Why Can’t I Finish Writing a Story?
I can’t finish a story. That’s it, I can’t finish writing a book. This makes me so frustrated because I can never finish a story. How do you actually finish a story?!
Hands up if this is you.
Why I can’t finish what I write? I start, write some pages or chapters, it is all fun and games, and then I give the story up or I can’t continue at all. I am blocked.
Every writer has been through that. The feeling of being stuck. Thinking ‘I can’t write a story’, ‘why can’t I finish a book?’, feeling you are not able to finish a story. Most people that start a story never finish it.
There are some main reasons for that.
1- You are blocked. You have the writer’s block. And you would do anything to get rid of it.
The first one is that you really are blocked. In this case, you can try some of the writer’s block cure that I wrote about in this article. It will help you to cure that block and get on with the story. It has a great writing prompt that will sure help you and it will also explain why you are feeling like this.
2- You don’t know how to continue:
You knew what to do, but now you are stuck. In this case, what you need is to OUTLINE the story.
It’ll help you to keep it going.
I know some people hate outlining, and, in this case, you don’t need to do EVERYTHING in detail. Just write a few topics, a list of ideas, almost like in a brainstorming section, and you should be good to go.
By outlining, you will know exactly what happens in EVERY scene, so I PROMISE you that you will finish that story.
This happens because you already went through the trouble of outlining everything, summarizing each chapter and planning amazing characters and ambiance.
Although you might get stuck and get a bit of a writer’s block due to laziness or fear of failing (it is ABSOLUTELY normal), you might as well get through it and finish it because you stop being confused when you outline, you know exactly how to continue and how things are going.
You can learn to outline here. It has a downloadable story outline worksheet to help you or you can read about how to create a novel step by step.
However, the biggest reason why you can’t finish your story is:
3- YOU DON’T LOVE YOUR STORY
Now I have to love my story? Can’t I write about anything I want?
Yes, yes, you can write about anything.
But you have to love it.
No, even worse, I might say that you have to be OBSESSED WITH IT.
The reason is simple: it is something that you will be working on for hours. I mean, a lot of hours. 300h hours. Even more. Years of hard work. You can take up to two hours to write 2000 words and many, many more to edit them.
Also, you will be thinking about your story when you are not writing it. You will be thinking about how your characters would react in a situation that you are in real life.
Or at least, you should be thinking about that.
I’m a firm believer in writing to make money, and I do that a lot. However, I can’t write about something that I hate. Even if the final point is writing to market.
* I have a lot of ideas, but I can never finish a story
This is because there’s a difference between an idea and choosing what your book will be about.
Okay, you saw a girl having an argument with her boyfriend at a dinner table. You got an insight and got a great idea to write that story. You start. Maybe you got it to page ten before running out of the initial spark.
And then, nothing.
It has happened to me many times. I see something, I get inspired, I start writing and it all disappears.
This process of inspiration is not a bad thing!
Actually, it is great and you should keep on doing that because it can become scenes or spin-offs for your main story. It can become a short story. Or maybe someday it will develop into a full story.
However, in order for you to finish a story, it has to be what I call the theme of your life.
The thing you can’t stop thinking about.
The thing you talk about ALL THE TIME with your friends.
You can’t shut up about it and you would literally be awakened until four o’clock in the morning discussing it.
I love a lot of things and I can’t choose. What to do to finish a story?
After you’ve written a story that you have actually finished, you can get to the ‘second’ theme of your life. We are humans, we have multiple interests. I love to write, but I also LOVE to create dolls and crochet. However, I decided on my priorities when, for example, choosing the theme of this blog.
You can create a list with the things that you love the most and see how many materials you would have to keep you going through 500 pages (it can be less and it probably will, but try to set out for the theme that you could never stop talking about).
Then, after you actually finished the book about the thing you are most obsessed with, you can start another book with another theme you love as well. The first book is the hardest to finish.
Again, you can absolutely write to market using this. You can write a love story about a billionaire to sell under billionaire romance, but the scenes must revolve around things you love. If you’re turned off my cheaters, for example, you probably won’t want to put that in your book.
I don’t know which theme this might be. How to find this theme?
Observe yourself talking and thinking.
There will be something you think repeatedly.
It has to be something that gets your blood rushing.
Maybe it is not from the present. Maybe it is something that happened to you many years ago, maybe in school, something that makes you so happy or so angry right now that if you think about it again, you feel it. You feel it as if it just happened two minutes ago.
Exercises to help you find a theme and to finish a story:
To help you, do the following writing exercises:
1- Write about the moment that you were most embarrassed in your life;
2- Write about the saddest moment in your life;
3- Write about the time that you were most angry. What happened?
4- Write about the happiest memory you have. Like if you had to choose your Patronus in Harry Potter (if you don’t know what I am talking about… well, I’m sorry);
5- What is your dream? Okay, getting rich. But where do you imagine yourself being if you could do anything and if you knew you couldn’t fail?
6- Make a list of ten things that you love the most. It can be silly things, like chocolate. It can be deep things, like family.
How to make a great story?
There is a short answer to that: it has to be relatable. People have to relate to it. And how to create it? It has to be true. Okay, now you are telling me to only write nonfiction. NO! The feelings must be true, not the facts.
Everybody fears almost the same things: seeing their loved ones dead, seeing their family suffer, fear of losing everything, fear of never getting what they want. And everybody falls for hope. It didn’t work out until now, but one day it will. I believe in that. I have faith, I have hope.
This is what makes a great story.
How to finish a story then?
1- Defining that theme you love the most:
You are going to decide on the thing you are most interested in. I mean, of your WHOLE LIFE. I MEAN IT. NOT THE SECOND THING YOU ARE MOST INTERESTED IN, NOT THE THIRD. THE FIRST.
Okay, I am interested in education, but I want to write fantasy, what do I do?
You don’t need to write ABOUT the topic itself, you can get ASPECTS of the topic.
What are you interested in that topic? For me, it is how the school system around the world sucks. I feel angry when I think about the time I wasted at school. Then I feel sad when I think about the injustices I suffered there. And, finally, I feel hopeful that one day it might change.
So, that’s why I chose to write about a fantasy school. They are severe, the system is retrograde and I can criticize it there through my characters. And I mean it, I can write about it forever.
Let’s say you are super interested in why bees are dying.
I know nothing about this, but let me guess. Stupid humans are killing bees with pollution and things like these, while we don’t realize that without bees, there is no pollination, without pollination there’s no food, and without food there are no humans?
I get that you don’t want to write an essay about it, but what if you wrote about a story that passes in a dystopic world after all the bees have disappeared?
If this is a good idea or not, you are the one to know it. After all, this is the topic that you CARE MOST ABOUT in your life. Research about it, find out good ideas about it and I promise you that you are going to finish that story.
Because IF IT’S THE THING YOU LOVE THE MOST TO TALK ABOUT, you can NEVER stop writing about it.
2- Defining the genre:
Guess what I am going to tell you.
It has to be the genre that you love the most.
You have just read Stephen King and then you get SUPER EXCITED about horror and suspense… you start writing it and realize… well, I like the genre, but I really miss comedy…
Or you’ve just read Agatha Christie and thought, why not crime?
There’s a problem with this approach: you can’t make decisions based on how hyped you are for something. You have to really LOVE the genre.
It has to be the genre you are always imagining your story to be.
The genre that you always look for first at the libraries and book shops.
It is the one that you devour.
And also the one that you are either good at already or you are willing to learn everything that you can about how to write it.
I LOVE Stephen King, but I couldn’t do horror. I can’t create a compelling story with 40,000 words at least in horror.
You have to think that this is a LONG PROCESS.
Writing is extremely hard.
It has to be the genre of your life.
You can experiment later, but if you want to finish your (first) book, it HAS to be the genre that you love the most.
3- Outlining the story:
Now that you decided the above options, have to outline the story can be really helpful because then you’ll know what to do next. It will prevent you from being blocked and it will make you go until the end.
I have an article about outlining here or maybe you want to read how to create a story step by step.
I know some people hate outlining, but I don’t mean that you have to know the story from beginning to end, or to plan all the scenes, just make a general path to follow, a brainstorm of sorts.
It’s a full circle. If you don’t know the theme you want to write – if it’s not what you love the most – you won’t be able even to outline it.
4- Having enough material:
I also recently watched Neil Gaiman’s Masterclass about this and he gave me an interesting insight. You might not be able to finish that story because you don’t have enough material to make it into a novel. Sometimes you have a great idea, but it simply isn’t elaborated enough to become a full novel. So, what you can do instead is to write a short story about it. Or you can spend some time trying to come up with more plots and material. But I warn you again, if you are not obsessed with the topic, you might not finish it.
Instead, why don’t you insert this amazing idea into a topic that you love?
[…] I wrote a lot about this topic in this article here. […]
[…] some characters that you really love and adore, so you’d be able to finish it. I talk about how to finish a story here, and choosing something you really love is the #1 […]
What a wonderful post! My current goal is to finish an entire story, so it’s exactly what I needed. I’m definitely bookmarking it to revisit multiple times throughout the process. 😀
Thank you! I’ve been in writer’s block for about a year and have practically neglected my books. I believe that this information will help me get back on track and finish my book.
I’m so, so glad that it helped you!