What if you’re too creative? What if you never finish anything because you keep getting new ideas that excite you more than the one you’re working on? What if you’re a good starter, but not a strong finisher?
Elizabeth posted this question on my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page:
Hi Randy! I had a question I hoped you could help me with. I love stories, and I have many ideas that I believe I could write into books. Problem is that I tend to hop back and forth on which one to write. I start on the one I’m interested in, make some progress on character info and the story, then I get interested in another story idea and want to write that. Often I never even start writing the actual book.
Clearly you can see that isn’t very productive. I know it, and often those ideas just sit half formed. It’s not that they couldn’t be good stories. I give my characters fears, lies to believe, a dark moment in their past, and have some idea for how the story would go. I just lose interest. Do you have that problem? If so what do you do?
I’m now trying to write a shorter story around 30 to 50 pages. I think that might help make it easier to finish something. What do you think? Thanks a million! God Bless!
Randy sez: Yes, losing focus on a story is a problem. No, it’s not one I suffer with. (I tend to go the opposite way and hang on to stories for very long times.) We all have our tendencies, and not all of them are productive. So how would I solve Elizabeth’s problem?
I can think of three directions she might go. I don’t know her exact life situation, so I can’t guess which of these might work best. Maybe none of them will work for her. But listing them out here may give her another idea. And I suspect this is an issue that a lot of my Loyal Blog Readers might have.
So for those of you who aren’t strong finishers, here are three suggestions.
Elizabeth has already suggested the idea of writing shorter, and it’s one I rather like.
If it’s hard to stay focused on a long project of several hundred pages, it might be easier to stay the course on a short project of a few dozen pages.
You might take this even further and work on flash fiction of a few hundred words up to a thousand words or so. You can write a piece of flash fiction, edit it, and polish it to perfection in an hour or two. That’s really not enough time to get bored.
Juggle Your Stories
It might also work to give yourself permission to be working on several stories at once. The idea here is that you always work on the one you have energy for. Then when that starts to feel stale, switch to another for a while.
This works if the problem is boredom, rather than an unwillingness to finish. I have a co-worker who likes to have numerous tasks on his pile. He’s constantly switching from one to another. Wouldn’t work for me, but it works for him.
But if the problem is that you really don’t do well with finishing projects, this isn’t going to work. You’ll just juggle more and more and more, without ever crossing the line on any of them.
Write With a Partner
I’ve worked with a coauthor, and it worked out well for both of us. All authors have strengths and weaknesses. If you can find one with strengths and weaknesses that complement yours, then this might be the ticket.
If you’re a weak finisher, then what you’re looking for here is somebody who is a strong finisher and can drag you across the line, kicking and screaming.
Why would anyone want to team up with you if they’re such a great finisher? Maybe they’re not great at starting. In that case, you’d be good at getting them revved up, and they’d take care of getting you wrapped up.
So those are three possible solutions to the problem. There may be more, but let’s summarize the ones we’ve discussed:
- Try writing shorter.
- Try juggling multiple stories.
- Try writing with a strong finisher as a partner.
And I suspect my Loyal Blog Readers can think of more ideas. What do you say, readers? Any ideas for Elizabeth? What’s worked for you?
Got a Question for My Blog?
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 the ones I can, but no guarantees. There are only so many hours in the day.
I’ve been trying juggling and short stories for a while now, and I’m really excited about my progress. I’ve finished some flash fiction and gotten over the halfway point on two short stories.
I haven’t finished anything, so I can’t say for sure that this is my answer. But I’m really optimistic!
Instead of a co-author, she could have an accountability partner, someone who is also writing a novel. They could meet (or talk) to work out their plot and character problems, keep each other motivated, and be accountable to each other for a set number of words or pages each week. This has really worked for me in the past.
Thank you Randy and everyone for your help and thoughts! It’s wonderful and I truly appreciate it! 🙂
I’m still in the middle of my first novel, so I am not a strong finisher–yet.
I’ve put a good amount of accountability pressure on myself by telling everyone that I’m writing it … and that is helping me stay focused/make progress. I do not want to have to tell everyone I quit … or that I’m still revising chapter one 3 years from now!
I can only imagine the pride and the boost of confidence that holding a finished product in my hand will bring–even if it isn’t perfect.
Also, I find that when I get bored with what I’m working on, it is sometimes just boredom or frustration with that piece of the story that I’m working on now. If I do some daydreaming or writing about parts of the story yet to come … that gets me excited again.