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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Monday, 25 April 2011

April A-Z: Unfinished Projects

All writers have unfinished work knocking around; it's an occupational hazard. Maybe something bigger or flashier whispered itself in the twilight, or maybe a project was deemed a 'no-go-er' by an agent, an editor, a crit partner. Or perhaps those unfinished pieces are more accurately unstarted pieces: fragments of ideas, brief jottings that haven't (yet) had their turn.

It's possible for these scraps to contribute to an evil time suck for the unwary procrastinating writer. Hours can be wasted in agonising over precisely which projects deserve the attention and nurturing which will develop them fully.

In fact, there are those who never actually finish any projects. "Oh, yeah, I was writing that book about (insert half-thought-through idea here) but it wasn't really going anywhere, so I started working on (half-thought-through idea B) instead." If this pattern continues ad infinitem, with nothing ever finished, this is not a writer. Perhaps worse (certainly for my sanity!) are those with half an idea but "no time" to write: "I'm going to write a book in the holidays/when I retire/if I win the lottery".  Trust me, if you wanted to do it, you'd find the time. Many of us who do write are really quite busy (again, I ask you to take my word for it); many published writers have a 'day job' as well. And, incidentally, it's quite rude to downplay our commitment like that, not to mention oh-so-safe to never actually take the risk and try producing a book...

Anyway, I digress. My point was intended to be this: the existence of unfinished projects (or some version of an 'ideas queue')  is pretty much a given if you are writing. The trick is not to get too bogged down in guilt for the occasional abandonment, as long as there are also finished projects in the mix. If you're never seeing anything through, ask yourself why. Are the ideas not fully developed before you start? Are you attempting to write in the wrong genre (e.g. are you aiming for novels with ideas that suit short stories more)? Are you more attracted to the idea of 'being a writer' than the actual writing?


  1. I have my fair share of projects which for some reason or another haven't gotten into the realm of submissions. I keep trying to force myself to add more to the queue, but I keep letting life get in the way of that. Thanks for sharing!

  2. A nice finished post on unfinished projects, sometimes I think I'm the queen of the unfinished!

  3. new follower here! You have lot of great posts here. I'm glad I found your blog via the A-Z challenge.


  4. Good points there Beth. Unfortunately, I have a mass of unfinished things. Part of the reason was lack of commitment and the rest I now put down to lack of planning. They were great ideas (or at least I thought so), but I never had any idea how to finish and subsequently didn't. The two things I've finished recently were planned and I made the time to write them.


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