write an ending anyway. Even if it’s not exactly right, having it down will allow you to more easily spot the wrong. And then you can figure out why it’s wrong. Space llamas ride to the rescue? They can’t because their helmets don’t function in Rigel-6’s atmosphere. So either change the helmets or figure out who else can ride to the rescue. Wrote a funeral when no one died? Time to kill someone off. Sometimes you have to try some wrong before you can figure out what’s right.

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