There are some people who never finish what they started writing. I, too, have some books that never got finished. If you have one or two such books, it’s okay. Don’t sweat it. But if you have started ten stories and haven’t finished one of them, you might be dealing with fear, boredom, or difficulty.
In the case of fear, you will need to do everything you can to eliminate the source of the fear.
1. If it’s because you have a relative or friend (or someone else) who says you suck as a writer, you need to stay away from the person as much as possible. If you can’t avoid the person, then don’t mention writing when you’re with him. If the person brings it up, change the topic or politely say, “I don’t wish to discuss it.” If the person has a sarcastic little retort, walk away or hang up. Seriously, some people are toxic and will destroy your dreams if you let them. Put up boundaries to protect yourself. You have every right to stand up for yourself. You have every right to be treated with respect and for your writing to be treated the same way, whether you are writing for pleasure or to a career going.
2. If it’s because you think your story will totally suck, then keep writing anyway. Listen to music to help take your mind off your inner dialogue. If you can’t shut off the inner dialogue, replace it with positive dialogue like, “I will write the best book I can” or “I really love my character because _______” or “I can do this.” I have this fear creep up while I’m writing from time to time, and I just keep telling myself, “Keep typing the scene, Ruth. Keep going and don’t look anywhere else but at the screen where the characters are doing their thing. You can clean up anything that sucks during the edits.”
3. If it’s because of a review, do not read your reviews. If you need to remove your email from public places so you don’t get negative comments in your inbox, then do it. If you need to block someone who is being hateful on Facebook or your blog, do it. Put a wall between you and the toxic person who is being spiteful. (Get a good beta reader, editor, or writing friend to give you honest input on the book before you publish it, but there’s no reason to put up with a stranger’s unsolicited advice, especially when that advice is really an attack.)
4. If it’s because of poor sales, do not check your sales. Yes, I realize some writers are paying bills with the money they’re earning. But this is one of those jobs that doesn’t come with a consistent income. Sales fluctuate. It’s an up-and-down roller coaster. There are no guarantees. All you can do is write the next book and make it the best it can possibly be. Everything else (besides where you choose to sell it) is out of your control. And please, do not read about the success of other authors. This will only depress you more. Stay completely offline if you need to while you’re writing your story.
You need to put as much distance between whatever is causing your fear and your writing as possible.
In the case of boredom, you have to push through it.
It’s easy to be pumped up and excited when starting a book. The idea is fresh and new. You are learning about the characters and the world. It’s easy to have tons of energy at this stage.
But suddenly, you lose your enthusiasm for the story.
Press through it. I get bored at the 20,000-word mark in almost every story I write. But when I get to the 35,000-word mark, things get easier (and more exciting) again. You just have to do it.
There is no magic formula to it. Stay focused and keep on writing, even if you can only manage a couple hundred words that day. Sometimes you can set a goal like, “I will only write for 15 minutes in this story today” and when you’re done, do something else. When you success at the 15-minute mark, then decide to do it tomorrow for two 15-minute sessions. Then slowly work your way up.
And you can work on something more exciting when you’re done as a way to reward yourself. But make sure you write in that particular story every day or almost every day.
Finally, there’s the matter of difficulty.
You might have come to realize writing is harder than you thought it would be. When you write, you are working. You are creating. You are not only creating characters who have emotional depth, but you need to put them in a believable world in a situation that will make the reader want to keep turning the page. On top of that, you need to be able to tell this story in a way that is entertaining, and it must be polished up by a great editing team.
So there are a lot of things to do. And what can happen when you realize writing is harder than you expected it to be?
You might realize writing isn’t a good fit for you.
If so, there is nothing wrong with that. No matter how much I’d love to act, I wouldn’t be able to do it. To me, acting looks easy, but I was in a high school play, and even as a side character, I didn’t do a good job at all because the concept of becoming the character was harder than I thought it’d be. And you know what? I never acted again. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But you don’t know if you don’t try, so I encourage you to give it your best shot.
If you feel led to write–if it is something you truly want to do–then sit down and write. It’s not always exciting. Inspiration doesn’t always come. But you need to be dedicated to it in order to finish the story.
In addition to those tips, it might help to read plenty of books in the genre you’re writing in and break down common elements you see the authors using. I suggest books that are good sellers (because those authors did something right if their books are doing well). I also suggest reading a variety of authors. Every author has a unique voice, and you will learn something new about what you like and don’t like from every one you read.
Never plagiarise another author’s work. Make sure it’s your story you’re telling, and develop your own voice.
Let’s say you really love the way an author used first person point of view in their book and want to do your book in first person point of view. By all means, go ahead. Do first person when you tell your story. Let’s say you hate the use of adverbs. Then by all means, do not use them. Take elements you like and use them. And with elements you don’t like, toss them out.
This is your story. Only you can write it. Give yourself freedom to enjoy the journey of creating the story and push aside the negatives so you can focus on what you’re doing.
The next post on writing will finish the series of posts for new writers, and it will be about polishing the story (editing/proofreading).
Usually the reason I can’t finish a story is because I can’t figure out where it’s going. I’ve got two short stories where I have no idea where the plot is supposed to go, so that makes writing it difficult. I still hope someday to finish them. I’m just waiting for inspiration to give me a compass and show which way to go (so to speak).
I have some of those stories, too. My concern is more for writers who can’t seem to finish anything. I think it’s normal to have a couple unfinished products. Sometimes we start something and just don’t know where to take it. I’ve forced myself to finish a couple of stories in the past even though I knew I wasn’t going in the right direction with them, and I regretted it every single time. I’ve learned if it’s not working, it’s worth putting on hold. Like you, I’m hoping inspiration will come and help me finish the ones I have started because I’d like to finish them.
Just a simple waiting game. Nothing more complicated than that.
Even as a “seasoned” writer, your advice about pressing through if we’re bored or losing enthusiasm really helped me. You know I’m having a “detachment” problem with mine, so maybe there’s hope if I keep wading through it. I did get another 720 written the other day on a scene that I felt needed to be inserted. 🙂
I hope you get connected to the story. Sometimes it’s possible to get the connection as you press on. My current work in progress is like that. I was only able to write about 200-400 words a day in it for a good two weeks because I just couldn’t get into it. I didn’t write every day, but I’d say it was 2-3 times a week when I sat down to write something. Finally, one morning I woke up and started typing, and the story felt “right” again. However, I still haven’t been able to get something going for Richard Larson’s book. I’m going to brainstorm some ideas with a few people to see if something starts the ball rolling.
I love this! I’m saving it to my share file…
Thank you! 😀