This is a revised version of a post I originally submitted two years ago, before the revamping of my blog earlier this year. I’m re-posting it, now, because I’m happy to say that I eventually implemented the advice contained within, which resulted in the recent publication of my debut novel.
THE BEST WRITING ADVICE IN JUST FOUR WORDS
Advice so simple, yet so obvious
I suspect that many of you fiction writers will understand where I am coming from when I describe what it is like to be overwhelmed by all the ideas for stories running through one’s mind. To begin work on one story but not make any significant progress before being distracted by numerous other ideas demanding prioritisation. This in turn leads to the setting aside or abandonment of the work in progress, in order to write a different story instead. But it’s not long before the same thing happens again; then again, and again.
Some of you may even be able to relate to spending weeks, or even months, writing a story, before deciding that it is unmitigated rubbish, then unceremoniously deleting it. Only to then suffer from “deleter’s remorse” several days later, with the realisation that maybe what was written wasn’t so bad after all.
Over the years, my indiscipline in these two matters has resulted in several unfinished manuscripts and countless deleted documents. Fortunately, a couple of years ago I stumbled upon some advice from an author I admire, that directly addressed my lack of discipline. The author is J.R. Ward, (the pen name of Jessica Bird), and while the advice, which I came across in the book, ‘The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider’s Guide’, can be summed up in four words: Finish what you start, the full quote is so much more insightful and instructive.
Her exact words are:
Finish a book. Even if you don’t like it, or you don’t think it’s good enough, see one of your projects through to the end. Discipline is mission critical to publication, and no matter how enticing the other ideas in your head may be, get to the final page on at least one of your WIPs (works in progress). If you find yourself getting distracted by the buzz of new characters or concepts, write them down in a notebook or Word document to save for later. But teach yourself to finish what you start.
I can’t begin to tell you just how helpful such a simple, yet obvious, piece of advice has been to me. That’s not to suggest that implementing the advice is a piece of cake; it certainly wasn’t for me, in fact. But the hardest part of writing a story is actually finishing it, and half the battle is disciplining yourself to see it through to the end, even when you are disinclined to do so.
While you may not always be pleased with the end results, heeding this advice will mean no longer have to worry about “deleter’s remorse”. I think it’s fair to say that having a finished project that you are unhappy with is preferable to having nothing to show for all your time and effort. Not to mention it is so much easier to set aside a finished piece of work, that you can return to at a later time, than it is to start again from scratch.
So for those of you who have similarly been affected by indiscipline in your writing, I hope that you too can derive some benefit from the above advice. I’m pleased to say that it has worked for me.