About ten days ago, I found myself in the same predicament from last year. I hit the 50k for NaNoWriMo, but my novel was not yet finished, and I lacked what I needed to continue. I didn’t lack motivation, I lacked a proper end.
I had a very similar problem with my last novel, as well. I dance around the final confrontation. I flirt with it. I dangle it there, just to have my character shy away for one last bit of dialogue to fill in plot holes. Then I stop, frozen, not sure how to write the ending.
It took me a few days of writing silence to figure out why I couldn’t write an ending for my novel. Why would my MC charge off to kill someone he owed his life to for the sake of two people he just met? Why wouldn’t he just wave goodbye and be on his merry way?
I should have answered those questions in the middle, but I didn’t. I was missing numerous scenes from the middle that would show my MC’s conflict with himself. They would show him changing from wanting to run from everything, to wanting to save everything.
In other words: I built the tension, I increased the stakes, but I did not invest in emotion.
This isn’t a problem with my ending, but with my middle. I was so worried about making my characters sitting ducks, I had them jump into action. I spent no time developing relationships and explaining plot points via dialogue. I never built the reason why my MC needs to do what is right.
Because of what my middle lacked, my ending was flat, dull, boring, and I simply could not write it.
I don’t consider this a bad thing. I now have a greater understanding of the requirements of a middle and how those requirements apply to endings. My novel-writing arsenal has acquired a new weapon. For a first draft, I can’t hope for much more beyond having a novel to apply it to.
I’m still missing a fair number of scenes, but I know what I need to accomplish in them. Because of that, I managed to write a satisfactory ending. While my novel still needs a lot of work, I don’t think it’s anything I’m not capable of.
If you find yourself stuck in plot and uncertain of what your characters want and why, look for scenes you are missing. Find where your MC should develop her goals and embellish. Add conflict in the form of a subplot that shows exactly what your MC wants.
Don’t be afraid to grant yourself a couple days of writing silence. If you’re mid-project, try to limit your writing vacation to no more than a week, else you’ll have to re-introduce yourself to your characters. Take a few days off to let the plot simmer in your head, and you’ll return to your novel feeling refreshed.