November 26, 2013

A writer is someone who finishes her projects

Dear M,

Among the many challenges of being a writer, a significant one is not knowing which project to focus on. At the beginning of her writing career, the writer is working on one novel, has completed three short stories and has a few ideas for one more novel, etc. There is no confusion as to which one of these to work on. She may stop the novel for a week so that she can finish that short story that has been burning a hole in her head.

But as time passes, and there are more and more unfinished stories and holes in the head, it becomes difficult to decide which to work on. Should I work on that novel which is in first draft, or the new one in my mind? Should I polish the short stories so that I can try to get them published somewhere? Should I start on new projects or edit the old ones? And when do I start querying for my novel #1?

The correct answer is that there is no correct answer. But if you leave your novel #1 unfinished, you will never be able to let go of it. If you start novel #2, you may be tempted to leave it half way through because a third novel idea has started knocking on your door (and it sounds better than the one you are working on!). And short stories have no manners at all. They keep popping all over the place, unmindful of the time of day or the day of the week. How do you manage all these?

A writer is a person who finishes her projects.

Having two hundred and fifty five unfinished stories does not make you a writer. For all I care, they might be unfinished and unwritten and still in your head, and not on paper. Prioritise. Find out how you can finish each, one by one. It could even be possible to edit one MS in the mornings and write the new one in the evenings. I would not say that is a good idea - switching between stories could baffle us - but, whatever works for you.

It is important to finish, if you are serious about the writing. No one - repeat, no one - likes an unfinished manuscript.

And I look at my Folder full of manuscripts in different levels of completion and I repeat, No one likes work that is incomplete.


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  1. Very relevant. Applies to me too :) Oh you have a way to make me come back each time.

    1. Thank you - what more can a writer ask for?