I’ve wrote in public for almost five years, and one of the questions I often receive is: How do you complete a story? While I wish there was a magical answer for that question, there isn’t. Instead, I offer these suggestions:
1. JUST KEEP GOING. This is, by far, the single most difficult thing I deal with. I’ve started numerous stories and have met tons of characters, but out of all them only five books have been completed (and one short story.) Why? Because I quit. I came to a part of the story I despised, or in some cases I grew to dislike the main character. With thorough revisions, those things can change. The key is to keep going. If you don’t like your main character, put him/her in a situation that changes their views. If you don’t like the part your writing, skip to a scene you do want to write and tackle the despised part later. GET THE STORY FINISHED. Everything you don’t like can be adjusted afterward.
2. GET AWAY FROM DISTRACTIONS. I’ll admit, I’m a huge procrastinator. For example, I’m supposed to be working on a novel as I write this. Truth is, sometimes I don’t want to. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, painting my fingernails, they’re all distractions I’d rather do than write. But distractions won’t finish your story. If you listen to music, put a playlist on and put your phone in a drawer. If you’re like me and can’t control your urges to scroll your Twitter feed, put your phone in a drawer and get away from the internet. Basically, put your phone up (unless you must have it out.) You can also paint your fingernails later. Save that for a relaxing evening or a reward for finishing your scene.
3. KICK WRITER’S BLOCK IN THE BEHIND. Ah the dreaded writer’s block. It has plagued many writers, but few have prevailed. Just kidding, many have prevailed. Here’s how you can to:
- Go for a drive. I do some of my best writing while I’m driving to my mom’s house.
- If you’re stuck on a scene, think about what you would do. How would you react? What would you say? Most characters have a piece of you in them. Use that to your advantage.
- Listen to music and focus on the lyrics. The first story I ever wrote came from “Just a Kiss Goodnight” by Lady Antebellum. The story was unexpected and derived totally from that song. Song lyrics are powerful and they strike people in different ways. Find a song that resonates with your story and use it to channel a scene.
- Take a shower. Like driving, this is one of the places I do my best writing. I also head-write while blow-drying my hair. What can I say? It works.
- Go for a walk. This is dual-advantageous. You get to clear your mind and let the inspiration flow, and you also get time out of the house and away from the computer. It’s a win-win.
4. REMEMBER IT’S JUST THE FIRST DRAFT. I recently researched how well-known stories changed between the first and final draft. I was astounded to discover that even the most loved and cherished tales of our generation (Harry Potter, The Hobbit) changed. That was eye-opening. If the greats had to revise, should I really expect my story to be perfect on the first go-round? NO. The point is to finish the story. Nit-pick it later.
5. JOIN A WRITING COMMUNITY. This is crucial. I joined an online writing community in 2012. Had I not, I wouldn’t be published. I say that because the reader’s feedback and support was the primary driving force behind me finishing my first story. People relied on me for updates, and were interested in my characters. While I look back at that story and cringe, at the time I couldn’t let those people down with a half-concocted tale that would never be finished. I can always do the revisions when I have time, but at least it’s done. That’s the goal, isn’t it?
The take away from this is get the story done. Quit criticizing your writing. Quit picking apart plot points. Every writer will deal with the same issues. GET THE STORY FINISHED, then you can scrutinize.