Writing the last 25% of a novel

We’ve all been there. The stage is set, the outline written, and the writing is flowing right along, all on schedule. The deadline comes and passes, and 2000 or so words a day are humming right along. Then the deadline, artificial or not, passes. Falling down from the state of focus, distraction settles in. The momentum of NaNoWriMo passes and that 50,000 words fails to become 75,000 and a finished novel. What now?

There are various strategies of course.

  • Finish the flow of scenes that you’ve outlined
  • Give up lunches or get up earlier in the day to write for an hour or so
  • Set up rewards, like chocolate, if you get two hours of actual writing done
  • Outline the next novel in the series so you’ll have something to look forward to
  • Get a writing buddy and set weekly meetings to hold each other to account
  • Set some more deadlines
  • Write blog posts like this instead – at least you are writing something, right?

I don’t know why the last set of drafting the novel seems more difficult than the first three quarters, but for me, that’s the way of it. I don’t even have the excuse of it being the first story. To be honest, the first one was hard in the home stretch too.

Some of the distractions come from the second novel in the series sparking ideas about how to make the first one better. Other distractions come from the business of writing and the need to update web sites, however, some of it is just procrastination to be sure. Bad me, right?

I wonder what other folks do to motivate themselves over the finishing line? Share ideas in the comments. Looking for inspiration my friends.

Writing process: Top 10 ways of finding grammar errors

Grammar errors are one of the most pesky things to eradicate in the writing process. Scrivener doesn’t find grammar mistakes, and while MS Word is pretty good at finding normal passive errors, it fails to recognize idiom. Language is changing. Sentences can and often do start with ‘and, but, or, though’ in colloquial use.

If you’re like me, when you write the first draft you don’t pay any attention to the rules. Well, truth to tell, rules are hardly ever my best thing. I tend to think in fragments; that means some of my characters share this trait. Enough said.

Even in a blog, the sentence construction is not a slave to the Oxford English way of writing. Be a bit boring if it was. However, the¬†unintentional grammar error is the bane of a writer’s existence. It’s just fine to break rules on purpose, so long as you know your purpose. Richard Morgan stood the grammar rules on their collective head in Altered Carbon. His more stream-of-consciousness writing included sentence fragments much of the time. None of that made it difficult to read. Instead, it made his protagonist much more sympathetic. So how do I find those errors in the editing process? I have a few tips and tricks to share.

  1. Walk away from the writing for a couple of days to give yourself some distance
  2. Print it out and keep a highlighting pen handy to mark the pieces to come back to
  3. Read it out loud to a friend. The tongue will trip over phrases that aren’t quite right
  4. Do an editing pass with track-changes on
  5. Try turning it upside down – for those of us who can read that way, the comma and grammar errors jump out
  6. Do an editing pass just for dialog.
  7. Use Find / Replace to fix issues like quote plus period (“. wrong) rather than period plus quote (.” correct)
  8. Write with a manual of style handy – look up stuff that you know you get wrong
  9. Replace instances of passive voice (often uses words that end in y) with active voice (often ends in ‘ed’)
  10. Relax about it. No matter how many times you edit, someone will disagree with your choices

I hope some of these prove helpful. Please share the tips and tricks you have found work for you.