A Tip for Finishing Your Book Sooner Than Later

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Short of having a deadline set by someone other than yourself, it can be a challenge to finish a novel or other long form writing in a reasonable amount of time. Of course, ‘reasonable time’ is different for different people. If you’re a working mom helping children with homework, cooking meals, going to PTA meetings, enjoying pleasurable moments with your spouse (or not) and more, ‘reasonable’ might be measured in years. If you’re retired and the your greatest obligation is to golf, you might forgo the course for a while and measure your time in months. Before you plan the date when you hope to write ‘the end’ on the last chapter, here’s a strategy that might help you hasten that day.

Think like an artist. Certainly creative writing is an art form, but for now, let’s define artist as the visual medium; i.e., painter.

I’ve been writing most of my life, but only recently have included ‘author’ on my profile pages. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an artist (painter). I’ve discovered that a technique I’ve used successfully to complete paintings quickly has come in handy in my writing. Before I explain it, here are two examples from my book, “She Can See‘ that uses this technique. See if you can tell what it is.

1st Draft:

Her eyes popped open. They saw right through me. She announced in a voice much different than what I would expect to hear from a teenage girl, “You’re from the Carina Nebula,” she said. “You’re not supposed to be here. NCG 3372.” Then her eyes closed again.

2nd Draft:

Myla's Eyes

They popped open. Her eyes were the color of an Arkansas doe. They saw right through me, but seemed to stop inside for a moment before moving on. Her eyes were soft, moist, like swimming in liquid velour. I thought certainly they would spill some tears onto her cheeks, but the levy didn’t break. She announced in a voice much different than what I would expect to hear from a teenage girl, “You’re from the Carina Nebula,” she said. “You’re not supposed to be here. NCG 3372.” Her eyes then gently closed.

Begin With a Sketch

If you guessed ‘sketching’, you’re right. In my visual artist life, I’m primarily a plein air painter. Before I begin painting in watercolors, I do a quick pen & ink sketch. I use ink instead of pencil because it forces me to be deliberate with every stroke, knowing that every stroke will be permanent. I know I’ll usually put a line where I didn’t intend to put one, but the challenge (which I enjoy) is understanding how to blend it into the final artwork where it appears to be a deliberate stroke. Of course, when writing, you have more freedom to edit without leaving a trace of your previous strokes, but that can be as much of a hindrance as a blessing. If someone would invent indelible software, writers might get more lines on the screen

So how do you work this sketching technique into your writing process? Write with quick, broad strokes. Don’t spend too much time describing detailed features of your character, set, landscape, etc.. If eyes are important, your initial draft of your novel might simply mention that she has eyes. When you’ve completed the last chapter of your book in record-breaking time, instead of writing ‘The End’, go back to the beginning of chapter one and start to add of of those juicy details. You’ll have satisfaction that you’ve already finished your book and now you’re simply being playful with it.

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