I was determined to write a detective story during my summer holidays. I had a pretty amazing idea, I had the characters sketched, and the plot outlined. The morning after I arrived to the hotel, I sat by the pool, switched my laptop on, and wrote for a few hours. The following days I went on writing —less time each day— until I came to a halt. After an initial burst of enthusiasm, all I had was an unfinished story.
As author Roz Morris says,
Most writers who give up are trying to do the wrong thing at the wrong time. Or trying to do too much.
That’s me sometimes. And I believe that’s you, as well. So I went and asked my fellow writers why do they leave some stories unfinished. These are their answers (and mine, too):
- “I don’t have enough time to write”: I have a day job, a demanding family, or a busy social life. Finding a couple of hours to write each day is very difficult.
- “I lost my confidence during the process”: The cool idea I had doesn’t feel cool anymore; my characters are dull, or get trapped in a plot twist… Do I have what it takes to write this story?
- “I’ll never be as good as…”.Put here your favourite storywriter of all times. I’m stuck, so I decide to read some Sue Grafton / Stephen King / James Patterson to get inspired…and I just get “discouraged by comparison”.
- “I start writing, then I have to stop for any reason, then I go back to my story, and I don’t know how to continue it anymore”.
So, what can we do to finish our stories? The answer is very simple: Plan before you sit down to write.
When you plan your story:
- You know what you have to do next, and it’s easier to find time to write that part down.
- You get to know your story inside out: your characters don’t get stuck, your plot runs smoothly, and you can stop writing knowing what you’ll have to do when you come back.
- Your story looks solid enough, so you won’t feel like a failure because you’re not as successful as James Patterson is.
Take it from me: Finish your stories. The only bad ones are the ones you’ll never write.
PS: More on planning soon. In case you need some tips to nail your stories down.