Hello, hello. What’s this? Two blog posts in one week? Well, why the heck not?
It’s time for our infrequent and irregular Ask A Smart Guy segment. Let’s start with this comment someone recently posted on the site.
I have been an aspiring writer for five++ years, and still cannot find a method that works for me. Every time I start a story a new story idea pops into my head. The new story idea will nag me to death, until I give the idea some attention. I have thousands of introductions to show for it.
It has gotten so bad, I can barely look at a blank page without a torrent of inner-turmoil welling up to the surface–I want to scream.
I think I may have ADD, or something. How do you keep focus?
Unsurprisingly, I hear this a lot. One of the hardest things about writing a novel is finishing the damn thing. Because novels are long and take a lot of work.
I wish I could give you a novelology secret that allows one to get over that, but it’s always hard. Without exception, by the time I get to the end of any manuscript, I have grown to hate it. I don’t care how awesome the characters are, how great the plot is, or how wonderful I think it is. In the end, I can’t wait to throw it aside and be done with it. So I understand the problem. I still wrestle with it with every book.
So how do I get past it?
Practice. Just as an athlete must train to develop his endurance, so must a writer develop his own endurance. Did you write 25 pages of your last manuscript before giving up on it? Write 50 pages on your next one. And 100 pages on your next. If you keep at it, you’ll discover it’s not so hard.
Another choice is to simply write shorter stories. Once you finish a story, you’ll discover that finishing a story really is a satisfying experience. Start with a short story or a novella. Worry less about the length of your manuscript and more about getting it finished. This might mean you’ll write many stories too long to be short stories and too short to be novels, but consider it practice.
Above all, remember that a single realized story is worth a hundred great unfinished novels. Nobody is going to care if you never finish a single story, but that’s what makes writing a tough job. Especially when you’re only an aspiring writer and only answerable to yourself.
So answer to yourself. Stick with it. If you find yourself growing bored with your current project, you aren’t alone. I get frustrated and bored with everything I write too. But I press on because that’s what you do.
Writing a novel isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon. And you will hit the wall at some point. The only difference between an aspiring writer and a professional novelologist is that the pro pushes on.
So push on. I can’t make you do it, but I can promise you that you’ll be glad you did.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,