It makes sense, of course, sharing narratives is one of the ways human beings build connections. And I love meeting writers and talking about writers. But one thing I have noticed is that a lot of the stories seem to revolve around the same theme.
The Unfinished Book.
*cue scary music*
|found at ereads.com|
DUN DUN DUN DUUUUUN
Every writer has one, it seems. I had a great conversation once with a lady whose friend was blogging a novel. Everyone really enjoyed it, and thought she was a good writer, but she could never finish a story. Instead she would decided her current book one wasn't working and start a new one. She did this several times, much the the frustration of her friends and family.
I understand that. It took me the better part of a decade to finish my first novel. I've talked to lots of people who say they've been working on a book for a long time, or that they have a lot of unfinished stories lying around. It's really common.
And really sad. Because here's the truth.
Writers who are serious about reaching readers finish what they start.
Do serious writers start stories that go nowhere? Absolutely. But they don't make a habit of it. Readers hate unfinished stories. No one wants to read the seventeen different openings to your novel without ever getting to read the whole thing.
Finishing the first draft of a novel, writing a complete story arc, that is the first major milestone in the Journey of Being a Novelist. Think of it as reaching base camp before you climb a mountain. It takes a long time to get to base camp. (So I've been told. I've only ever climbed two small mountains. And a butte.) And it's not easy to get there a lot of times. But you have to if you want to climb the mountain.
|found at pbs.org|
This may look like Everest, but it's actually Novel Mountain.
Completing a novel (or a short story or graphic novel or screenplay or whatever floats your writer-boat) is like that. It takes time and it's not easy, but you have to finish before you have any hope of your story reaching anyone.
But how do you do it? Well, every writer is different, but here's what worked for me.
1. Make sure you have enough supplies (i.e. story) before you start.
For me personally, I can't start a book unless I know the first scene, the last scene and enough about the world and the characters that I think I can stay with them for an entire book. I know if the story doesn't feel solid enough in my head, I won't finish it, and I don't start things I don't think I can finish. However...
2. Don't overpack
If you find that outlining every single detail of your novel makes it hard for you to write it, stop it. Leave yourself some mystery, some room to play. For example, I wrote most of City of a Thousand Dolls without knowing who the villain was. I had several really good suspects, but I didn't try and figure out who it was until I was almsot done with the story. Keeping it a mystery kept it fun.
3. Beware the Shiny Detour
The leading cause of unfinished novels is the Shiny New Idea. After a while the inital glow and excitement wears off and you start to realize that this is hard work. That's when the Shiny New Idea kicks in, a sparkly story that's so amazing you're sure you were supposed to be writing this one all along. But--and I cannot say this enough--Shiny New Ideas lie. They are not magical fairies that will help you complete a book, they are willow-the-wisps that lead you into bogs and off of cliffs.
4. Accept that it's going to be hard.
Look, pulling 50-100k words out of your ear and putting them down on paper is hard. It is hard work. There's no elevator that will get you to the top quicker, no magic formula that will make the words flow like water from your fingers, no way around it at all.
You--and no one else--must write the words down. You must pull the story from your brain when you are tired, when you are busy, when you don't feel inspired at all. Whatever you do...
5. Don't stop walking.
Don't stop. Don't turn around and second guess your path. Don't wait for some muse to come and sprinkle fairy dust on you. One foot in front of the other, one step at a time. One word, one sentence, one paragraph, one chapter. Keep working and don't quit.
Finish what you start.
Do you have any tips on how to finish? Leave them in the comments!