Don’t bat those Hello Kitty eyes at me. You knew we’d have to talk about this eventually, didn’t you?
That’s right, my little Tater Tots. It’s time to talk about “The F Word.”
It’s time to FINISH that thing you’re writing already.
Oh, yes. I know. We’re supposed to be all about the process.
Blah. Blah. Blah.
Fiddle dee dee.
The whole philosophy of enjoying the journey is true–but only to a point. Think about it. What would you say to a friend who booked a non-stop flight for her dream trip to Paris, then spent the entire week riding a shuttle around LaGuardia because she was enjoying the “journey” too much to actually set foot in France. I’d say her fromage had slipped off her cracker!
Here are my guesses as to why you have trouble finishing a manuscript (these are purely conjecture, of course, and in no way reflect my own personal experience):
Fear of failure
If you finish this thing, that means you’ll have no excuses left. You’ll have to submit it to an editor. And that could lead to rejection. Ouch. Pain bad. But if you never finish and never submit, you’re 100 percent guaranteed to never be published. Funny how that works.
Faking it is easier than finishing it
Are you telling fellow writers you’re still working on your manuscript, when you know darn well, you’d have to hunt your files for half an hour just to dig up the most recent version? Maybe it’s time to go legit and do the work.
Forgetting that writing is hard work
If you get to the point where your manuscript is a challenge, do you give up because you figure you must be doing it wrong? Sure, some days the words will flow and your muse will make you her favorite pet project, but most days aren’t like that. Writing is hard work. If it was easy, celebrities and talk show hosts would be doing it. (Drat. That did not help my point.) Don’t let the workiness of writing stop you from forging ahead.
You’re “sort of” working on lots of things. You get stuck with your novel, so you decide to write an article because it’s shorter and more manageable, but then you need to do some fact checking and get derailed, so you thumb through your files and find a cute picture book idea you loved from years ago, so you fuss around with that until you remember why you abandoned it in the first place, so you go back to the novel, but by then you’ve kind of forgotten where you were going with it . . . [cue the sound of spinning wheels]
Enough with WHY we don’t finish. Let’s focus on WHAT to do about it . . .
Make a plan, Stan.
Maybe it’s deciding how many pages you can produce in a week. The number of pages you decide on–high or low–doesn’t matter at this point. It’s all about forward motion.
Go public with your plan.
Tell someone “I am going to finish my novel by [insert date here].” If you’re really brave, announce in on Facebook!
Identify at least one person (or a group) to hold you accountable for meeting your deadlines.
Are you not finished because you’re stuck? Well, then get unstuck.
Back up and move to another part of the manuscript. Get a paid critique. Read it out loud. Talk it over with someone who’s more experienced than you. Troubleshoot it with your critique group. Do whatever it takes to get unstuck. Staying stuck is simply not an option. You’re too fine for that.
Build in time to celebrate and reward yourself as you hit your targets.
Finally, flesh out an “I’m all finished” list–
Don’t just plan on finishing. Go a step further by compiling a list of where you’d like to submit your completed masterpiece. It doesn’t have to be a comprehensive list. Record the name of an editor or agent–maybe someone you met at a conference or blog you follow–then keep adding to your log. Having a head start on this list will fuel your momentum. It might sound like a mind game, but it can serve as reminder that your manuscript really will be finished, and when it is, you’ll be ready to take the next exciting step. And I can’t wait to celebrate your successes with you!
I want to confess that I was supposed to finish my second middle grade novel in 2013. I worked steadily and came close, but I’m still not done. For 2014, I’m going to apply my own advise and make it happen. Oh, it’s going down!
Okay, that’s it. Thanks for listening, Writing Warriors.
Our talk about “The F Word” is finished.
My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far today, I have finished 2 bags of M&M’s and a chocolate cake. I feel better already. ~ Dave Barry