On Finishing

When you write in a very organic fashion, as I do, getting to The End can sometimes be a very nebulous goal. Projects often take years to develop, and you can’t quite tell which ones will make the cut. My In-Progress file commonly has 12 to 15 partially completed projects at any given time. Some of them will continue to simmer in the back of my mind until I find an idea that really strikes me – like Hunters. Some of them will no doubt languish in the In-Progress file for years to come. Some of them may never see the end at the light of the first draft tunnel.

But finishing is of the utmost importance to me. For a long time, when I was learning the basics of writing, I would start something with a specific goal in mind – description practice, character building, tension, action scenes, you name it. Those nibs of story got set aside once I’d gotten a handle on the lesson I set myself, but there are lessons you can only get from the finish.

Plot happens in every scene, but without the whole thing, you can’t tell if you’re doing it well. Revision (not just line editing or copy editing, but actual revision) can’t be done effectively on a chunk of an unfinished story. The submissions process, finding an agent, seeking publication – these are things that should happen only after you have a finished product in your hands. So The End is a vital part of the process for a serious writer with intentions to seek publication.

I know a writer who finishes everything she starts. Realistically, I will never be that writer. Not all of my ideas are worth so much time and energy. I’ve never been shy about killing off my darlings when it comes to writing fiction. Growing stories organically puts me at a disadvantage when it comes to timelines, deadlines, and project count, but it offers me a much richer end product than what I have been able to produce from an outline or by line driving through the story. It may not be the most efficient method, but it is certainly my method.

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Do you finish everything you start? How many open projects do you have at a time?

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