Tips for Finishing Strong

Today may be the final day of the 90-Day Write cycle on the 85K Writing Challenge, but we’re headed into April’s 30-Day Finish cycle with plenty of time to get words on the page before the 60-Day Edit cycle begins on May 1.

If you’ve reached your writing goals, congratulations! Celebrations begin tomorrow, April 1.

IMAGE: the word "congratulations"


For those of you still writing your rough draft, here are some thoughts, tips, and tidbits to help you finish strong.

Nowhere near finished? Keep writing.

Been writing since January and you’re still not finished?

I’ll let you in on a not-so-secret secret: I’m not finished either! I designed the 85K Writing Challenge so you’d think I’d be able to follow my own calendar, but publishing deadlines for my November release have taken priority, as have my commitments to the running of the 85K90 community, so I’m a bit behind on my next novel which is due to my publisher this November. I’ll definitely be using this year’s April’s 30-Day Finish cycle to complete my rough draft. That’s why the April 30-Day Finish cycle exists. Because life interrupts, sometimes the writing is slow and arduous, and hey, we all need a bit of grace when tackling a big project.

Will I be kicking it up a notch? You bet. Working a bit harder and longer each day to get words on the page? Yup. It’s “go time” baby.

Some things I will be doing in the coming weeks:

  • I’ll be reducing time spent on social media.
  • I plan to check email once in the morning and then not again until the end of the workday.
  • I won’t work backward to revise words already written. I’m writing forward until I type the words “the end.” There’s plenty of time for editing, revising, and polishing once the story has been laid out on the page.
  • I’m saying “no” to everything possible in the next thirty days, so I don’t fill my writing time with nonwriting tasks and favors to others. Sounds harsh, I know. But I have to make my own writing a priority—no one else will do that for me.

Have you joined late? Welcome! Now let’s get you caught up.

If you’ve joined the 85K Writing Challenge in recent days and weeks and didn’t hop on board January 1, you might be facing a substantial workload before reaching a time when you feel ready to begin editing. Don’t stress. You’re not alone. Writers join the 85K90 every day, so there’s plenty of writers in our community that are just getting started with their manuscripts.

If this is you, my advice is this:

  • Try to avoid feelings of overwhelm. It’s not productive and won’t help you get words on the page.
  • Don’t compare your progress to others. We all arrive at the finish line in our own time, and this is your unique experience — no one else’s.
  • Stay the course. Report to the page.
  • Know that it will all get done.
  • For now, focus on your next step—not the final step.

IMAGE: Older woman on a laptop computer
4 Tips for finishing strong.

1. Make your action steps effort driven, not outcome driven.

You’ve already identified your goal—to write the rough draft of a novel. The task now is to determine action steps that are effort driven, not outcome driven. Though your goal is to write a novel, your action steps should be things you can control. “Writing a novel” isn’t an action. “Sitting down to write” is.

2. Get clear on what it is you need to finish.

Do you need to write the final chapters? Are you stuck in the middle? Still discovering the story to find out what happens next? Get clear on the tasks that need completing and then make a list of things that need to get done. If you’re facing the final few chapters, sit down and get them on the page. If you’ve been “pantsing” your way through a discovery draft, consider sketching out a small outline or plan to navigate final plot points so you can move toward your end goal a bit faster. Keeping track of subplots? Story structure? Plot points? Maintaining a things-to-do list will help you stay organized.

3. Power up. Use more tools.

If life’s gotten busy and you’re finding it’s hard to get fingers on the keyboard or pen to paper, download a dictation app on your phone so you can voice record your story while driving, running errands, or commuting to work. Most voice dictation apps have an option for exporting the recording in type-written form to a word processing program.

Typing skills can’t keep up with voices inside your head? Consider installing dictation software on your computer so you can speak your story at a rate that’s faster than you can type. Many word processing programs have a voice function already designed into their program. It may take time to “train” the software, but voice recognition accuracy will improve the more you use the program.

4. Ask yourself: What am I not doing currently that would make an impact toward reaching my writing goals?

Many of us, when asked this question, would probably answer: I’m not writing—that’s why I’m not reaching my goals. The solution? Write.

Many, many congratulations to the writers who have completed the rough draft of their novel during the 2019 90-Day Write cycle. We’ll celebrate tomorrow, April 1.

Best wishes to those writers (like me!) who will be pressing forward into the April 30-Day Finish cycle to complete this task.

Work hard.
Stay the course.
You got this.

Pencils ready? Let’s do this thing.


– Julie Valerie

Julie Valerie

Julie Valerie

85K Writing Challenge: Embracing the writing life by advancing the practice of productive writing from the first word to the first reader.

3 thoughts on “Tips for Finishing Strong

    1. Sounds like a plan, Samantha! I’m using April’s 30-Day Finish as well. I will be working super hard to meet that April 30 deadline. Looking forward to working with you during the 60-Day Edit. Cheers! – Julie

  1. Thanks Julie, hopefully finished first draft by mid-may. Lots of other projects distracted this past month so clearing the decks for a smooth sail home.

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