Finish One Story, Don’t Chase Ten

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your humble host

Is that you?

LOTS of stories in various stages of being written…

…and none actually WRITTEN?

I wouldn’t be too hard on yourself. It’s pretty common.

And why does it happen? Easy. It’s a (constant) case of “Oh, that looks exciting! And that!”

And that…

and that and that and that and that…”

To be a writer, you are going to have to make yourself eat your vegetables before you can have dessert.

You pick one story and you say that’s it. The rest of the stories don’t exist until I finish this one.

Finishing one will cause them all to get finished. Chasing ten rabbits won’t finish any.

The other ones will call to you.

You’ll get good ideas.

Make a quick note and stick it away.

Don’t pursue the ideas. Pursue one story.

Until you finish it. 

Then pursue the next one! In time, they will all get done.

You just have to decide: Is your goal to be somebody who finishes a story and publishes a book, or somebody who has lots of great ideas?

Because everybody has lots of great ideas.

Every writer you know has a binder full or a file full or a computer full or a notebook FULL of ideas for great stories.

But all they will ever be from this day on is just that: stories. In a notebook.

Finish one. Now it’s a completed story, or a book. Whatever you want it to be.

Let the amazing stories that live within you become alive. Let them be born!

It starts with one.

So right now, today, this moment, you decide which one.

And you start on it and you stay on it until you finish it.

I would start with an outline. Where does the story go and how does it finish? It might be three sentences, but most of the reason people don’t finish stories is because they don’t know how they end.

They write for a while until the excitement wears off and then they “hit a wall.”

Or they suddenly develop “writers block.”

When all they had to do was spend an hour thinking about where the story ought to go, jotting it down, and then using it as a road map. And of course you are allowed to take detours, and you’re allowed to change the destination! If you come up with a better ending, use it. But without a map, you’re unlikely to get there.

The other reason is because every new exciting idea sounds like a lot more fun than the hard work of writing one to completion.

Oh, and if you DO write a book, people might read it and say it sucks. Never finishing is a way to prevent that. You’ll always be able to pretend it’s a masterpiece without having to find out it isn’t, or doing the real work of making it into one.

But.

If you can exert that discipline on yourself and get serious, one day, many moons from now, you will be able to look back and say this:

I did it.

I wrote a book.

You will have something you can hand to your children or your friends or your grandchildren. You will have something that will live on.

 or…

You can dust off your notebook and say, “I wish I had finished one of the ideas in here.”

22 thoughts on “Finish One Story, Don’t Chase Ten

  1. Being cantankerous and stubborn I don’t give a fudge about such doubts; the downside being I trudge or stampede through stories in ways I would not wish other folk to follow.
    That said and off my chest, I agree with these sentiments for ‘normal’ writers who genuinely strive and justifiably concern themselves. These are wise words.
    Has to be reblogged.
    Thanks Dan for your invaluable contributions to the writing community.

    Liked by 1 person

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