Ninth in the 1K a Day Motivational Series, in which I talk about something that happened in the previous week that could have or did prevent me from writing a minimum of 1,000 words on a given day, or possibly talk about something that provided support to get me through the day.
Last week I talked about the water cooler mechanism and how social pressure or even just the desire to stay caught up on a variety of shows can lead to problems. This week I’d like to talk about that tendency to stop forward progress on what you’re doing and start working on something else. I call it “Beginning’s The Best Part”.
When you first start out writing on a new thing, whether you’re an architect writer or a garden writer (I’m garden), the start is always the best. Everything is fresh and new. There’s nothing that came before it to bog down what you’re doing. You’re the ruler of your imaginary kingdom and everything is right with the world.
Then you keep writing on it. Especially for novel-length works or series, you may find writer’s fatigue coming upon you. You look at the way the story has been developing and you realize there are problems with it. There’s some major plotholes early on that need to be worked out before you can continue, but you don’t want to work them out. You just want to write. Maybe the story isn’t as great as it was in your head. Maybe, just maybe, you have another story idea knocking around in the back of your head and oh wouldn’t it be wonderful to work on that instead? It would, wouldn’t it? Yeah, just go ahead and work on that instead.
Annnnnnd halt. This is where it gets tricky. Stopping the progress to work on something else is not necessarily wrong, but it often is the excuse people need to stop working, and once stopped, it’s hard to go back. I should know, I have half a dozen novels in various stages of completion (from 10% to 90%) because for whatever reason I just stopped wanting to work on it. And once I stopped, I haven’t found a reason to go back yet.
So before I talk about specifics, as I mentioned it is not always wrong to stop working on a story. Sometimes what a story needs is time. Maybe you hit a brick wall of creativity and just need to put it down for a while. Maybe you need to percolate on character motivations for a few days, and THEN get back to it. Maybe you need to write a different story altogether in the meantime, and then come back to finish that one.
I’ve done all these things, but mostly I think stopping a story to work on something else (because you’re getting tired of the story you’re working on creatively, emotionally, intellectually, etc.) is just an excuse to stop. You’ve committed to writing that story, so stop getting in your own way, brainstorm or jack the thread of the story in an unexpected direction. Do something to keep yourself moving forward.
So I have been working on Gridfall for a while now (over two months), and in all that time I stopped progress in January to write a short story, I stopped at the end of February to work on a writer’s workshop submission, and I stopped yesterday to work on a Captain Planet fan fiction, of all things. I’ve never written fan fiction before, and it’s for a round robin short story game I’m participating in. Other days I’ve worked on the writing game I also worked on Gridfall, but yesterday was purely Captain Planet.
But in each of those cases I went right back to working on Gridfall. Even though interruption of my forward progress happened, it didn’t happen completely. It’s time to work on the story I need to work on, so that’s what I do.
Maybe that Captain Planet fan fiction is the best thing I’ll ever write. Or maybe that writer’s workshop story I submitted will be more important and I should work on that. The pull was definitely there. But I want to complete what I start, and I can’t do that if I just bounce around constantly.
To finish what you start is maybe the hardest part early on. There’s a million reasons to quit, and only one to continue. The one to continue is this; “I’m a writer, damnit, and I have a story to tell.” If that’s true, you’ll get there sooner than later.
And always remember to write the hell on, writers.