I have a confession to make. My confession is: I don’t know how to finish novels and stories.
I have ideas galore, inspiration in abundance, and the drive to start. I can get pretty far into a project, and then… and then… I stop. I lose track of what I am working on. I lose the motivation to figure out the rest of the story, as a new idea beckons me, teases me with its newness and how easy it is to start something. I fall in love with new characters and stories with ease, and then I struggle, I place the older ideas on the back burner, always with the promise of returning to it. Yet, I rarely return to it, or if I do, I start over. Ignoring a lot of what I wrote before except for the world-building. Then those ideas stagnant and instead of pushing through, instead of trying to figure out an actual damn plot and not just a series of scenes that supposedly connect, I move on.
Even with my prompts, I don’t necessarily have an ending to them. There is always the chance that the story can continue. I don’t feel as much of a need to wrap it up in as neat of a bow as, say, a novel. I know novels do not need endings. There can always be the option of continuing the story. But prompts work for me because I keep them relatively short. I write a snapshot of characters who crawl into my mind. Characters who want some part of their stories told, but aren’t too fussy if at most it is 2,000 words.
Despite being a consumer of stories, I suspect I don’t really know how to tell one. That there is some disconnect in my brain. I understand the steps. I understand what readers look for. I understand what I like as a reader, and the stories that hold me captivated, and yet putting that understanding into practice, I flounder.
Maybe I am not supposed to be a novelist. Maybe I should just stick to the fun I have in writing prompts, in writing those snippets of stories that rattle in my heart and mind. Get my need for validation by posting them here on the blog and leaving it at that. I love to write. Publishing a novel, of having my name on a physical book, sounds amazing — but maybe, maybe I’m just not that person. Maybe I need to play to my strengths, which are half-baked ideas and snapshots. Maybe it is time to ignore the voice that whispers to me that not having anything truly published is a sign of failure.
Why does being published and making money off of my writing seem like a sign of success? Why do I feel the need to monetize something that I love? Would the act of making money off of it suddenly mean I am good at it? But isn’t it all subjective?
I don’t have answers to any of these questions… at least, not for myself. I know though; I want to prove myself wrong. I want to take an idea and see it through. I want to figure out the ending, and the middle bits. I want to figure out how to tell a story that is cohesive. I want to finish something that I have started instead of letting it languish and die.
So, this year, like every other year for who knows how long, I aim to finish a story that I started. I’m not going to call it a novel. I don’t know how long it will be. Maybe only 5,000 words. Maybe 100,000 words. No worries of polishing it up this year. No worries about making it perfect. Just a story that has something of a clear beginning, a middle, and an end. Something that makes some sense.
And I won’t worry about those other questions. I’ll continue to write for the love of it and the need of it. And hopefully, finish a damn story.
If you stuck around for this entire ramble, I thank you. How do you finish stories?