Writing tips: Suffering from Unfinished Manuscriptitus?

Several months after I started writing, I found myself surrounded by notebooks - suffering from Unfinished Manuscriptitus! An idea would pop up and - fast & furious - I'd dive in, like a new love affair. But, eventually, and long before writing "The End," that idea would lose its shine and a new, brighter, more compelling idea would come along. (Not unlike the new guy who starts to seem so much more appealing than the current boyfriend when reality sets in and you realize current guy is not Mr. Perfect.)

Many writers suffer from this malady and never get beyond it, and I was pretty sure I was terminal. But - I was fortunate enough to attend a writers' conference where two ladies gave a breakout session on writing your first draft in 30 days (not unlike NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month.) Well, I had tried NaNo before - more than once even - and had failed - miserably. But, I went to this session, hoping these ladies had a secret, something that would cure my ills. And... they did!

What was it? Well... aside from the hard copy calendar that I posted over my writing space & filled in with my daily word count goal -- (and aside from insisting that instead of chasing Shiny New Idea, I jot it in a notebook, not to be looked at until 1st draft WAS completed) -- they suggested telling people that I was writing a novel. But, not just any people... they said I needed to tell that one person who would look at me when I didn't finish it and say, "Huh. Is anyone surprised you didn't finish? I could've told you you'd never do it."

Yep - tell the one person who would revel in your failure. Aaack!!! (Of course, I'm good at taking direction, so, I did tell that person.)

Uh... 16 days. That's what it took for me to complete the 1st draft of a MG ghost story I'd been thinking about for over ten years. Those 16 days even included a major set-back of losing 8K words during a thunderstorm. But, I persevered - had a 3-day weekend in the mix - and finished! Yay!

That same year, in November, I tried NaNoWriMo -- again. The result of that NaNo ended up being XVI.

So - what might work for you, if you suffer from Unfinished Manuscriptitus, is
  • a calendar with space for word count tracking
  • setting a daily goal, and then
  • telling your worst friend you're writing a book!
Feel Better!!!

12 comments:

Anna Staniszewski said...

Oh manuscriptitus...I know it well. In fact, I've been sort of stuck in it the past couple of months. But I think I might have finally snapped out of it this past week. Thanks for the tips!

AE Rought said...

Very close to WIPaholism, which I suffer bouts of. I chased Shiny New Idea half a book in once *hangs head in shame* Then I turned around and wrote an entire novel (now on submission) in just over a month. I have a file strictly for MS IDEAS now. and I've also decided to listen to my own gut instead of those well-meaning naggers who want this book, ot that book finished next.

Luisa Perkins said...

That's a great idea! Thank you. I was actually just considering giving up on a manuscript and moving on to something new. This came at the perfect time.

Mel Fowler said...

I just have one question/problem for you, what if I dont have a friend who will think I will fail? I am thinking and thinking and I can't see any of them telling me that I can't do it....

just a thought.

Tere Kirkland said...

LOL, tell a frenemy. Love that idea. Nothing motivates me like knowing someone is waiting to say "I told you so."

Thanks, Julia!

Julia Karr said...

Tere's right, Mel! (Cause actually peeps who would not think you can do it aren't really friends, are they? :D )

You're welcome, Tere!

Sarah Pearson said...

I suffered from this for a very long time. The feeling last month when I finished my first MS was one I can't wait to repeat :)

fakesteph said...

I love this! I'm totally going to post a big calendar over my writing space.

E. Arroyo said...

I have one unfinished. It seemed to have dried out in my mind. I wrote something else and have that one simmering.

Julia Karr said...

Yay, Sarah!
Thanks everyone, for all your comments!

A Backwards Story said...

I'm starting to get to that point right now. I think it's halfway-itis. It's like, "Okay, I'm ready to write this now because they characters are knocking at my door and ready to party. They're shiny and fancy and ready to hit the town, but you guys are in your scruffy pjs and we're just going to camp in front of the TV. Again."

But I will just reconnect with them and fall in love all over and KEEP GOING. I will!

I'm jealous of how fast you wrote XVI! Wishes I could write like that!

Tamara Epps said...

I totally have this problem but now you've added another worry - I don't have anyone who would give that response! Any tips on finding bad friends?