I just came up with a great idea for a novel, one rife with conspiracies and action and cool tech stuff and hackers. It’s going to be so fun to write. It’s a novel I would totally read, which make the best novels. The way I’ve got it planned, it should be about 100,000 words, which, if I work exclusively on it, and stick to my 1 million word/year pace, should take a little over a month to draft.
That’s a lot of ifs. So far, I have not been writing at the 1 million/year pace. At my current pace, it might take two months or more to finish a draft of this novel, which is still not so bad. The harder problem is to keep interested in the project for the whole time it takes to write it. I have a bad habit of getting excited about an idea and then losing interest before starting it, or worse, losing steam as I write it.
Here are some other projects I have started but not yet finished:
- I have a beginning of a novel I started for NaNoWriMo 2013. It’s a gritty detective story with a bit of a twist. It’s dark and depressing, brooding and obsessive. The detective is down-and-out, alcoholic or damn close. He’s on a mission that turns into an obsession, and he’s not even sure what he’s looking for. I’m maybe 10,000 words into that, which is really only the very beginning, and I haven’t looked at it in over a year.
- I have 50,000 words or so of a short novel about a tech-savvy young man who forges a connection with his more or less Luddite female professor, which leads him into a strange rabbit hole of conspiracy and weirdness involving the pharmaceutical industry. It is more or less finished, but I need to make a final revision, which I keep putting off.
- I have this grad school memoir I keep talking about that needs editing.
The point of telling you this is that I have unfinished business, work sitting on hard drives that has yet to see the light of day, and here I am starting anew, alighting on another project, getting all excited about a new storyline.
You see why I am worried?
If I were coming to me for advice with the above problem, I would tell myself to shelf the new project and finish those I’ve already started. I would tell me to get those edits done, get those works out into the world before starting something new. If I must, do them simultaneously, if I can find the time and energy, writing in the morning, editing and night.
I think I have the same problem a lot of people do. I start new things before finishing old things, in part to feel like I’m working toward something, so I can pat myself on the back about my daily wordcount, but I don’t finish anything, mainly out of fear. Everything revolves around fear. Or laziness.
Reminds me of one my favorite parts of Waking life, where Louis Mackey asks, “Which is the most universal human characteristic: fear, or laziness?”
Maybe I need to take my own advice, and finish what I start.
Do you have problems finishing projects? Do you start new things before finishing? Let me know about it in the comments below.