If you’re a good starter, but a bad finisher, how are you ever going to get your novel written? That’s a question many fiction writers face.
Rebecca posted this question on my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page:
Is there a magic pill for someone like me?
I can’t seem to complete my first ever “bad” first draft. I’ve berated myself to no end as I struggle to complete just one of the many novels I’ve started and stopped writing over the last couple years, never able to get past the first couple hundred pages, which is when I tend to hit a block, usually seconding guess my story. And yes, I admit, am a chapter-one-aholic (Re-reading and re-writing chapter one . . . a lot!)
Writing classes, workshops, and conferences; critique groups; following blogs like Randy’s; reading a ton of craft books (including “Writing Fiction For Dummies); reading specific genre novels; writing every day for hours . . . Snowflaking, outlining, pantsing, storyboarding . . . I feel like I’ve done it all in hopes of gaining the willpower to keep moving forward. And I continue to do each these things, all the while trying to reach my goal to finally type the words “The End” on the blank last page of my completed novel.
I love writing, and I’ve been writing every day since I fell in love with the art a little over two years ago. I have so many stories I’m interested in writing, filed away — on my computer, on many sticky notes, in stacks of notebooks, in my ever-buzzing brain . . . Is there something out there I haven’t tried to cure me of this so-called hitting-a-wall illness?
One thing I haven’t tried is a writing mentor. Would someone like me benefit from a personal writing mentor to guide me, coach me, push me along the way? Could that be the magic pill I need to get me off the starting block and finish a first draft so I can move on to the next steps?
Any advice — or a magic pill! — you have to offer is greatly appreciated, Randy! Your blog has so many wonderful articles with great advice and interesting tidbits. Thank you for that!
Randy sez: If I had a magic pill to help people finish what they start, I’d be Xtremely rich. I started working on a magic pill like that once, but . . . then I got interested in something else.
I plead guilty to the same sin. I start more things than I finish. My only consolation is that it’s probably impossible to do the reverse. (How could you finish more things than you start?)
A mentor might be the answer. When you go to the gym, you probably work out a lot harder if you have a personal trainer there to crack the whip or urge you on.
I’d love to have a mentor, but I don’t. Instead, I have my writing buddies, and when I need help in getting things done, I turn to them.
Rebecca, do you have a writing buddy? Somebody to whom you can be accountable?
There are two basic kinds of accountability: carrots and sticks.
A carrot is a reward for good behavior; a stick is a penalty.
I tend to respond better to sticks. When I start having motivational problems, I talk to my writing buddy John, and we set up specific behaviors that I have to meet, on pain of paying a $10 fine. I can afford the fine, but I’d rather eat broken glass than pay a fine for something as stupid as not getting out of bed on time. So this works well for me.
Rebecca, for you, the desired behavior is to produce a certain quota of pages per day for your novel. (You probably want to exclude weekends.) Or possibly you might want to produce a certain quota per week. The rule is that the pages have to be on one particular novel and you’re not allowed to quit until the novel is finished. No excuses allowed. You either put out the pages, or you pay up the fine.
See if this works for you. Find a writing buddy and set up an accountability system. You’ll be amazed what you can do when you have to. And you’ll be amazed at how small a fine it takes to produce the right behavior.
If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in public on this blog, hop on over to my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page and submit your question. I’ll answer them in the order they come in.