Bullet Wisdom

I am an Active Duty Officer in the US Army. I am a Husband, father, writer, hunter, gamer, and SOLDIER. This blog is a forum for my many hobbies as well as my random musings.

Friday, March 12, 2010


I have a lot of ideas. Wait, scratch that, I have an insane amount of ideas. Ideas come to me with I'm doing physical training. They come to be when I'm eating my lunch. Watching TV with my wife? I'm a bit more ADD than most folks, new ideas left and right. Y'all know what I'm talking about.

I caught a whiff of inspiration from fellow OWG member, Michelle Muto, while reading her piece about revisiting older manuscripts. She found pleasure in measuring her progress from one manuscript to another, learning from past mistakes, and applying new ideas to older efforts. At the end of her piece was the question:
"Have you ever ditched one manuscript in favor of another?"

It got me thinking. Just the other day I came up with a rather unique storyline I'd yet to see in a YA Urban Fantasy (not that it doesn't exist, but until I find it, it'll be my own private unicorn). When an idea that cool comes along, I question everything else I'm currently doing and ask, 'Could this be the one?' But that was the same think I said about my last two projects.

So today I'm writing about finishing. Currently, I have one manuscript completed and submitted to ABNA, and another well underway. Each time I started one of those projects I asked that aforementioned question. The temptation is great, especially when the current project isn't moving along at the planned pace. I've found that with my current job and family obligations, writing has moved more towards the back seat. Instead of writing thousands of words a sitting, I feel fortunate to get off a couple of hundred. So when the going to get tough, the temptation to switch to a newer, sexier product is definately there.

A couple of weeks ago, Dresden Files author Jim Butcher popped into Bulletwisdom and among other things, offered the following piece of advice:

"Always start your next project when you've finished your current one."

It's sound logic and one of those mythical pearls of wisdom successful writers try to pass down to us aspiring clowns. Writing isn't easy, and writing well is, no kidding, hard. If a plot isn't developing as well as you'd hoped, and the entire project is coming apart at the seams, then jumping over and starting a new project from scratch would seem like an awesome idea.

However, doing so would miss the point. Writing is a grind, it's supposed to be. Pushing through difficulties and making difficult decisions towards your own sweat and blood is going to be a source of mental anguish and frustration. It's just like exercise: you go through pain and frustration to harden your body and get stronger. Same with writing, perservere through the difficulties and finish what you start. The greatest of athletes are known as great finishers.

Writers are no exception.

So a few days ago, when I was struggling through my current projects latest chapter and experienced an oh-my-freaking-gosh moment of inspiration, I wrote down an intro and a few notes, took about ten minutes to define a basic plot and some characters, then socked it away in my online storage vault--

Until I'm finished with my current project, and ready to start my next.


Falcata Times said...

Hey BW,
Thanks for this, its a big help, I'll carry on with my current project no matter how hard it gets and promise to revist old scripts once I have this one complete.

Its always a big help when others visit the same problems that you have and with luck, this will be the year I get one finished.

Currently I know that my real weakness is writing dialogue and also putting enough work into the planning/plotting stage. So failing a complete script, this year I vow to get a good grasp of novel preparation.

Danielle La Paglia said...

It's easy to get distracted by the new and shiny. We're all guilty of it. But if you don't finish your current WiP, you may never finish it. The blood, sweat, and tears are worth it to experience the pure elation of typing "The End."

Angela Addams said...

I like the new and exiting too...it's so tempting to want to switch over. I find that whatever the strongest pull is, which ever story needs telling first is the one I stick with...I usually don't change paths once I've started. Although, like you, I have been known to pause and outline something if the inspiration strikes while I'm mid-novel.

Diane Girard said...

I almost always finish what I start. Note the almost. There are a couple of things I don't have an ending for and one story that may want to become a novel -it's too big for the britches of short story, LOL!

Selestial said...

It's funny because I read Butcher's comment more as "You should always be working on something."

For me, finishing is a goal, always. But, I don't always finish. As I said at Michelle's blog, I *knew* my NaNo novel wasn't working. I had (intentionally) tried to pants NaNo to see if I could do it effectively. The answer there is a resounding no. So I didn't finish that story. I had an ending, but the story didn't ring true to me at all. So it was shelved unfinished to marinate. I'm dusting it off today to look at it again and see if I can take the basic storyline and turn it into something else.

I don't see not finishing that particular novel as a failure. I look at stopping when I did as smart. The project was nowhere near "the one". It was so many leagues away from "the one" that to carry on pretending it might be was a waste of time and creative energy for me.

Finishing is fabulous, but knowing when not to isn't such a bad thing either, IMHO.

Michelle Muto said...

I agree - when something so special comes up, something so unique that you truly believe is 'the one,' then yeah. You've got to write it.

Like you, I'm usually a 'finish what you start' kind of writer.

Thanks for the shout-out, too!

D. B. Reynolds said...

I'll do that, too. If I get an inspiration while working on a project, I take a few minutes and jog down some notes and put them in the "future ideas" folder.

But I'm the opposite of ADD, I think. Totally linear. Although, I'm a surprisingly good multitasker, it does take a toll.