Writing Tip of the Week:  Are You Afraid to Finish Your Story?

Have you stopped working on a writing project out of fear of finishing?  It’s an interesting question.  Most people are consumed with fear when they begin a project, but there are times when finishing to manuscript or script can cause just as much fear and anxiety.  Why?  

Let’s talk about it!

It’s All Over!

Writing can be an intensely creative and emotional process.  If you’ve thrown all your time, effort, thoughts, and energy into a story, coming to its inevitable conclusion can feel like the end of a relationship.  Think about all the time and dedication you’ve spent to get the story and its characters right.  The late nights, long weekends, and hours spent trying to fix an issue that you realized caused a plot hole later in the story.

And now, you’re headed toward the end of the story.  It can be both cathartic and anxiety-inducing.  How can you leave these characters and this setting?  They’re like family!

First, take a deep breath, exhale, and know that even if you write “The End,” you’re not done with the story yet.  Especially if you are still in the draft phase, you’ll have plenty of hours to edit and rewrite, so rest assured, even when the draft is done, there’s still work to do.

I understand the challenge of letting go if this is a polished draft.  To give it to someone else, to release it to the world.  That could be the reason for your anxiety.  It’s that pesky inner critic who’s subconsciously taunting you, causing you to fear completing the story, keeping you trapped with only a few chapters left to go.  

Ignore it.  Push through.  Get the project done.  While you may need time to mourn its end, know that you accomplished something great: you finished a writing project!  Go out and celebrate!  

What’s Next?

Another reason some writers fear finishing a project is the inevitable question that pops up when you tell someone you’re done: What’s next?  Often, we’ve labored over a project for so long, and we’re happy to see it done that the last thing we need to hear is inquiries about what we’re doing afterward.

So, if we’re always working on that novel or script, people stop asking.  It’s a safer place to be.  

I suggest having another project in mind, so you have an answer ready when the time comes.  “I’m working on a period drama next,” or “I have some funny ideas for a short film script.”  Keep it vague, but this will give you cover as you develop something new.  Don’t let the fear of being asked that question stop you from getting the work done.

Line ‘Em Up

Don’t allow yourself to have time to mourn the end of one project.  Have others in development and ready to jump to the next.  Now, you’re on to the next project, creativity flowing, ideas bouncing around, and you have the momentum from finishing the last project to keep you going.  

The fear of completing a project comes from the fear of the unknown.  If you don’t know what you’re doing next, it can create a creative vacuum once what you’ve been working on is finally done.

Mix it up, too.  If you just wrote a novel, write a screenplay next.  Wrote a book of poems?  Write a play.  Keep your creativity energized by changing the type of work you’re doing, and you’ll be so focused and ready to move on to the next project you won’t be sad when the current one ends.

Give yourself a reason to get your current project off your mind so you can move on to the next exciting thing.

What I’m Up To…

I’m writing two novels and two screenplays this year, but I’m alternating between them.  All are in different genres and styles, which give my brain new creative avenues to explore.  Even while I’m, nearing the end of my current novel project, my brain is tossing out ideas for the screenplay I’m working on in April.  

Creativity is a mysterious and awesome force, so it’s good to keep it active and work toward your writing goals as much as possible.

Final Thoughts

It can be sad for a project to end, so it’s important not to allow yourself to fear its completion.  Have other projects in mind, keep your creativity flowing, and don’t allow anxiety to overtake your creative impulses.  

Get in there and get to The End so you can bring other characters and worlds to life!

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

Writing Tip of the Week: Setting Writing Deadlines

Deadlines.  We have them at work, and our kids have them for school projects, and the government gives us one to pay our taxes.  Having a set, definite date to aim for with something major can be a great motivator for getting things done.

But are you setting deadlines for your writing?

Even if you’re not planning to publish or send your work to contest, giving yourself a deadline can be a great way to get things in gear and get the writing done.  This milestone can be a moment of celebration and excitement; the novel is done, and I can move forward with my next writing project.

Some people may prefer not to have deadlines.  They allow the Muse to decide when they write and when the project is done.  That’s all well and good.  However, if you want to write a lot and get a lot done and off your To-Do List, I recommend creating deadlines for your projects.

Here are some things to consider when setting deadlines.

Be Reasonable

If you are working on your first novel, setting a deadline of one month maybe a little too intense (unless you’re into that sort of high-octane writing thrill).  Creating a reasonable deadline that is manageable but not ridiculous is the key to making the deadline work.

Maybe you plan to have a six-month deadline for your first novel.  Then once you’ve seen what you can do with six months, shave a month off for the next one.  

I’m sure you’ve seen stories and videos of people who wrote a screenplay in 48 hours or a novel in two weeks, and if you want to aim for that as a personal goal, go for it.  But if you have a day job, kids, a family, and other obligations don’t add to your plate writing a 65,000-word novel in a month.

No one wins in that scenario.

Write It Down

It may sound silly, but writing a deadline down in a notebook, a journal, on a calendar, or on a whiteboard where you can see it as a reminder is useful to keep you mindful of the chosen deadline date.

It is better to have it written down than to make a mental note and forget it.  

You can also use this as a way to mark smaller milestones on your way to the big deadline by establishing smaller goals in the larger timeline. If your goal is to write a first draft of your novel in six months, breakdown ideally where you want to be in the process at the end of months 1, 3, and 5. Fragmenting the larger goal can help make it less daunting.

Beat the Clock

Let’s say you set a deadline of three months to write a play.  Can you finish a day early?  A week early?  Giving yourself personal competition can be a great motivator.  It always feels good to get something done before it’s due, and this is one way to see how much faster you can get the project done before your stated deadline.

Reward Yourself

You finished the novel early!  You did it!  Give yourself time for a reward.  It can be going to a movie, buying a book you wanted, or getting dinner out.  This is another great way to incentivize yourself to set and keep your writing deadlines.

In our world of instant gratification, delaying getting what you want by completing a major writing task first can make receiving that reward all the better.

Stay Positive

Life happens.  If your deadline has to change or you miss it by a week or two, it’s okay.  Keep going and still work to get the project done.  The key is the complete the project.  While the deadline is nice to have, if things prevent you from writing, sometimes there’s not much you can do.

Stay persistent and keep writing.

Have Fun

Writing should be fun, and getting a writing project done should also be a fun process.  Remember that you want to get this novel done to move on to the next one.

Give yourself permission to enjoy the process and the creative aspects of the writing.  You’ll be grateful that you did.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you in two weeks!