Stories Left Unfinished

It’s been quite some time since I wrote any fiction. Well, let me rephrase that: it’s been quite some time since I finished any fiction. My first novel scared me off of writing for a while. Like years. It’s unpublished and for good reason. It’s really awful. I know this because I gave it to an old english teacher who didn’t have the courage to tell me just how bad it was; she just stopped talking to me. Can you say ouch? I used to be embarrassed about it, but I’m not anymore.

Everyone has to start somewhere.  When I placed my tushie in the computer chair and my hands on the keyboard determined to write that first book, I knew absolutely nothing about the craft of writing. I had only passion and determination, and it drove me through a plotless fifty thousand words of flat, lifeless characters and thinly veiled references to my own life (I feel no shame about admitting it because I think all authors start out a tad bit on the autobiographical side).

It’s been about five years since then.  The road from there to here is littered with half finished manuscripts. I’ve learned a bit about the craft and I’ve imitated other authors’ voices as I’ve struggled to find my own. I’ve had a lot of stops and starts and I am just now starting to feel confident. I feel like now, after five years, I am finally coming into my own.

And I haven’t finished a manuscript in five years. That’s okay. I know all the writing advice out there always says to finish what you start, but like all writing advice, I don’t think this is true for every writer, especially the beginner. Every single story I started and didn’t finish, with the exception of one, mayyybee two, I left unfinished for a good reason. It might have been a thin plot, a terrifically awful protagonist, or inconsistent tone. These stories were unfixable for me at the time. I didn’t have the necessary skills to even recognize what was wrong with them. I just knew something wasn’t working. With the exceptions I mentioned above, I think it was probably a lack of courage and discipline. The fact of the matter is I can look back now and say with certainty that I learned from those experiences and I’m a better writer for them.

If you’re following my blog (I have a handful of readers at the time I’m writing this), you may have noticed that I’ve started posting less frequently, once a week instead of twice. The reason why is because I’ve been working on a novel that’s finishable. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’s going to need several rewrites, but all the main elements are there.  It works. The characters have depth. The plot flows along. The tone is pretty consistent.  It’s exciting for me and I’ve been dashing towards the finish line. It probably won’t be publishable, but it’s a pivotal moment in my writing life. For the first time, I can see how all the elements of fiction writing fit together and play off of one another.

Here’s to finishing the next one. and the next one. and the next one.