I’ve been telling myself that no one wants to read a heavy-duty confession on a Monday morning. But since this is when my WU slot arises and since my brain refuses to cough up an alternate subject for a post, it appears we’re stuck with seeing this through.
You ready? *deep breath*
Hi. My name is Jan and I’m a recovering serial non-finisher of long-form fiction.
I’ve been writing for about six years now. Five years ago, much to my astonishment and delight, I became the Voice of the Unpublished Writer for WU. The implication of that honor — at least in my mind — was that I’d immediately begin working to put myself out of a job, both to give another writer the chance to be part of this awesome community and to satisfy my own ambition. Yet until a few months ago, barring the travelogue I wrote in grade seven, and which exceeded the suggested word count by 900%, I had never finished the first draft of any long-form fiction.
It’s not that I don’t write or can’t write, though there was a gap of twenty-five years when I pursued the practice of medicine and gave up all dreams of writing fiction. (Perhaps entrenching a habit of self-denial that I’ve had to break again and again.) Since picking up the pen as an adult, I’ve written nearly 500 blog posts for various sites. For a time I edited and wrote for the WU newsletter. I’ve entered flash fiction contests and sent in pages for agent-sponsored critiques. In all instances where I’ve had deadlines set by another party, I’ve met them with time to spare and work, I believe, of a reasonable standard.
I also have a hard drive littered with fiction projects. In one world of linked characters alone, I have three first drafts in the 50,000-80,000-word range. One novel’s first draft is approximately 85% complete, which was how far I got before I started down a frustrating and circular path.
You’ll note, however, that I said I was in recovery.
While I have theories about what holds me back, and theories about what made this project different than my numerous false starts, we can talk about that in another blog post. Today I have a different goal.
Today I’d like to talk to the other serial non-finishers in the crowd, because from casual comments to pleas for help on WU’s Facebook page, I know I’m in good company.
First, to those of you who publicly blew off steam and bared your soft underbelly to the world, thank you. Your comments helped the struggle become impersonal. They gave me hope in the form of thoughts like this one: If X, who is otherwise put-together and a fabulous human being, also struggles to finish, maybe I’m not hopeless. Maybe this is just my awkward writing adolescence. So X, while while I’m sorry for your pain — and trust me, I know how discouraging those months and years of self-doubt can be — allow me to express my gratitude for your openness.
Second, this post is my attempt to pay it back, because when you’ve been a non-finisher for any length of time, two questions lodge in your mind and, like a tick, siphon off creative blood.