Rachel Vincent brought up an interesting topic over on her blog today that I thought I would chime in on.
“Several people have asked me lately what I think the key is to staying focused long enough to finish an entire book, rather than flitting from one idea to the next, none of which ever get completed.”
This was actually a problem for me for a long time. Up until about five years ago, I was constantly flitting from story to story, overflowing with energy for the first 50 to 100 pages, and then a new story idea would catch my eye and I would be off and running on the new story idea without ever finishing my previous story. This was a constant problem since I also didn’t stick to any one genre. I have massive piles of unfinished stories in traditional fantasy, urban fantasy, science fiction, action/adventure, contemporary romance, historical romance, and stuff I don’t even know what to call it…
Is this a bad thing? Yes and no. If you never finish a story, then you will never have a story to be published if that’s your goal. However, all these fragments were great practice for me. They honed my writing skills, strengthened my character development, added new depth to my plotting, and just helped me become a more twisted individual.
But it has to stop sometime, right? And it did for me. Why? Because I met Mira and Danaus. Those two characters from Nightwalker became a driving force for me. I loved them so much that I had to tell their story. And I knew once I started building their world that I couldn’t limit it to just one book. Their world was too big, their adventures and lives too grand to limit to just one puny book. They needed to meet the world, which meant I had to finish the book!
So, what can you do to stay focused on an entire book?
1. I totally agree with Rachel on this one – you have to love what you’re writing. You have to truly be passionate about it, because there are going to be days where you don’t want to write at all. This love affair with your book will help you get through those days.
2. Outline. Outline. Outline. I know this comes down to the plotter vs. pantzer debate, but I believe in outlining (and this is coming from someone who didn’t outline a single book until Nightwalker). If you’re not a plotter, keep it as a bare-bones outline of just main items. I’m still a pantzer when it comes to my subplots. The outline will keep you on target and on task.
3. Don’t start new projects until the book is done. If you have a great idea, make some notes. Draw up an outline. Don’t start writing scenes! You’ll have distracted yourself and it will be that much harder to get back to the “old” idea.
4. Set a deadline. I think this helped me the most in finishing the second book. I had an official deadline from my editor that I had to meet. Give yourself a deadline, whether by chapter or for the whole book. If you’ve got a blog, also look into putting up a progress meter – it’ll keep you honest and it also give you a sense of accomplishment.
These are just a few suggestions of stuff that has helped me. That doesn’t mean the temptation isn’t still there. I’ve got a side project that I am positively itching to get back to that doesn’t have to do with vampires, werewolves, or naturi. But until I finish the edits on book 2 and finish writing book 3, the side project stays packed away.