Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The First Deadly Sin of Writing

(Because I'm on a seven deadly sins roll lately. Blame Fullmetal Alchemist.)

But anyway. When you read the post title, what came to mind? Besides plagiarism, I mean.

I bet was something about stopping before you were finished.

As someone who started roughly 200 stories before my first NaNoWriMo in 2005, three of which made it past page 9, I know what it's like to not be able to finish something. Most of those weren't thought out at all; I just sat down and wrote until I ran out of words (which happened quite quickly), and I really didn't think anything of it. If I ever knew what to write next, it would still be there, because I never, ever, ever delete anything. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm an unrepentant packrat.

Since NaNo '05, when I first found out I really could finish something, and quickly (the first thing I ever finished was a fanfic, but we don't speak of it), I've been trying harder than ever to actually stick with stories until they're done. I haven't had a whole lot of success, but I've actually been trying.

Well, just before NaNo '06, the plot I'd had since January got, for lack of a better word, usurped by a new idea. It seemed interesting and fun to write, so I went with it.

When I was consistently dragging myself to the computer just to get the minimum of daily wordcount for the first week, I excused it as NaNo's sophomore curse. Stupid of me, I can see now. But I kept going.

I finished out the month with flying colors--71,004 words, with two days of more than 11k apiece. But I still couldn't finish the thing. I took a hard look at it and realized that my MC had no personality, and I set out writing it from a different, more involved character's perspective.

Forty-five thousand words later, I looked at the computer screen and thought, I can't do this anymore.

That night (April 28th) I couldn't sleep. I had too much bouncing around my head. Eventually (this was around 12:30, so technically April 29th), I pulled out a pad of sticky notes and wrote plot points out on them in the glow of my clock.

The next morning, I had the skeleton of a story I started a year ago and loved, all ready to go.

I took the next two days to really think about what I wanted to do, and on May 1st, I made the official switch. I'm 23,000 words into it and loving it still. I really think I can finish this one. In fact, I know I will. More than I've known that for anything before. Seriously.

So, there's my confession. I would feel guilt for committing the first deadly sin of writing...except that this story had gotten to the point where it was a writerly sin to keep writing it. I hated it that much.

Questions (because I am a nosy soul): Have you ever just flat-out refused to write another word on a certain story or project? How many stories did you start before you finished one? If this isn't your first deadly sin of writing, what is?

Also, thank you for the Mother's Day and birthday wishes.


Heather Harper said...

All. The. Time.

It's an affliction.

Miri said...

I completely agree. An affliction only curable by a break and chocolate on most occasions.

ERiCA said...

I used to have this problem, and then around January of last year, I decided I couldn't call myself a "professional" writer (not that I'm published or anything, just meaning I'm aiming down that track) if I didn't actually finish the books I claimed I was writing. So a new rule was born: no starting a new book until I'd hit The End on a rough draft of the current book. According to The Rule, it's okay if it never gets beyond rough draft, but the happy surprise is that once I slog through 400 pages, I end up kinda liking the thing. So stick with it! You can do it! I believe in you! Believe in yourself!! =)

Miri said...

Thanks, Erica, and good for you!

I really wish I could muster that kind of determination. But my writing time is so hampered by compulsory life-stuff currently that I can't spend time writing something I hate, y'know? (On the second of June, it gets abruptly better, but it'll also mean I have to work harder to keep myself motivated. But that's a post in itself. Note to self.)

Maybe I'll get there someday. For right now, I'm gonna finish my new one.

Patrick said...

This is the tough one. I wouldn't call it a sin, but if you never finish one it is a problem.

I'm actually in a similar situation.

I was 50% of the way through a novel when I got stuck. The thing is, the original intent of the story was to write, seat of the pants, once upon a time to the end. That's it. It was supposed to suck and be crappy and all that.

What happened though was I fell in love with the characters and the story, just not the manuscript. I hated the words and couldn't turn the story in the direction I wanted/intended it to go.

I was struggling to get my butt in the chair because I couldn't write the next scene because the manuscript had gotten away from me.

Then I had a distraction when an agent suggested I write a different project. Then life rolled in and I've been too occupied to work on anything.

So, in someways I feel really bad that I didn't finish that first project whose only goal was to be finished. But in other ways I feel freed to start over on that story with the purpose that I intended.

Carrie said...

My comments comes a bit late... but sometimes I think you have to set stories aside. It just shouldn't become a habit. I'd written about 50k in one ms that two agents requested (long story how I marketed it before finishing - not my intention). Then I halted the forward momentum in order to clean up the partial to send. Then NaNo 06 hit and I couldn't work on that story because I was already halfway into it. So I started a new project - just for NaNo. It was the start of a new series, and I was taking a writing class and using this idea for my assignments.

Then, halfway through NaNo and 20k into this new project, the first line of a book hit me. I wrote it down so I wouldn't forget it. But then the second line came to me and I wrote that down too. That first night I wrote 2k of this new idea. This is the book that I'm just finishing up revising now - I wrote it all the way through the end.

And I love this book. Love it, love it, love it. I'm so glad I put everything else aside for this book.

And the funny thing is, about a week ago I read the hook of a book that sold recently, and it was totally the same hook of the NaNo project I'd been working on. So if I'd stuck with that project, I would have finished it just in time to be second to market - to be told that a book like mine just sold and that I was just too late to the party.

So long post even longer... sometimes you should put things down, but you gotta prove to yourself that you can finish something first, and you have to put things down for the right reasons!