I give a lot of advice on this blog. Most of it, like most good advice, is based on failure. I’ve messed up a lot, so I know what I’m talking about.
Let’s say you’re a few chapters into your story, or maybe even 75 or 100 pages… and you’re just not feeling it. At all. What’s more, you have this new idea for a story. It is so much better than the stupid, lifeless thing you are working on! What should you do?
You should finish your story.
Okay, hear me out.
It’s actually fine to toggle between a few projects. It’s okay to set something aside to marinate, begin a new thing, and come back to your first thing.
But if you’ve never finished anything? Finish. You can study and read up and write all you want, but there are things that you can only learn by finishing a story.
Don’t be like I used to be, and write 100 pages of a bunch of novels and then abandon them. Yeah, I told you this advice was rooted in failure.
If you don’t finish things often, or you haven’t finished anything lately? Again, finish. You need to know you can do it, and not just once or even twice.
The old adage, Finished is better than good, is an adage for a reason.
I’ll give you an example. I will admit to not being a fan of E.L. James’s 50 Shades of Grey. (I’ll pause while she dries her tears on one of the thousand dollar bills she uses for Kleenex.) In general, I tend to appreciate popular things, but there are several reasons why I dislike this book, and the mild kink is not one of them. I didn’t read the other two books in the trilogy.
But here’s the thing. She did finish a damn trilogy. Have I finished a trilogy? No, I have not. So I have to respect that effort, and I have to give myself a chance for some success — by actually finishing what I start.
If you keep on chasing after one beautiful story concept after another, it can make you like a person who’s terrible at committed relationships. You can’t stop wondering if something better is out there.
Sometimes stories are excruciating for most of the first draft. Soulless, cheesy, cliched, or all of the above. Maybe you think there are a thousand stories like it. Maybe you realize there are no stories like it, and you wonder if it will have a tiny audience. You might tell yourself: This story is awful. Why the hell did I even start it?
Trust the instinct that led you to the story in the first place. Don’t overthink things. Just see it through. As you plug away, you’ll encounter new insights into the characters and new plot points. It will get better as you go along.
The thing you don’t like about the first draft isn’t your story. It’s just your writing. If you start a new story, you’ll have the same problem.
But if you hang in there and take it to completion, your writing will become better and better all the time.
Anyway, nobody wants to buy your unfinished book. Editors don’t want it. Agents don’t want to represent it (unless you are already a bit famous, in which case, will you write a gushing quote for the cover of my next novel?). Readers do not want to read it.
So finish the thing you’re on. You’re going to be so proud of yourself.