Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Looking for Absolution

by Holly West

Bless me, oh Gods of Publishing, for I have sinned.

I have a confession to make. It's a long time coming and I hang my head with shame as I write it, but perhaps my admission will give me the peace I'm so desperately searching for. Either that or the commiseration of other writers who are in the same sinking boat I am.

It seems I have become a "non-finisher." In the past year, I've written no less than one hundred thousand words on two separate projects. Project One has been started and re-started three times. Project Two, which I spent the entire summer writing at the expense of Project One, was abandoned somewhere around forty thousand words. Oh, I plan to pick it up again. I just don't know when.

Neither project is anywhere close to THE END. Should I even mention Project Three, a historical mystery set in post-WII Philadelphia that I started writing before Mistress of Fortune was even published? I laid that one to the side because I just can't figure out the story I want to tell.

I turned in the manuscript for Mistress of Lies in November 2013, which means I haven't finished a book in over a year. After completing MOL, I had these grand visions of starting my next project--a stand alone novel set in contemporary Venice, California--and finishing it within six months. Such hubris! I am not that writer and never have been. The only thing that pushed me to write MOL in less than a year was a giant sword etched with the word DEADLINE hanging over my head.

But in spite of this, I come from the Chuck Wendig School of Finish Your Shit. I don't want to be a writer who hops from project to project, always writing but never completing. It mortifies me to admit that I can't seem to pick a project and stick with it to the end.

To me, not finishing projects is just another form of work avoidance. Oh, I can understand the occasional starting of something then realizing it just doesn't have legs. It happens to all of us. But at this point, I'm just f*cking around. Writing words because in order to call myself a writer I have to write but not doing the real work that FINISHING entails.

I've never been a writer who writes for the love of writing. Oh hell no. I write for the love of finishing. That's where the satisfaction is for me. I write because I love to read and I endeavor to give other readers some of the same pleasure I've received from books over the years. I can't do that if I'm not finishing.

(Is it just me or did this conversation somehow turn a little bit sexual?)

Here, then, is my solemn pledge. I've just re-started my current project--that stand alone set in Venice--for the fourth time. I WILL FINISH IT BY JUNE. If it's good enough, I might even send it to my agent. I don't expect you to hold me to this because I know you've got your own shit to worry about, but maybe saying it here will reinforce the deadline in my mind.

Thank you for listening. I'm ready for my flogging now.


Dana King said...

Writers write. Authors finish.

Just sayin'.

Al Tucher said...

Do you write short stories? Do a couple, and see if that gets the feeling of finishing back.

Holly West said...

I recently completed a short story for an anthology, so yeah, that does help.

Scott D. Parker said...

Oh my do I *SO* know what you are going through. As I like to say, "It took me nine months to write my first book and it took me seven year NOT to write my second." Here are two things that I can wholeheartedly recommend. One: write every day. Even if you only have a chance for a sentence, make it a goal to see how many days in a row you can write. One A: Mark those days you write with a big red X on a calendar. After a week, you'll have 7 Xs in a row. Just see how long you can keep it going. One B: write every day until you finish this WIP. Two: Keep a spreadsheet of your daily word count and work the formulas so that you can see your cumulative word count. It's the same concept as the Xs. Do them both. You will be amazed at your productivity.

One thing if you choose to do the everyday thing: set a reasonable goal. There's nothing like setting a goal too high and getting discouraged when you don't get it. Back in 2013, I set it at 500. For 2015, my goal is to write fiction every day. If it's 1,000 words or 10, they are new words. I haven't missed a day yet.

So, recap: start a streak and keep your word count, especially cumulative.

And good luck! You WILL achieve your goal.