How to Power Through the Last Third of Writing Your Novel
Written by Savannah Cordova
About the author:
Savannah Cordova is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects self-publishing authors with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. In her spare time, she enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories.
How to Power Through the Last Third of Writing Your Novel
Starting to write a book is often seen as the most daunting challenge, so many authors are surprised when they reach another stumbling block: the home stretch. Especially if you’ve been tackling NaNoWriMo, the final third of a novel can involve burnout, writer’s block, or just a total lack of motivation. To combat all this, here are six tried-and-true strategies you can use to power through and finish your book!
1. Revisit your outline and refresh your inspiration
Authors often struggle with their final chapters simply because they’ve forgotten where they’re going. So if you’ve lost the way, revisit your outline. It might seem like you’re going backwards, but returning to the start — reviewing your worldbuilding, character profiles, and plot — will not only refresh your memory, but remind you why you were excited about writing to begin with.
The added benefit of going back to your outline is that you may realize some of the things you originally planned out no longer make sense. If you realize that a plot point didn’t unfold the way you thought it would, or that a late-stage move no longer aligns with your characters’ goals, you can take some time to change your plan. It might have been this discord between your novel’s initial outline and its final shape that was throwing you off in the first place!
One word of warning: if you’re doing NaNoWriMo, I don’t recommend rereading what you’ve written, no matter how blocked you are. Not only will this be time-consuming, but it might tempt you to procrastinate even further by rewriting your early sections instead of working on your ending. There’ll be plenty of time to read your draft later — for now, stick to jogging your memory with your skeleton plan.
2. Form an accountability group
I envy all the amazing self-starters out there, but I am not among them. Sometimes the only thing that motivates me to write is when somebody will hold me accountable if I don’t. If you also need a little extra nudge to get going (or keep going), try forming an accountability group.
These groups take many forms, and can be made up of fellow writers, family, or friends — basically, anybody who’s willing to check in with you and encourage your progress. If you don’t have any good candidates in your immediate circles, check writerly Facebook groups to see who might be interested! You can write together in person, do daily or weekly check-ins to discuss how you’re getting along with your respective projects, or just send one another motivational tips — whatever works for you. It’s basically peer pressure, but the good kind.
And if you’re more of an introvert, you could always find yourself a virtual accountability partner. I use the Reedsy Book Editor’s goal tracking emails to keep myself motivated — they let you know how much you’ve written, and if you need to be writing more each day to reach a predetermined word count goal. Statistics aren’t everything, and you won’t always be hitting your marks, but knowing exactly where you’re at can be a great motivator to get things done.
3. Set yourself up with a reward
If an accountability partner is the stick, then this is the carrot. Although finishing your draft is probably reward enough, it’s still good to have something to look forward to at the end of it all! This might just be a break from writing (you’ll probably want one before you dive into editing, redrafting, and formatting your manuscript), but it can also be something a little more fun.
Some ideas might be going out for your favorite dinner, having a spa day, or buying that fancy kitchen appliance you’ve had your eye on — whatever makes you feel excited and motivated when you think about it. Promise yourself you can have it only when you finish your draft, and you’ll be amazed how fast the words will fly.
4. Just get an ending out
This tip is what it says on the tin: just write anything. It doesn’t need to be something you want to keep, and it certainly doesn’t need to be any good. Feel free to tell don’t show, repeat yourself, and break as many of the “golden rules” of writing as you need to get words out. Like the first pancake in a batch, you can assume you’ll throw this ending away, so don’t sweat the small stuff.
The benefit of this approach is twofold: removing the pressure of perfection makes writing a hundred times easier, and once you’ve got that bad (or really, really bad) first draft down, you’ll still feel far closer to being done than if you waited for a perfect ending to arrive fully formed. Remember, there’ll be plenty of time to self-edit or find an editor later: for now, just power through and get that ending down on the page.
5. Skip straight to the end
If even a zero-pressure draft isn’t enough to help you push through those final chapters, there’s another last-ditch approach you can take. While I’m normally a sequential writer, I find that skipping to the very last scene or even paragraph can be a fun exercise to reignite my creativity. Then I’ll go back to fill in the gap — at which time it’s often easier to stay motivated, because my endpoint feels far more tangible.
As with the previous tip, this ending doesn’t have to be your final one, so don’t feel like you have to make it work regardless of where your writing takes you. It’s not for everyone, but I do highly recommend this little hack for when you’re super stuck.
6. Find balance
This last writing tip is, somewhat counterintuitively, to try not writing. While keeping up your routine is important and you don’t want to lose momentum, be sure to check in with yourself and make sure you’re not pushing yourself too hard.
After all, you’ve put in hours of work and written a huge amount already! If you’re struggling with your last few chapters, it’s very possible that you’re battling fatigue or burnout. And as tempting as it is to power through and write until you drop to make it to that finish line, it’s not worth sacrificing your health or happiness — not to mention that your craft is likely to suffer too.
So incorporate some time for self-care into your routine, whatever that looks like for you: take a walk, listen to an audiobook, sprawl out on the couch for a while. Whatever you choose to do, it’ll restore your energy levels and give you a boost to get that last bit of writing done. Yes, even if you’re determined to finish your book by the end of November, you can always spare an hour for your mental health!
I wish you the best of luck with finishing up your novel — just remember that you’re already well on your way, and the reward waiting for you will be completely worth it. Happy writing!