Finish them!

1 minute read

I’ve never finished something that is complete from beginning to end. I’ve written beginnings, middles, and ends that don’t quite match up. Every story is complete in my mind but nowhere else.

I bemoaned my inability to finish things. I thought there was one weird old trick I was missing. I finally figured out what it was!

Here it is:

Just finish something.

Looks deceptively simple, doesn’t it? Trite, even. But that’s really all there is to it. Breaking it down a little more:

  • Pick one story that you want to finish from beginning to end. Yes, one. Only one.
  • Use every tool at your disposal to make sure you have an actual plot. I am a pantser by nature but I needed to sit down and struggle with plotting and outlining until I found something that I was excited about writing from beginning to end.
  • Get some deadlines. Promise to send chapters your friends weekly. Set a word count target. Threaten yourself with dire consequences. Anything that works for you.
  • Write that one story even when it’s hard or you don’t want to do it. Treat writing this story like a second job with designated writing time and refuse to let yourself do anything else. No skipping ahead! No procrastinating on the internet! No switching to ‘easier’ writing!

I haven’t finished anything yet (and am in fact procrastinating by writing a blog post) but I have all of the requirements lined up. I’m two chapters into a ten chapter novella. I’ve done a ridiculous amount of research and world-building for my story. I have people to give me a kick in the pants. Michel, Kelly, Laura, Patrick, and the other lovely people in my writing workshop are working on “nurturing to completion” this spring and summer. Every two weeks, I need to produce 2000-3000 semi-finished words. Hooray deadlines!

On the Writing Excuses episode Moving On, Howard Tayler said it best:

There are two principal differences between the working writer and the person who wants to be a working writer but is not yet. Difference number one is that the working writer has finished a book… The second big hurdle is that the working writer has finished two.