A story needs to be finished. And the way to finish is to keep moving it forward, but so many things can get in the way. I have a long trail of writing attempts behind me, littered with unfinished stories.
In pre-computer days, it was a big box with a page of ths story, twenty pages of that story, forty pages of another story. Now it’s all those files om my computer that don’t go further than chapter one. Meg Cabot did a lovely NaNoWriMo pep talk about The Milk Crate of Shame, where she keeps all her unfinished stories.
Her main issue was the lure of the Bright Shiny New Story Idea. I get that one, all the time. I would loooove to give up on the Work in Progress and go back to an old story I got some great new plot ideas for, or start something totally new and exciting. The thing that makes this one so seductive is that it can feel like it actually is forward motion. “Well, I’m stuck on that story anyway, so why not do something different?” The problem is that the new story doesn’t last for long either, and the unfinished story file gets bigger and bigger and… I’ve been so bad for this that my writing buddies made me promise that I wouldn’t start another story until I at least first drafted this one. I’m trying to cheat and claim that the long outline really IS a first draft, but they’re not buying that one.
So now I’m getting stuck in my other forward motion killer, going back to rewrite. “I can’t write any more until I fix what is wrong with what I already wrote.” This is probably the number one thing that has stopped me writing over the years. I get so bogged down in multiple attempts at the first few chapters trying to get the start right, that the story never gets finished, I get disheartened, and I stop writing yet again. The unfinished story file contains a lot of different goes at first and second chapters on the same story! I don’t want that to happen this time too. So far I have three goes at chapter one and two at chapter two. No more!
What I’m trying now when I realise I’ve slipped into too much backstory or exposition is to just highlight the text I want to revise or cut in a different colour font, them jump forward to the next place where something IS happening. Editing it will be hell, but at least I will have something to edit! The 100 word trick is working for getting words down, my word counts aren’t anything to shout about but at least I am writing something on the story every day. No matter how cruddy a day I have had at work, I can fit in a few minutes to write a hundred words. And the hundred will end up being two or three hundred plus, because it’s just impossible to only write a hundred once I start, even if it’s in the five minutes before turning the light off when I’m dog tired, desperate for sleep, dreading how soon that bloody alarm is going to go off in the morning. So the story inches forward, slowly, so slowly, but forward motion all the same.
I’m probably overanalysing myself now, but another reason I’m not writing more seriously just occurred to me. I love getting these little aha moments, whether it’s about my characters’ motivations or my own, ‘cos once I understand why something is happening, then I can move things forward some more. They usually happen either in the bath, or when I’m journalling or blogging.
There’s a little part of my brain that thinks its job it to protect me from being hurt. It ‘s saying if I don’t work too hard at writing, the rejection won’t hurt so much. Somehow I don’t think that is true, it will still be just as devastating! But it is holding me back. Getting the R on my Instant Seduction entry when I had poured so much love and time into developing the story after sending off my entry gutted me. I haven’t had the same energy and commitment for my writing since. I love the writing, but don’t want to risk the pain of another rejection, so I’m not writing. That part of my mind is not believing me saying “So let’s just write for fun, I won’t submit the story.” Especially as the other pledge I made the writing group was that I would send off a partial by March 31st, to use that Comps Slip which is probably nearing it’s metaphorical use-by date.
I’m smiling here, talking about making pledges to the group makes it sound like the wannabe writer’s equivalent of AA. I stand out the front and introduce myself “Hi, I’m Jane and I’m a procrastinator, ” and at the end of the meeting I promise I am going to write so many words this week. LOL- it’s definitely NOT like that! But I do think we all need a cheer squad, some sort of support system to keep us going when writing is tough, and to celebrate our successes with us. The eHarlequin discussion forums are great for that too. I just read this inspiring quote posted there by one of the writers- Courage does not always roar. Sometimes it is a quiet voice at the end of the day, saying… “I will try again tomorrow.” (Mary Anne Radmacher)
In the end, it just comes down to taking it one day at a time, keeping on writing, keeping on with that forward motion, doing it for its own sake, for the love of the story and the characters, getting them to their happy ever after. ‘Cos we can never have too many of those in the world!