Chuck Wendig, as usual, has a fantastic post up at his blog at the moment: Why It’s Important To Finish Your Shit
It’s worth the read, if for nothing else than this line: “I mean, c’mon. Prone-position face-pie? Delicious. Amazing. Transformative.”
I know, that has nothing to do with the topic of the post, but it’s a great line anyway.
So, back to the point: If you want your writing to go somewhere, you have to finish.
Case in point. This month I self-pubbed 12 separate things under four different pen names. A trio of new short stories for M.H. Lee, two non-fiction titles, and nine shorts under two other pen names.
In 2013 (and I started in late August, I believe), I published 8 things. For the entire year. And then another two that were just collections of things I’d already published in early 2014 for a total of 10 things published in my first year of self-pub.
Which means in the last month I published more than I did all of my first year. And guess what? It’s November 27th, the month is not yet over, and my sales for November are equal to all of my sales up to this month.
(Convenient moment to mention that my short story and essay collection A World Dark and Cold is currently on a Kindle Countdown deal for 99 cents in case anyone wants to help me drive that number even higher. It’s also available to borrow through Kindle Unlimited until sometime in January when it will become available everywhere. I’m just typing now so the text and image all nicely line up, so just ignore me for a moment.)
How did that happen? How did I end up with as many sales this month as I had in the last year combined?
I finished my shit and published it.
Will I win a prize for what I’ve published? No. Is anyone going to ever hold it up as the next great American anything? No.
(Is it, however, decent writing that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to admit I wrote? Yes. I don’t put out crap. At least not knowingly. Although I was watching a Bones episode yesterday–The Carrot in the Kudzu–that reminded me just how blind we authors can be to the quality, or lack thereof, of our work.)
It’s not perfect, but I finished it, I learned a little bit more about writing, and I’m going to make enough this month to support my Coca-cola habit. (Which has sadly spiraled out of control in recent months. Not the twenty cans a day I chugged in undergrad, but too much for someone my age. Hm. I should start making murals out of all the little plastic soda can holders piled up in my kitchen…)
So, I’m with Chuck. You have to finish.
Another point to make. The ending of my first novel sucks. (It is not published anywhere, thank you very much.) But I learned something in writing the ending to that first novel, and I’d like to think that the ending of my current novel that has escalating tension and surprises for the reader (that are nicely foreshadowed, I might add) benefits from my having actually finished that first novel.
I knew something was wrong with it and that drove me to read even more about writing craft until I could identify exactly what its shortcomings were.
I wouldn’t have learned those lessons any other way.
Moment of truth here: One of the hardest parts of writing is writing.
I know, that sounds stupid. But it’s true. The hardest part of writing isn’t grammar or plot or structure or characterization. (Although those are all hard.) It’s sitting down day after day, putting your butt in a chair, and putting words on paper until you have a finished product.
And if you want to make a living at this, you have to do that. In a timely fashion. You can’t just finish the projects that sound fun. Or finish when you feel like it. You have to finish the ones you’re paid to do. Now. So, best to get into that mindset before anyone else actually cares. You start a novel? Finish it.
We’re not talking one chapter in. We’re talking 30K words in. You can poke and prod at a few ideas before you decide which one to pursue, but once you make that decision? Stick with it.
(A side rant: I get really annoyed when I see self-pubbers who abandon a series because it isn’t selling. Or even publishers who do. You started it, finish it. Boo hoo that enough people aren’t standing there cheering you on, you still started something for the readers that are supporting you and you owe it to them to see it through. Plus, you never know when it’s going to catch on, do you?)
Anyway. Finish what you start. It’s a good motto for anything in life.
Now I’m off to write for a couple hours and then go get very fat on yummy Thanksgiving food.
I have to say, this is possibly my favorite holiday. It’s all about eating good food and spending time with family. (Or friends.) If I can just avoid eating the bacon, sour cream, and chive mashed potatoes waiting in the fridge until the actual meal, I will be golden.
Happy day to everyone, wherever you are.