Writing from Start to Finish

If I have learned anything during my writing adventures, it is the fact that I never know exactly where to find the next story. Coming up with ideas certainly isn’t a problem. I’m bombarded by them all the time and I take inspiration from some of the unlikeliest of places. The part I struggle with most is taking those ideas and figuring out which to keep and develop and which to tuck safely into the notebook for later. Sometimes the choices I make don’t lead me down the right path.

Probably this is why it takes me so long to get from “Once upon a time” to “Happily Ever After”. Just because I’ve written in excess of 50,000 words, this doesn’t mean that I’ve written a story that is worth reading. This doesn’t mean that I’m going to slap a title on it and push it out into the world hoping for the best. Maybe I should? I don’t know.

I’m struggling with this more now because I’ve already spent months on a single story and I have written it in its entirety more than once already, altering the characters and the actions in order to achieve a story that I like. And I don’t. I don’t like it at all. Okay, so this isn’t completely fair. There are parts of it that I really like – love even. There are little gems here and there that I wish I could share with the world separate from the work in whole because they make me smile or chuckle. I wish, wish, wish that I could pinpoint what isn’t working and figure out a way to fix it, gosh darn it. Why does it have to be so complicated?

Admittedly, I despaired quite a bit. I wondered if I was even cut out for this crazy writing thing? Maybe it would be easier to just quit and move on to something else. What? I don’t know. I milled around the house for a bit, bored and restless, and itching to sit back down and write because well, I’m not sure what else to do with myself if I can’t get words from my head out of my fingers. (This is a strange affliction that I have.) So, I rationalized it by convincing myself that the real problem was a lack of focus and if I just kept at it long enough, I’d work out the problems in the story and I’d get this thing finished and ready for the world. (It would be a relief just to get it out of the way so I could move on to something else.)

Guess what? That approach didn’t work either. Forcing myself to write something is about as effective as not writing at all and the more I tried to push, the more I started to hate what I was doing. Ugh. Not a good place to be. If I’m not enjoying the words I pour into my story then it’s going to show. I’m not clever enough to cover it up. I started to ask myself what would happen if I publish a lackluster story? Could I live with disappointing my readers? No, probably not. I don’t have the heart to publish something if I’m heart really isn’t in it.

It became rather clear that I needed space between myself and the manuscript or else something bad was going to happen. Something that would ultimately end with my computer smashed to pieces. (And that’s just the start.) I didn’t want to give up writing entirely so I tried to appease the irrational creative side of my brain by working on a novella while I let my unruly novel simmer in the corner. I picked up something I’d started a long time ago and started playing. (I have better results when I tell myself I’m only playing.)

Funny thing happened. I’d abandoned this novella because I didn’t really know where it was going. (Typical problem for me.) I loved the start, got a little cloudy in the middle, and then jumped ship when I didn’t know where else to go. That’s okay. I enjoyed re-reading the entertaining beginning and I was intrigued by my own characters and the world in which I’d placed them. I wasn’t sure I could unravel the middle but I gave it some thought….

And came up with an answer! One simple plot fix in my novella and I started writing in a frenzy. Madness. All of a sudden, the characters became people and their situations drew me in closer. I wanted to know more. I answered questions. I created. And lo and behold, I fell in love all over again. That little story that I had hoped to develop into a novella has taken greater depth and meaning than the novel I left to simmer. Go figure. I was focusing on the wrong story all along.

I’m not really sure how I feel about this. I’m excited because I see so many possibilities that didn’t exist a day or two ago. I’m happy because I’m writing again and feeling productive. But another part of me is sort of frustrated that I wasted so much time trying to force one story when my heart belonged to another. Not that I’m in a big hurry but still… I like to think that when I’m done writing a story, I’m going to feel proud of what I accomplished but what I’m discovering is that there are no guarantees when I start a story that I ever really want to finish it.

Then again… maybe when I finish this one, that unruly novel in the corner will be ready to place nice? One can only hope.

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6 thoughts on “Writing from Start to Finish

  1. wordsfromanneli says:

    Sometimes what you need to do is park the ms in a corner and fuggedaboudid for a while. When the idea comes that will fix it, you take it out and do what you did. If it doesn’t come, why waste time on it? Pick up another idea and start a new book.

    • stephanieingramauthor says:

      Good advice! I’m learning this slowly, the hard way, of course. I’m glad that I finally did put it aside and work on something else. I’m a much happier person for it. I hope that inspiration does strike at some point because I would love to go back and finish the unruly one … but I suspect I’m going to need quite a bit of distance before I can see it clearly.

      Thanks. 🙂

  2. Ella Gray says:

    The same thing happened to me, Stephanie. I spent most of last year plugging away at a steampunk novel that just wasn’t working (granted, it was my first attempt at a full ms.) After a very frustrating year, I dropped the whole thing and went back to an outline I’d come up with when I first decided to try writing a novel. Using everything I learned from my mistakes, I was able to turn the old story into something new and better than ever. Now that WIP is in revisions and is completely different from the one I thought I had to write before. Maybe we’ll both get the chance to revive our languishing stories, but as long as the writing is fun I won’t lose any sleep over it 🙂

    • stephanieingramauthor says:

      I’m with you on that sentiment, Ella … as long as the writing is fun. That’s the main idea that I keep holding on to as well. It sounds as though I’m not the only one that has run into this frustration while writing but I suppose it’s all part of the process, right? You obviously learned a lot from writing the steampunk novel that you were able to apply when you went back to your original idea and that is great!

      Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  3. James Garcia Jr says:

    I don’t envy you, my friend with all of those battles that you are fighting over multiple storylines and books. I am glad to hear that you ended up feeling better about things there at the end. Good for you!
    Thanks for the blog visit this week. I’m doing fine. I have decided to put all of my energies into going it alone and things are very exciting at the moment. Thanks for your encouragement.

    -Jimmy

    • stephanieingramauthor says:

      Hi, Jimmy! Thanks. 🙂 So, I’m assuming that by “going it alone”, this means you are considering self-publishing? I know you mentioned having reservations about it because of a lack of time with your full-time job, but it IS very exciting to have that sort of control over your work. I’m glad that you’re feeling good about it and moving forward. 🙂 Can’t wait to read it!

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