Can You Finish Your Novel Without Help?

Before I jump into answering the header’s question, stay tuned, for at the end of this post, I’ll be announcing the winner of last week’s critique offer.

So, let’s jump into this week’s post. A fabulous blog follower posed this question to me–can one finish their novel without help? She’d tried groups, classes and other writers’ books. All great ideas, but was still unsure of her execution.

I considered her question for all of one-second, because my answer is a resounding “yes, you can.”

In fact this year I’ve met a dozen new authors whose debut novels are releasing with publishers, as well as an equal number whose debut novels are being self-published–and all due to their own hard work. Yes, no one else’s, but their own. At the moment, there’s nothing a writer can’t do. In fact, this is the most amazing time for us. There’s a revolution underway and the digital opportunities are opening up.

So, let’s delve deeper into that question–“can you finish your novel without help?”–and I’ll offer a touch of advice for what you need to do from the very beginning, because you’ll most likely be doing this, I imagine. Here are my answers in bulleted points for ease of reading.

  • Read, read, read. Take note of punctuation, chapter formats and storyline structure. Even now, no matter how busy I am with my writing, I still set aside thirty minutes to an hour at the end of each day to read. A writer must read.
  • Do your research by checking out websites belonging to publishers and agents who are open for submissions in your genre. See what they’re asking for.
  • All I’m saying is, more than anything, do your research. Know what your targets are when you first start out.

Okay, so let’s move on and cover one’s execution of their work.

  • Be unique and find your own writer’s voice. I heard this advice over and over–and I have to say, it took me two years to nail that. It’s not an easy task. To begin with my writing followed the voices of my favorite authors with my sentence structure. Then there was a sudden change. It came about when I allowed my writing to flow as if I spoke. Now, let’s not forget I’m from New Zealand, and since there’re only four million of us in my tiny country, I really should have been able to nail this uniqueness sooner.
  • On the writing front though, remember to embrace the five senses: sight, smell, taste, feel, speak. Bring the reader into the written world you’ve created using all the senses available. When you’re doing your daily reading–make sure you’re researching. I never read a book without a pad and pen on hand. Seriously. Try it, if you’re not already.
  • Utilize dialogue, action, emotion and thought, ensuring you give you a good blend of each within the pages you write.
  • Always “show” instead of “tell.” (For further clarification on this, I have several posts with this “show, don’t tell” header.) It’s an important point to note, for publishers want authors to “show” within their written word and not to tell a reader what’s happening.
  • Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. There are so many drafts before a writer completes their book it isn’t funny. Truly it isn’t. Stop laughing. The number of rewrites shocked me to begin with, so much so that I lost count of how many I did. Luckily, this is something that becomes easier as time moves on, and most writers will say it takes around seven drafts to complete a book. Just be prepared for the long haul when you first start out.
  • So don’t forget you can finish your novel without help, and be assured many do. Just remember the key word: RESEARCH.

Okay, now it’s time to get down to the serious business of the offer I made last week. For those who left a comment asking for a critique, they had their name put into a hat. What could they win? Yours truly will be their second set of eyes to go over the first four pages (or 1200 words thereabouts) of their novel. That’s the first four pages. Not four pages from the middle of the book, but the first four pages. Okay, so for this fabulous critique, the winner is:

*** Amy Kennedy ***

Hey, congratulations, Amy. Please email me the first four pages of your novel as a word document attachment so I can insert “review bubbles” for personalized editing advice. My email address is located under the “Contact tab” on my website, or of course it’s

I’ll be making this offer again in the near future as I had a great response–and I’m all for authors supporting authors. You guys rock with the way you support me on my website.

Also on my website, as I post each week’s blog, I update my current news. You’ll find “News this Week” at the top right of the main page–and if you wish to see what I’m up to at a glance, well it’s all recorded right there.

I’d also like to point out some blog hops I’m participating in early next year–and you’ll find those “hop buttons” pictured on the right-hand side of my blog page. If you find you’re also publishing early in the New Year as I am, then check out what I’m up to, as you might find you’d like to join me in my blog hopping adventures with your own book’s promotion. The more the merrier.

You all have the best week.

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20 thoughts on “Can You Finish Your Novel Without Help?

  1. Hi. Great blog post. All good advice. I’m wondering what this means about critique partners from your perspective? I work with three CP’s. At first I thought it might be too many,but each have their own unique approach and all see things that I don’t within that first draft. I don’t necessarily take all advice but if all three point the same thing out to me, then I know it is work another look.

  2. I was good and read the post first — great info, we do tend to second guess ourselves. And then I saw my name! I’m so excited, but, I will eat first, then look at the pages again, so I don’t embarass myself and then send them. I’m trying not to gush, but thank you so much.

  3. Excellent post as usual, Joanne. Thanks so much for always sharing such great tips and practical information. Congratulations to Amy too! I look forward to the next time you offer a critique.

  4. I thought your post was spot on. It’s nice to see support for indies. I’ve come across several author blogs with articles on indie vs publishing house and some people are really down on indies. This was nice to read, thanks! I need to find CPs – I think that is a hurdle a lot of indies face. I fully believe I could publish something without them, but in that case it would be a case of months of editing, then putting the MS down for a few months, and then going over it again with fresh eyes. It absolutely can be done, but CPs can make the journey easier. Great topic, I loved it!

  5. Thank you Joanne 🙂 I was taking a bit of a hiatus from “online” but I’m somewhat more present now, and I do try to drop by all my friends’ blogs when I can. Thank you so much for your support of indies! xo

  6. Hey Joanne, This post is my favorite 🙂 How do I get my name into the next critique offer? I’d love to have you opinion.

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