The most important part of writing any story is to finish it.
A no shit Sherlock piece of advice but one that most people need reminding of every now and again. It’s easy to come up with an idea…OK relatively easy, and it’s easy to start a story and ramble on for a while without worrying about things too much. I always find I work faster when I start a story but gradually slow down until I reach a grinding halt.
The Grinding Halt isn’t necessarily the end of your story, but it is where things get a bit tricky. You’ve run out of steam/impetus/words/get up and go…whatever you want to call it. You might have no idea where the story is heading, or get distracted by a shiny new idea. Or maybe you’re just terrified of having to wrap up all the loose ends and say goodbye to characters you’ve lived and breathed for so long.
Whatever the reasons you need to get over them fast. It doesn’t matter how you do it really, sheer willpower, booze, caffeine, a slap in the face whilst yelling at yourself in the mirror.
Just finish what you started.
You need to finish so you can edit, send it off to be published, start on the sequel, etc. Without reaching the finish line your story means nothing. Without an ending you don’t have shit. You have rough thoughts randomly thrown onto paper that don’t amount to a hill of beans. A story needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. Without an end you don’t have a story.
So crack your knuckles, grit your teeth and get the hell on with it.
Working with others can help; run your ideas past friends, fellow authors, or absolute strangers if they’ll put up with you. When you tell someone else about your story – excite them with an interesting premise – then you’ll have an actual real life voice shouting at you to finish your work, rather than the weak willed voices in your head that can be silenced with strong coffee and shots of vodka.
And whilst it’s entirely possible to edit a story as you go along, what’s really useful is seeing the big picture in order to know how things will pan out. Get to the end THEN go back to the start and edit.
Or maybe the reason you can’t finish is because you think your work is so terrible it doesn’t deserve an ending? If you are absolutely 100% sure as you can be that there is no hope for this story…then finish it by putting it away and forgetting about it. Strike a big line through your work and say “not right now”. You have better things to be doing – like finishing a worthy novel.
And if you still need convincing then think about it this way, next time you meet someone new and happen to mention you’re a writer and they inevitably say “I started a novel once” – and trust me, they will – you’ll suddenly realise you’re in exactly the same position.
You’re one of THEM! Noooooooooooooooooooooo…
So set your sights on the finish line, and smash through all obstacles in your path.
You’re a writer, and you always finish what you start.