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Writers Tip #47: Finish What You Start

When you read your story, does it sound off, maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong? Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. These writer’s tips will come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments.

Today’s tip: Finish what you start

Why this is a mistake: Kind of obvious, isn’t it? But starting a project is so much more interesting than slugging through the entire thing. The middle section of any piece of  writing, whether it be a novel, narrative nonfiction, a magazine article, even a short story, is almost always kind of hard to work on. The excitement of generating the idea—the lure of the beginning, writing something new—isn’t there, and the lure of the finishing line is as far away as the shiver of the beginning. It’s always easy to get sidetracked by a new idea while you’re in the midst of working on something. It’s also easy for a writer to do just about anything other than write. Check e-mail, go out and walk the dog, do laundry, take a nap, research, market—anything. I’ve always said the hardest aspect of the job of being a writer is writing.

The Myers-Briggs personality test classifies people as either process oriented or result oriented. If you are a process person, you might have a problem getting to the end of a project.

The solution: Suck it up. Keep those new ideas and exciting other projects at bay. For the professional writer who is under contract this is a bit easier because you know your paycheck hangs in the balance, but even then, I know many authors who have a hell of a time bringing a project in on deadline.

For the writer who isn’t under contract this isn’t quite the case. But understand you won’t ever get that contract if you don’t finish a project.

If you are one of those people focused on the process and not the end result, figure out a system whereby you can reward yourself by getting to the end.

The bottom line is simply forcing yourself to sit down and plug away at it. Knocking out words regardless of how you feel. A one-hundred-thousand-word novel might take a year or several years, and then you just come to “The End” one day. But it takes hundreds of days to get to “The End.” As a writer you have to put in those hundreds of days.

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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing TeachersCisco guest blog,Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-monthly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is  editor of a K-8 technology curriculumK-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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8 thoughts on “Writers Tip #47: Finish What You Start

  1. I can definitely relate to this!! I have my days where I struggle with writing. I love to write and it was extremely exciting to complete my first novel and I am currently working on the sequel, but some days are difficult. I do keep plugging away at it though like you said and some days are still exciting. This is what I was meant to do and it will get better. I just have to keep being productive and moving forward. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. “The bottom line is simply forcing yourself to sit down and plug away at it. Knocking out words regardless of how you feel”. The unvarnished truth, no secret, no magic. You just have to do it.

    • I’m always surprised when that material–that I had to scrape out of my consciousness with a ice pick–doesn’t sound so bad when I go back to edit it. Other times, it’s awful!

  3. I always try to finish, but admit there are one or two stories still hanging around my bottom drawers! I know I’ll get to them one day (ummm – yes, “one day”!) ;)

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