For the last four years, I’ve taught creative writing workshops to kids of all ages. And here’s something I’ve noticed: the older the kids (and by “older” I mean 13-18), the longer their stories, and the less likely they are to write a story all the way through to the end.
The kids I work with are some of the most creative, dedicated, enthusiastic writers I’ve met. But as they get beyond simple stories (Bob the unicorn finds a magic ring and learns to fly) and into stories with rich characters and complex story lines, it gets much more difficult to take a story all the way through to its conclusion. The inability to finish a story (and some of the stories my students are working on are 30, or 65, or 150 pages long) plagues writers of all talent levels. The fact is, writing a complete, beginning-to-end work of fiction is a damn hard thing to do. Getting to “The End” is riddled with challenges, including maintaining your enthusiasm for your original story idea through tens of thousands of words and figuring out how to actually create a complete story arc from that wonderful idea that seemed so rich when you began.
But finishing is what distinguishes writers from “maybe-someday”-ers. Finishing a novel or novella is an incredible accomplishment, and something few people ever do. Whether your work is published or not, that finished manuscript is an achievement you’ll have for the rest of your life.
I’m a dedicated “pantser,” but I’ve finished and published three novels. With each book, I reached a point where I was convinced that a) I would never finish; b) that finishing the book was truly impossible; and c) that the fact that anyone in the history of the world had ever finished writing a novel was a wonder up there with the hanging gardens of Babylon and the Taj Mahal (and that took 20+ years to complete). But I finished every book anyway. Here are a few of the tricks that helped me get to that blessed final page: [Read more…]