How to finish a book

Reading a book – well, that’s one thing, and I don’t subscribe to the view that you should finish a book you have started reading, no matter how dire it might turn out.  There are times when finishing reading a bad book simply isn’t worth the candle.

Finishing writing a book, however, is a whole different challenge, well worthwhile.  If only because, once a book is finished – the plot outlined, the characters happily settled in their roles, the author breathing a sigh of relief – during the finer editing we have real opportunities for enlivening the plot, for introducing humour, for adding a bit of adult whimsy.

Having navigated the curse of the saggy or soggy middle, it can be surprisingly challenging to finish.

  • Are you the sort of writer who makes a mad dash for the finishing line?
  • Do you deploy a technique which could be described as the running jump?  Sneaking in with some editing – oh, it’s only editing, it’s not writing – near the end, and then leaping with a lunge of creative energy, almost as if you hope no-one is looking, and hope to land over the END line?
  • Do you take a leap of faith and plunge into the deep end dive, not knowing where it goes, or how deep it will be or where it will end, but determined to hope for the best, full of faith and wild ideas?
  • Are you a sedate, organised creative, with a schema, a plan, a methodical work ethic that will allow you to cross the line without strain or worry, like the tortoise who beat the hare?
  • Do you quietly, almost unknowingly, marshal material over a long period, collecting ideas, books full of notes, quotations, character sketches or references, and then with a flourish of activity over the course of a few days, procure a book, and say, ‘Thank God that’s done and together now.’

Typically, we can use all or some of these strategies over time, depending on our mood.  But there is one thing certain.  Finishing a book – even by the expedient of saying it is finished before it is really not – is absolutely essential.  Otherwise, as my good friend Dorothy reminds me, we have a very professional excuse for procrastinating indefinitely, ‘Oh, I can’t take the next steps, my book is not quite finished….not yet.



Please share: