Novel Writing
Charlotte Rains Dixon  

The Virtues of Finishing a Writing Project

stop_symbol_plate_238801_lSo, I’m four scenes away from finishing the most terrible Shitty First Draft ever, in the history of man, written.  I started this novel on a sunny afternoon in Collioure last September when I got a sudden inspiration.  I’ve been working steadily on it since then, taking pretty much the whole months of December and February off to deal with more pressing tasks.

The big news about this draft is that it is so bad I nearly abandoned it. I even wrote a blog post about it.  I felt I’d made so many changes in the book that it wasn’t worth it to continue, that I should just start over.

But then I started thinking. As one does.

And I remembered various bits of advice and quotes I’d read.  Like these:

“Finish your novel, because you learn more that way than any other.” James Scott Bell

“Whatever it takes to finish things, finish.  You will learn more from a glorious failure than you ever will from something you never finished.” Neil Gaiman

And then there are Robert Heinlein’s Rules for Writing, the first two of which are apropos to our topic here:

  1. You must write
  2. You must finish what you write.

I felt bad about the prospect of abandoning my poor crappy baby. A baby born in France, no less.  So once I finished the rewrite on my macaron novel, I heaved a heavy, tortured sigh and went back to the horrible WIP, telling myself to just hit the high spots and get something, anything, on the page.

And that’s what I’ve been doing every morning.  I got the idea for this post a couple of days ago.  Back when I was actually enjoying working on the novel for a brief, lovely period.  That was short-lived. This morning I gritted my teeth as I typed every word. (The fact that I had to do a blood draw and COULD NOT HAVE COFFEE until after it may have had some influence.)

But, I will say this.  As the above quotes say, I am learning a lot from busting through to the end.  Ruby, my main character, is finally starting to have a bit of a voice, and I understand her a lot better. Other characters are coming into sharper focus as are overall themes.

Despite the awful writing session this morning, I’m feeling pretty cheerful about it all. Because this afternoon, as penance for not writing a full 2K words, or anything even close to it, I sat down with legal pad and pen to see if I could figure out how much farther I had to go.  And that’s when I realized I had only four more scenes.

Four scenes, people.

I can do this.

And I will be a better person for it. More to the point, my writing will be better as well.

There will be wine at the end. Lots of it. Just saying.


Okay, so dish: have you ever abandoned a project?

Photo by brokenarts.

0 thoughts on “The Virtues of Finishing a Writing Project

  1. Zan Marie

    Go, Charlotte, Go! As for me, abandoned projects live in my cupboard! 16 to be exact. But…and it’s a big But…I learned craft. I learned storytelling. And I learned that I could get further every time. Now, I have a polished project that I’ve pitched and have submission packages to work on. It’s all to the good. I don’t expect to have any more unfinished wonders to pack away. 😉

    1. Charlotte Rains dixon

      Well, you bring up a good point. I have several unfinished novels lurking about. And in a way, I do feel that they still lurk, haunting me because I haven’t finished them. But every project is a learning project, and I think that’s true no matter how much of it you finish and even when you are Stephen King. I’m so excited for your submission packages!

  2. dyoung

    Zan, Your comment gives me hope! And a new lifeblood to my recent thoughts of what I should do. How I should handle this current project that has eaten a hole in my head. Thank you. I shall proceed. With caution 🙂

    1. Charlotte Rains dixon

      Does this mean you are going to finish it or abandon it? (I promise I won’t judge–you need to decide what works best for you. Though I do feel there is much virtue in finishing, as I’ve mentioned.)

  3. Dyoung

    Sadly- I’m going to abandon. HOWEVER- not forever. And I do plan to concentrate on short stories in the meantime. Funny. Because that was some of the advice I had gotten early on but I ignored it. Now, each time I sit down to write I think of things that don’t have to do with the story at hand. So I’m briefly closing that notebook and opening another of sorts ?

    1. Charlotte Rains dixon

      There’s a lot to be said for writing short stories. For one thing, they are short–and thus easier and more satisfying to finish. I wrote a ton of them during my MFA. It never failed, though, that at some point during the writing of a story, I’d think, this could be turned into a novel. Sigh. I’m just a novelist at heart!

  4. dyoung

    I’m wanting to back up just a bit and write my current novel as a short story. That may help me refocus……along with some other snippets, I think it will help rebound down the road a bit.

    1. Charlotte Rains dixon

      That sounds like a great idea. I know some people (raise your hand, J.D.) who write the first draft of their novels almost like a short story or novella and then expand from there. Keep us posted on how it works!

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