Those unfinished novels

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Writers write. That's what we do, all through our lives, to a greater or lesser degree. Writing isn't the problem. Being consistent and productive: now that's the real trick.

I've lost track of how many projects I've started and never finished. Going way back to the 90s I've always had something I've been working on, whether it's a short story or a novel or a screenplay. Sometimes I even finish the first draft and get a rush of achievement; but then comes the editing, and the distractions, and the procrastinating.

That's how projects always start: with enthusiasm and drive and passion. You plough through that word count, ideas flow, and you think this is the one. But at some point your attention drifts or another idea sparks in your brain, and off you go, chasing down endless unfinished ambitions.

Sound familiar? It was definitely my experience as a young writer. Sure, I had aspirations of getting published or turning my writing into a career of some sort, but that destination seemed so far removed that it had no relation on my current situation. And thus, my motivation ebbed and flowed. Sometimes a story would grab me and insist it be told, while other times it would all seem pointless. The creeping doubt that it's all for nothing doesn't help when you're trying to pound your way towards 100,000 words.

Writing a novel is like climbing a mountain. It's seemingly endless and unknowable and most people never even try, while the rest give up somewhere on the way to the summit. Even when you get to the top, utterly exhausted, you realise that you still need to climb safely back down again before it truly means anything. Tenuous editing metaphor.

My hard drives are full of half-finished projects. There's even two full novels completed to a rough first draft state but never edited to publishable quality. Years of work, yet it languishes in the digital dungeon of my computer's darkest recesses, unread.

The thing about life is that it tends to get busier and harder as you get older. More responsibilities, more family, more jobs and less creative time. It becomes increasingly easy to come up with legitimate-seeming excuses for not writing, until one day you're 70 years old and your dream of being an author has faded to nothing but a crumpled childhood memory.

If you're one of those people who is super productive and successful before they're even into their mid-twenties, this book probably isn't going to speak to you. But if you're like the rest of us, and like me, desperately wanting to reach your potential as a fiction writer but unable to reconcile that with school/work/babies/partners/mortgages/etc, then read on.

In early 2015 I fixed my procrastination issues. I wrote a 94,000 word novel in just over a year, without it interfering with - or being interrupted by - the rest of my life. And the thing is, it turned out to be pretty easy.

Have you had difficulties finishing projects?

Next up: Serialisation is the key!

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