Tuesday, October 13, 2015

It's All About Follow-Through

I'm coming to the end of a significant revision of my manuscript--the last one, I hope, until I have a book contract. If you're a regular reader of this blog you'll know the first draft took me close to ten years to finish (not because it's a work of epic genius but because of family commitments) and I've spent the past year going through multiple revisions. I am more than ready to move on.

I already know what my next project will be and I'm really itching to get started on the research. I have a couple of books on the subject and every now and then I look at them with longing and think,  "I could just do a little reading--what's the harm in that?"

But I know better.

The minute I start dipping into the research for the new idea I'm going to stop being interested in the project I'm currently working on. Odds are the new idea is so seductive because I'm approaching the final act of my current novel and it terrifies me. On a subconscious level, I want to be distracted. If I get distracted, I won't finish; if I don't finish, I don't have to face the possibility that no one will publish it.

This is a problem that all writers fall prey to now and then. Just when one story starts getting tough, a new and more exciting idea pops up that suddenly begs for attention. It's no coincidence. Your subconscious is protecting you from failure. It's also keeping you from success.

There comes a point when, in order to progress, a writer must stop beginning projects and start finishing them. This is the true test of a writer's mettle. This is what separates the amateurs from the pros. Anyone can start a story and call themselves a writer--but how many actually see it through to the end of the first draft? Not many. How many know when they've finished enough revisions to take the leap and send it out to an agent or publisher? Fewer still. It's much easier to let a half-finished piece sit in the drawer or start something new than to risk rejection.

When you start to have the itch to begin a new project--pay attention. Instead of giving in to the urge, use that desire to finish your current project. Make it a reward. Tell yourself you can start that next story as soon as you finish the one you're working on. Follow-through is one of the most important parts of the process.

Do you use new projects as a way to avoid finishing a piece? Do you revise a piece over and over and never send it out? What are the ways you keep yourself from taking the next step?