No one else will write it for you.
I don’t know who said this first, but it’s one of the most true statements about writing I’ve ever come across.
Since I learned how to spell the most basic words, I’ve been a writer. My elementary years produced stories about circuses, fairies, horses, and space pirates (which, interestingly enough, are all ideas worth revisiting as an adult – especially the space pirates). As I grew, so did my ideas, my subject matter, and my story length. It takes longer to finish a project than it used to (and finish you must, if you want agents/editors/publishers to look at your work), and it seems like at the absolute worst time possible (see: the dreaded demon middle of a WIP) a fantastic new idea hits out of the clear blue sky. Well, perfect. (Note: sarcasm.)
What’s a writer to do?
Dear writer, do not be distracted by said bright, shiny, new idea. Write it down, of course, so this golden gift from the writing gods won’t be forgotten, but then put it down and back away. It’s a trick. Your brilliant subconscious is trying to avoid writing the middle of your story. But… if you don’t write the middle, you’ll never finish. And, what’s the first rule of
Fight Club writing? Finish the story!
I speak on this subject from a place of authority. I am not too proud to admit that I am an idea-harlot. I ❤ ideas. I ❤ developing ideas. I ❤ researching ideas. What I do not ❤ is pledging all my time and energy to one idea, and committing to a long-term relationship with it. Yes, I have commitment issues. So, I find myself with multiple works-in-progress, and nothing finished. As you can probably guess, this is problematic. Because though I have the ability to finish a project, giving myself a product to shop around to agents and editors, I don’t have the discipline to finish a project, which makes me empty-handed. And for a writer with publication aspirations, this is a terrible place to be.
So… How to solve this problem of all problems. In the above photo, you see what I call a Mind-Map. It’s part of my planning process. (I’m not going to take the time to explain the Mind-Map process – that’s a different post for a different day.) Usually, this “planning” stage can go on indefinitely, until I decide to just dive in and start writing (I am a notorious pantster). But that obviously doesn’t work for me. This is how I’m trying to transform my writing process:
- Limited Research Time. Because of who I am as a person, I could start researching ancient China and end up learning awesome things about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Interesting? Yes. Productive? Sadly, no. Setting a time limit (hopefully) will keep me on track.
- Accountability Partners. Ones that aren’t afraid to tell me to get on with it.
- Actual Planning. This is legit So. Hard. BUT if it works, the pain will be worth it. I need direction.
- Deadlines. When I was in university, I was that student – you know, the one who wrote her paper the night before it was due. I tried – really – to write it ahead of time, but without a sense of dread, immediacy, anxiety, terror, horror (or all of the above) I found my work lacked that certain spark that pushed it over the edge from just ok to great. So, YAY for deadlines!
All this to say: for those of you out there struggling – stay with it. Stay focused. Don’t be distracted by new ideas; be confident in your current project. And, above all else, finish what you’re working on because no one’s going to do your work for you.