At lunch the other day, I was telling my friend Betsy that I decided to put my playwrighting class on hold in order to focus on finishing my YA novel. “I have a tough time completing things,” I added. Betsy nodded sympathetically — she knew exactly what I was talking about. You probably do, too. Frankly, I have a raft of unfinished projects crowding my files and jostling around in my piles. There’s my Sojourner Truth play, my Oscar Wilde screenplay: the list goes on and on.
Well, you get the picture. Maybe you’ve got a touch of the same malady: “unfinished-itis.”
I just made that word up, but it’s not bad — it pretty much sums up the situation. The cause of this all-too common writer’s complaint? Your guess is as good as mine. It could be fear of failure. Fear of success. Laziness. Lack of motivation. Lack of self-esteem. Lack of post-project planning. Lack of time. Lack of sleep. Stress. Who the heck knows!
One thing I do know is that a project that’s hanging fire is frustrating and unrewarding. You can’t let it go and you can’t get it going. Know the feeling? Well, this time around, I made up my mind to finish my YA novel come hell or high water. And you know what? It still needs work, but it has a beginning, middle, and end. Now that’s progress! A few tips on pushing through that might be helpful on your end:
Find the courage to commit to yourself: This time around, I made a conscious decision to
honor all the time and energy I had invested in starting my story by finishing it. This meant giving up some leisure activities I enjoyed and sitting at my desk instead.
Keep your forward motion: Whenever I got feedback on what I’d already written, I put it
aside and kept pushing my story forward. If I hit a plot snag, I called my sister Stephanie, the ace editor, and we came up with a solution of some kind, so I could keep going.
Work steadily: This is key. Every day, no matter what else was going on, I managed to write some pages. During my revision phase, I’ve worked hard to put in 2-3 hours each weekday to rewrite and restructure. Sure, I’ve missed some days here and there, but generally, I’ve kept to this schedule. It’s made a big difference.