Guest Post: Linda Goodnight on How To Finish That Novel

Note from Erin: I’m thrilled to welcome New York Times bestselling author Linda Goodnight to PubCrawl today. Her forthcoming novel, The Memory House doesn’t fall within kidlit (our typical focus here on the blog), but Linda’s post touches on something universal to writers: finishing that novel. Her advice is smart and timeless. I’ll let her take it from here…

THe Memory House_coverEven after nearly fifty books, I still don’t feel like an expert, but I have learned a few things on this journey. Let’s face it, writing a book is daunting. Even an old dog like me feels as if I’m about to bungee jump from Mt. Everest every time I start a new book.

The beginning is exciting and words flow with passion, but soon passion becomes plain hard work and a finished product seems impossible. You stall out. You want to quit. In fact, another idea is pushing inside your head to be written. Why not jump ship and go where the excitement is?

I can give you a dozen reasons, but one should suffice-the simple truth that if you don’t trudge on through the not-so-fun mud and finish this book, you likely will never finish any book. Painful but true.

So how do I do it? How do I get from those first thrilling, passionate pages through the boggy, sloggy muddle and to the end?

My advice isn’t anything special, but these are some things that keep me writing whether I’m working on a short romance for Love Inspired or long women’s fiction like my current release, The Memory House.

  1. Set daily goals and keep them. Start small. Writing one page per day will give you a nice fat novel at the end of the year. Each day, five days a week, I tell myself I have to write five pages. If I surpass that goal, and I often do, I’m super pumped. If not, no guilt involved. Either way, I’m moving forward on the manuscript.
  2. Discipline. Allow yourself no excuses. If you truly desire to be a writer, you will sit down and write. People find time for what really matters to them. I’m amazed at the number of people who tell me “someday” they’ll write a book. Someday is now.
  3. Spend a few minutes visualizing the scene and feeling the character’s emotion about the scene before you begin. You’ll be amazed at how fast and how much you can write when you allow your subconscious those few moments to warm up.
  4. Let the story out without censor or editing. Yes, this is hard. Shut off the part of your brain that says the writing stinks and allow yourself to write badly. Vomit the story onto the page and clean up the mess later. First drafts are never the finished product anyway.
  5. Each day, begin 10-15 pages back, lightly editing as you move up to the blank page. By the time you get there, you should be back in the flow of the story.
  6. Stop writing in the middle of the action. Tomorrow, it will be easy to pick up there and keep going.
  7. Have a set time and place to write. As with any habit, the subconscious mind responds to triggers. Once you establish a routine of sitting down at the computer at a certain time and in a certain place, the writing machine in your head will know to turn on.
  8. Limit distractions. This may mean turning off the television, the internet, your phone, and even arranging with your family to give you this quiet time. Protect the work from life’s interruptions.
  9. Know the end of the book and write toward it. Better yet, use an outline. Even if you don’t plot, you need to know at least two or three big turning points in your novel. Write in to and out of those major events. This gives your writing direction and will keep you moving when the way grows weary.
  10. Plan to reward yourself when the book is finished. Promise yourself anything you can afford that you would really enjoy. A new pair of shoes, a day off, dinner and movie, a weekend away. A friend of mine buys herself a piece of jewelry, her passion, after every book is sent to her editor. Find a computer photo of whatever it is and hang it over your work space. Look at it when the going gets tough. Use whatever dangling carrot will keep you motivated.

And there you have them, ten tips to keep you moving and motivated toward that final page. You have a marvelous story inside you, so stay the course, be strong and fight through to the end. The reward of a finished manuscript is a powerful feeling that many aspire to and few accomplish. Be the exception.

Linda Goodnight author photoNew York Times and USA Today bestseller, LINDA GOODNIGHT, writes novels to touch the heart as well as to entertain. Her stories of hope have won the RITA , the Carol, the Reviewer’s Choice, and numerous other industry awards. A small town girl, Linda remains close to her roots, making her home in rural Oklahoma. She and husband have a blended family of eight, including two teenagers recently adopted from Ukraine. Many of her books are about family and children and rightly so, as she draws her emotional stories from her surroundings, her great love of family, and from personal experiences as a nurse and teacher. For more, visit


12 Responses to Guest Post: Linda Goodnight on How To Finish That Novel

  1. Terri Weldon Mar 30 2015 at 9:30 pm #

    Great advice, Linda! You are such a pro, as your more than fifty novels prove, so you definitely know what you’re talking about. Plus, you just walloped me over the head with some of those key points.

    I’m in the middle of The Memory House now and it is phenomenal! The sorrow and pain poor Julia is going through. You do emotion like no one else. I’m loving it.

    • Linda Goodnight Apr 1 2015 at 1:43 pm #

      Terri, thank you. I’m thrilled you’re loving THE MEMORY HOUSE!

      Hope the pointers help.

      Linda g

  2. Holly S Mar 31 2015 at 7:29 am #

    This is such a timely post! I constantly have to remind myself to finish, finish, finish one project at a time. I found myself nodding my head to each of the points you made. Thank you for the post and I look forward to picking up The Memory House!

  3. Erin Mar 31 2015 at 7:36 am #

    Linda, thanks for sharing these tips. I think I nodded/bobble-headed my way through the entire post. It was great to have you stop by PubCrawl to share some wisdom! 🙂

    • Linda Goodnight Apr 1 2015 at 1:44 pm #

      Hi Holly,

      I’m so happy you found the pointers useful. Keep on keeping on!

    • Linda Goodnight Apr 1 2015 at 1:46 pm #

      Thank you for having me, Erin. It’s a great place!

  4. Alexa S. Mar 31 2015 at 9:45 pm #

    I loved the advice in this post, Linda! It’s so practical AND so encouraging, and I loved getting these writing tips and reminders. Thank YOU for sharing <3

    • Linda Goodnight Apr 1 2015 at 1:45 pm #

      Alexa, Yay! So glad you found them practical, and I always want to be encouraging. If I can do this writing thing, anyone can!

  5. Celine Apr 5 2015 at 5:56 am #

    Great post! I also like to give myself small rewards whenever I reach a word count goal on my manuscript. For example, for every 10000 words I’ll allow myself to buy a graphic novel I’ve been eyeing or anything else that’s small and I look forward to

  6. Linda Goodnight Apr 5 2015 at 6:12 pm #

    Celine, what a great idea. 10000 words is a bunch and definitely worth a reward in my view!

  7. Kafie Carman Apr 6 2015 at 12:26 am #

    This was JUST what I needed to hear, JUST WHEN I need it most (so far!). Thank you for very helpful insights and motivation!

  8. Linda Goodnight Apr 6 2015 at 9:36 am #

    Kafie, (whose name is SO cool!), I am delighted that you found something useful in the post. Good luck with that work in progress!

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