CLOSING NOTE: BEST OF 2016:
Julie Pitzel has been a receptionist, radio DJ, bill collector, telemarketer, administrative assistant, community college instructor, and an expediter (aka professional nag). Sheís been involved in the Houston writing community for many years including two years as President of a local Romance Writers of America Chapter. She writes paranormal fiction from a geodesic dome south of Houston, where she lives with her husband and a pair of cats.
ARE YOU GOING TO FINISH THAT?
by Julie Pitzel
Iím not asking about your dinner or the chocolate decadence brownie built for three. Iím asking about your current Work-In-Process (WIP). How many first chapters do you have stored away that never reached ďThe EndĒ?
Itís a problem many of us have. After all, the first chapter is fun. Weíve got the meet-cute, or the gruesome murder, or the meet-cute over a gruesome murderówhatever.
Weíre introducing characters, and opening the plot, and everything is bright and shiny. This is going to be THE story. Agents will fall over themselves to represent us. Editors will enter into a bidding war. Hollywood will knock our door down for the film rights.
We polish the first chapter until it blinds us. Depending on the contests we enter, that polish may extend through the first three chapters. And then we write some more, and the characters donít cooperate. The plot takes a shift into a brick wall, dialogue becomes forced and dead, goals and conflicts become clichťd and boring.
Our brilliant story becomes a bunch of letters on a computer screen and we lose interest. Or we become convinced that we donít have the talent to complete this story. Or we get an idea for a new storyóa better storyóand decide we have to start writing that one now.
Whatever the reason, we abandon the current WIP.
Take inventory. Of the last five stories you began, how many have you finished? How many boggy middles have you waded through to get to the climactic end?
Iím not asking if they were publishable or even any good. Thatís not the issue.
Because, if your computer is filled with wonderful polished Chapter 1ís that never go on to the Epilogue, you wonít know if they could be publishable.
Sure, there are times we have to abandon a project. Maybe you started a young adult novel and discover a few chapters in that you canít reconnect to your angsty teenage years. Or your research reveals that there were no Crusaders in Regency England. Or you simply never connect with the characters.
Sometimes we arenít in the right frame for a particular storyóand thatís okay. But if you abandon more stories than you complete, you have to start asking yourself some serious questions.
First off, look at each unfinished manuscript and figure out why you stopped writing that novel.
If you stopped because youíre bored, maybe youíve plotted out too much detail. If you stopped because youíre bored, maybe youíve plotted out too much detail. Most pantsersóauthors who write by the seat of their pants, myself includedódonít do more than a sketchy plot because once the storyís told we canít get enthused about writing it. If thatís the case, put your plot aside and do some free writing. Let your characters push the story. Drop the proverbial dead body onto the page and see where it takes you.
Or you could have the opposite problem. You get a few chapters in and donít know where the story is going, or youíve set up a couple of sub plots and itís become confusing. Then you may need to write from a plot. Take a little time to map things out. At the very least, set up story turning points. A little more structure could be what you need.
What if you stopped writing because you just didnít like the story? Most of us write what we like to read. If you donít like what youíre writing, you may be trying to write to the market rather than your own interests. Maybe there isnít a market for the zombie-space-cowboy-secret-baby-novel of your heart. But thereís a much better chance of a completed zombie-secret-baby novel selling than the unfinished manuscripts written to capture the latest trend.
And maybe you arenít a novelist. Some people struggle to keep their manuscripts under four hundred pages and some have difficulty getting past fifty. You may have great ideas for a novella or even a short story and those ideas just donít translate to a full length novel. If youíre stories regularly fizzle out after a couple of chapters, you might try turning them into shorter worksóor brainstorm to develop conflicts that will support a longer story.
We all write differently. If you abandon more projects than you complete, making a few changes to your process might be all you need to change that trend.
And if you arenít going to finish that brownie, Iíll get a clean fork.
Copyright © 2013 by Julie Pitzel.
Heart's Kiss Magazine: Issue 1: February 2017
Copyright © 2017 Arc Manor LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Copyright © 2017 Arc Manor