For those of you who have been slaving away writing since November 1, today is officially the last day of National Novel Writing Month. Which means there are but a few hours left to reach your 50,000-word goal and wrap up your novel. If you believe the two must be synonymous.

As of last night, I'm at 60,184 words, 230 pages. But my novel isn't finished. And even if I spend all day writing, I'm not sure I can wrap it up today. The story won't be done until it's done, and it's up to me as the author to listen to my gut, to do what I feel is right, and not push the plot until it's ready.

I've done it a few times before—ended a novel prematurely because I was sick of looking at it, thinking about it, living in that world. But just because I decide it's over doesn't mean it is. A book may present itself on paper, but really, it will forever remain in the heart and the mind of the author. And for this author, when a book ends abruptly, when the work is lazy, it haunts me for days, weeks, sometimes years before I pick it up again and finish it the right way.

But what's the right way? How do I know if a book needs more work? That's where instinct comes in. That's where I have to rely on my past experience as a writer, and ask myself: does this feel right? What is the natural flow of the story? Have I exhausted my characters, or do they have more to tell? Am I as the author satisfied with my work?

While I'm 60,000+ words into this book, it's not ready to end. There's still more of the story to tell. How do I know that? I just do. My instincts are urging me to keep going. To screw some imaginary deadline, and just write the book the way it's asking to be written. So that's what I'll do.

Michelle BredesonComment