How to Stop Yourself From Ditching Your Novel At The Very Last Minute

It’s done. I have finished the first draft of my novel.

STEP ONE, “FINISH FIRST DRAFT BY JANUARY 1, 2011”: COMPLETE

But it didn’t end without a fierce showdown with my inner saboteur, and without life getting in the way at the very last minute.

As one approaches any finish line, it seems like even when you are just 5 feet away, you want to give up. I’m not sure why this is, but it happens. Luckily, I didn’t ditch my novel at the last minute. I kept myself level-headed. Like a journalist in the middle of a war he has to report on, I just stuck to my job. I did what I had to do, and I am satisfied.

For the first time in my life, I am impressed with myself. Not because my book is good–I think it still has a long way to go.  No, I’m impressed with myself because despite everything that threatened to get in the way of this writing process, I stuck to it. I gave it my best. There were so many ups and downs. So many times I thought I was nuts. Other times when I felt perfectly at peace with the process. Each of those moments, however, was fleeting. As soon as I was like: “Yeah, I got this!” That feeling went. As soon as I was like: “I have no idea what I am doing! I quit.” That feeling went, and I was able to sit down again, and write.

Now that I have met my deadline, despite everything life had to throw at me, I can honestly write down the following tally:

Life: 0

Ollin: 1

You thought you could get me Life, but–IN YO’ FACE! I got my first draft done, anyway! Oooh, oooh, ooooh! Who scared now, Life? Uh? Uh? Watch out, now. (Boxing the air, boxing the air.) Ollin’s got swagger. Strut and strut and strut. I RULE.

Okay, enough with the gloating. Wait, one more.

BOO-YAH! HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW?

As far as what I’m going to do now, and what the next step is, all will be explained in due time. Let me enjoy this moment, and I will get back to you soon about the rest. But for now, it’s time to share with you what helped me to finally cross that finish line. Here’s How You Can Stop Yourself From Ditching Your Novel At The Very Last Minute:

1. Enlist Your “Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come”

Imagine where you will be in 10, 20, 30 years. Imagine what it would be like if you stopped writing this novel right now. Or if you stopped writing that poem, or screenplay, or other artistic work. What would happen in 10 years…? In 10 years, can you see yourself digging that old unfinished draft out, and debating whether you should finish it? In 20 years can you see yourself frantically trying to find that unfinished draft bur realizing someone had thrown it out, or it had gotten lost, and now you wonder if you should start the whole thing again from scratch?  In 30 years can you see yourself becoming a parent and your child tells you they want to become a writer, and you tell them that you had that dream once, but gave up on it at the last minute? In 40, 50, 60 years, does your “Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come” show you your tombstone, and does it read something like:

“Here lies Ollin. He tried to finish his first draft once, but He gave up at the last minute. He is survived by his Mac Laptop which, now due to the much faster and much sleeker iStick, is terribly outdated. May He Rest In Peace.”

Did you scream: “NOOOOO!!!!” just like I did? So there you have it. You might as well finish your work now, rather than regret giving up on it in the future. Don’t make postponing your novel an option.

2. Enlist Your “Guardian Angel”

Yes. I want your novel to become George Bailey from It’s A Wonderful Life. Imagine a world where you novel (or other work) never existed. How would you feel? What would you do with your spare time? What else would give you the same joy that writing now gives you? How have you felt before when you stopped writing for long periods of time? Did you feel cranky? Did you have a short temper? Where you not a very nice person to be around? Did you feel terrible about yourself? My belief is that writers need to write. It’s a part of who they were, and when we take out that part of us, there is a big hole missing. But you’ve been writing so much lately, that you might have forgotten to notice that you have been filling in that whole by writing consistently. So, imagine the world without that novel. Have things changed? Did Mr. Potter buy all the businesses in the town because your novel wasn’t around to stop him? Did your novel’s brother, its sequel, cease to exist because your first novel was not there to save it? Did your novel’s wife become an old spinster librarian–Okay, okay setting aside all pop culture metaphors, what I am trying to say is this:  your writing may not have influence in other people’s life yet, but it certainly has influence in yours. So remember that, before you press the “Eject Button.”

3. Ask Yourself: “Why Did I Come Here?”

I recently read an article in GQ Magazine where the Vice President was interviewed. He mentioned that the President often asks the question: “Why did we come here?” whenever his administration has to make a decision on a crucial issue. He asks this question in order to remind his administration to do the best job for the American people, even if it means it will hurt the president politically. I thought this was a great question, and it’s the exact same question we need to ask ourselves often whenever we set out to do anything in life. If you want to give up on your work, you might want to remind yourself of what drove you to the work in the first place. Is it going to fill in a gap that needs to be filled? Do you want it to inspire and motivate the world? Do you want to add just a bit more happiness and love in the world? Well, those are all great reasons for you to start creating something, and they are all great reasons for you to NOT stop creating that something. So constantly remind yourself of your initial motivations, have the end purpose in mind, and although people might not understand you or support you in the short-term, you will be content in knowing that you only had the best intentions at heart. Perhaps, one day, they might come to understand what was motivating you all along.

One last thing. The work of a writer can often be very anticlimactic. Victories are celebrated by an individual and not in a team, so sometimes there is a sense that although you are moving forward, nothing big has really happened. Therefore, in order to keep going, you have to go beyond what you see before you, and sometimes, you have to urge that “Guardian Angel” or that “Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come” to show you a bit more:

“Clarence: Ollin, because your novel wasn’t around, Glenn Beck was able to take over the entire publishing industry.

Me: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Okay, okay! I’ll finish it! I’ll finish it!”

much “and dance by the light of the mooooon,”

Ollin

How do you manage to cross that finish line? How do you guarantee that you follow through on your work or life goals?

>>> Blog Update: In other good news, the C2C is a finalist for The Top 10 Best Blogs for Writers Contest! After 518 nominations, the C2C landed in the final Top 20. Thank you to all those who nominated me. You’ll be happy to know that your nominations not only got me to the Top 20, but they will also help me get to the Top 10! Go here to learn how you can help the C2C reach The Top 10. Thank you!

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24 comments on “How to Stop Yourself From Ditching Your Novel At The Very Last Minute

  1. Yay! You finished the first draft! Brilliant. Congratulations, seriously, that’s such a great thing and congrats again on making it to the Top 20 and we’ll all do our best so you make it into the Top 10 as well.

  2. Linda says:

    YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!! I knew you could do it! You’re a superhero, a superstar, a super guy, a super writer! Congrats!🙂

    Love you.🙂

  3. Ooooh congratulations Ollin! This is fab news. Love it🙂

    Keep going and finish that second, third or whatever-it-takes draft. You’re on your way, boy!

    -BrownEyed

  4. Karen says:

    The best is yet to be! Congratulations.

    I am sending your blog to my grandson who should be a writer but does not know it yet.

    Thanks for your generous sharing.

  5. unabridgedgirl says:

    Some great advice! ANNNNNNNNNND CONGRATULATIONS!!! You finished! I am so proud of you!

  6. Ollin,
    Another wonderful post. You truly have a way of making things clear, hilarious, and thought-provoking. Love it!

    Congrats on finishing your novel! Woo-hoo!

    • Ollin says:

      Thank you Jenny!

      I’m so glad you think so. I try really hard to make them that way. Hopefully it helps others. And yes, a-woo-hoo!🙂

  7. T.S. Bazelli says:

    Whoo hooo! Congrats on finishing, and finishing early I might add. That’s a huge milestone. I hope you celebrate in some way, relax, and enjoy it. Those are great tips too!

    • Ollin says:

      Well, first I’m running a 5k tomorrow. Lol, so as I run to that finish line, I’m going to pretend the audience is cheering me on because I finished my first draft too. lol. You’re welcome!

  8. Liza Kane says:

    Yay for you and congratulation! (Take that, Life!!)
    PS, I SO love that you said “how you like me now?”…I think that to myself ALL the time😉

  9. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ollin Morales, Mysteriously Unnamed. Mysteriously Unnamed said: STEP ONE, "FINISH FIRST DRAFT: COMPLETE": http://wp.me/pPq2W-LF […]

  10. Cities of the Mind says:

    Great post Ollin, and wow, a finished draft!

  11. Tom Evans says:

    Some of my clients call me Clarence (inspired by Wonderful Life)

    – love the blog, all the best with it and get in touch if you want some free audio visualisations to help you get and stay in the writing groove …

    Tom Evans
    Author of Blocks

  12. seepurple says:

    You give great advise!

  13. […] How to Stop Yourself From Ditching Your Novel At Very The Last Minute {Most Tweeted.} […]

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