Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Moment When You Let It All Go

So I've been working on this super-long story for about one full year now. Pretty much all last summer and through to this fall, so maybe that's more like eighteen months. I find that I write so much more in warmer weather that perhaps it's a sign we need to finish up this house and move to different climes.

I hesitate to call it a book, especially considering that I never finish anything, I don't want to jinx myself when I'm so far along with one project and have started another bit of school to try and keep my focus.

But I'm struggling because I can write until my fingers want to fall off, typing has never been a problem, and still be unsatisfied with all the bits of the work that I've done. Which means I usually abandon the longish stories before they're really anything other than half-done and start something else.

Cycle meet perpetuity.

So while I'm not 100% at the jump ship stage, I can feel myself keening slowly in that direction. I wrote a short story in class that I quite like and want to clean up for submission, and I've got another longish story idea buzzing about in my head.

I feel like a Carrie Bradshaw moment: "How do you know when to stop or when to keep going? Are we all just waiting for the right last words?"

But more importantly, how do I keep going and get to the finish line?


Kerry said...

My advice? Write till you get to the end. Any end, even if it's crap. And THEN you can put it aside and work on something for a while, and when you come back to it you can start back at the beginning, but on such a solid plot foundation. You'll know then in which direction you're heading, which will help, even if you end up going somewhere different eventually.

Good luck!

Kimberly said...

Please let me know if you find an answer to this question, because I've been looking for it for years! I wrote a "book" about four years ago then got waylaid by going back to school full-time and landing a great job. I just loaded the manuscript onto my new laptop and this weekend is the weekend that I'll determine whether or not I can go back to it and complete a final draft or just sigh and walk away from something that no longer seems sensible.

Deanna McFadden said...

We've been talking about it a lot in our writing class -- the going back to old work. DG's (the teacher's) thoughts are that old manuscripts are like old boyfriends (or girlfriends) good to sleep with for that one last hurrah, but then it's always better to move on to something new if you feel like you've truly outgrown them.

It's a hard question to answer. I always abandon earlier work and never go back. And perhaps that's why I never finish anything.

Right now, I think the crucial thing, for me, is just to finish something. And his advice is always to finish the draft, don't go back and start to edit, just write from where you are, complete it (as Kerry says above) and then put it back in the drawer.

But I don't have any answers! I can finish any assignment that comes from outside my own head. That's no problem. But my own deadlines are so very malleable.

Beth said...

If you set yourself a goal to finish that story in one or two weeks (even if the ending is not a totally satisfying one to you) and then set it aside, you will have accomplished your goal. If and when you go back to it, you would probably revise a great deal of the story anyway.
Unless you are loving the actual writing of this story, moving on to what now excites you is probably for the best.
(Having said that, I have plenty of rough drafts just lying around.)

Ben said...

Wow, funny that I should stumble upon this post the week that I've been asked to help a friend write with more discipline. Is anyone over here more qualified to help out? Especially when it comes to full novels, I can't help but feel out of my league.


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