Finishing What You Start
Especially when your brain wants something new
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Hi Sooz, thank you for all your writing advice and for sharing your life. My question is I'm a great starter but find it hard to finish - any suggestions? I know about time blocking, or breaking writing down into small chunks but sometimes time is not kind to me.
So, my first instinct upon reading your question was that you’re like me: you love shiny new ideas. You love exploring new worlds and new characters. But oh boy, a book is actually really long, and getting to the end is a struggle once the magical newness has worn off.
This might NOT actually be your problem, so feel free to leave a comment if it isn’t. I will try to re-tackle the question if what I’m offering below doesn’t help you.
But if you or anyone else reading is like me, then the issue isn’t a time management one. The issue is a creative one.
Like I said above: this is me in a nutshell. I fall in love with new ideas as easily as my daughter falls in love with new desserts. (She loved cookies most of all until she discovered cake, and then that was her favorite dessert…until she discovered dark chocolate.)
In 2022 alone, I’ve started three different books. Only one actually has a middle and an end—the second Luminaries book, and that’s only because I had to finish it because of a contractually obligated deadline.
In fact, this is a running theme for me. I love to start things, but I struggle to find the motivation to finish them. I usually will hit the end of Act 1 or maybe get a nice chunk into the middle of the book, but I never steam all the way through in one go.
The muse comes! She inspires me to write-write-write…and then she flees and I have zero interest in that idea for a while. Like, possibly a long while. (The Executioners Three has taken me 12 years to write. I have dabbled in it every fall…and it’s still missing an ending!)
I don’t love this creative ficklness. In fact, as you might imagine, it makes finishing things that I am contractually obligated to finish a real challenge. It also makes me feel like the most irresponsible human alive. Why can’t I just hammer through a book from start to finish like my friends? Why do I have to write in one project for a month? And then jump to another project the next month? Why can’t I just focus and commit to ONE THING AT A TIME?
I know it annoys my editors too.
Earlier this year however, I was introduced to all of Becca Syme’s work and through her resources and workshops, I have to come to not only accept that my method of writing is okay…but to embrace it.
In fact, my whole goal this year was to finish Luminaries 2 so that I could finally start leaning into my distractible squirrel nature.
And now that L2 is done (just one more round of line edits to go!), I’m finally able to experiment with at finding my natural creative rhythm.
I spent the last two weeks working on something totally new…until I felt the spark on that idea flare out. Then I shifted gears over to the final Witchlands book this week. I'm going to ride this wave for as long as it lasts…
And when that flares out, I’ll shift to whatever project on my hard drive is calling me next. My hope is that I will find a rhythm that allows me to jump from project to project and never get bored. Or more importantly, to never get frustrated when I’m stuck and force myself to keep working on something that simply isn’t ready to come yet.
I’m hopeful this new approach will allow me to not only finish the final Withclands, but also to work on the other projects I owe contractually (Luminaries 3) and whatever else I might want to sell next.
I mean, look at The Executioners Three. I have enough of a book to sell! So all that dabbling each autumn wasn’t a waste of my time! It gave my. brain necessary breaks from contracted works while slowly producing something I can get paid for!
Okay, Sooz, that was a whole lot about YOU and very little about the question.
Fair. But I promise there’s a point here + a takeaway message for all of you.
FIRST OFF: Writing something from start to finish, all in one go, is not the only way to write a book. Nor is it necessarily the best way.
You can absolutely work in bursts and spurts and still finish books, sell books, and have a happy writing career. I know plenty of successful authors who work on one project in the morning and then a different one in the afternoon. I also have plenty of friends who immerse themselves in only one thing and plug away on that until it’s finished.
Both approaches work, as does everything in between!
SECOND: If time management isn’t helping you finish a project, then look at other options:
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