How many of you have at least three manuscripts on your computer or in a desk drawer unfinished? How many have six? 10? (okay you may have a problem).
As writers we all have brilliant ideas in the middle of the night, in the shower, I have them while I’m working out. (Maybe that is because of all the extra oxygen to the brain.) And in the thrill of the moment, we often begin a story based on that idea. Then what happens? It becomes a great novel, a New York Times Best Seller, a movie, and ultimately the author becomes a millionaire. Or maybe it ends up in a slush pile.
How many of us start a new project, gather the research—write the first three chapters or first three paragraphs—and then go back to your work in progress? Leaving your new manuscript to gather dust. We all do. I started to say, wither and die, but they don’t die. They can be revived with a little breath from the dust-blowing action.
We’re going to talk about those brilliant flashes of fiction or non-fiction that are gathering dust unfinished. We’re going to discuss how to drag them out and finish them. Then we’re going to talk about what to do with them afterwards.
We all have the slush piles. I’m not talking about the publishers who have a pile of discards they delegate someone else to send a form letter of rejection to, but writers have them too.
Writers are artists. And artists have souls which need to be nourished. We need to write just like musicians need to play or sing. And so, we do. Sometimes only to hide them in the back of the closet where the world will never see them. Would you do that to an opera or your signing voice?
Sometimes I look at the stories begun on my computer and make a list with a word count attached. And that is how I decide which one to start on again. Take the highest word count story and finish it. Read it again and see how brilliant it was. You don’t put out crap! It’s great! At least to you, and who knows, maybe to someone else too.
I TRY to put out one book a year. Sometimes that happens.
Once a year or so, after my latest book is published, I look at the slush pile, check the word count, read it again and make a list. I will work on these stories in the order of word count. I make myself finish (with the help of my critique group) one book and then go on to the next. These ideas were good once and they still are.
Give yourself deadlines when you look at your word counts.Writing 500 words per day or 2 pages, will get you 2 novels per year! 500 x 365 = 182,500 words/ 2 is 91,500 and most novels are 85,000 words. I realize that word count is a very small part of writing a novel, but without it, you have nowhere to start.
You need to set goals that are attainable to you. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Find that old story you started and make it work this time. You are already partially to your goal, and you will feel such accomplishment having finished what you started. Then as another flash of brilliance hits your brain, write that idea down so you don’t forget it. It will have its day.
I want you to make a pact with yourself today. Which one of those slush pile puppies will make it to the finished pile this year? They are all worthwhile.
Most important, remembers this: you can only finish what you start. Make them final this time and you will accomplish your goal.
What are you reading/writing this week?
I’m reading ‘All Quiet On The Western Front’ (nearly finished…) and currently writing a little light-hearted novella about a guy who turns his life around.
Interesting post Peggy, every good idea always has potential!!
Thanks, Tom. We all do it!
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