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Four Reasons You Can’t Finish Writing Your Book

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You’ve been staring at the same sentence for months, your mind immediately wanders when you break out your laptop, and you’ve pretty much given up on ever completing your once great idea for a book. Sound familiar?

Before you sentence your manuscript to the graveyard of abandoned manuscripts, we challenge you to consider the following reasons you might be stuck, and then we challenge you to try again.

1. You’re married to a train of thought, theme, or character(s) that needs to evolve or be dropped

Sometimes, as writers we force a manuscript to remain true to the first or earliest idea we had, not realizing it was meant as the starting point, not the final and single course of the entire work. Are you forcing the wrong character to be the narrator of your story? Are you trying to make your manuscript fit into the confines of a title you like or an idea that’s too specific? Try skipping to a different point in your manuscript and starting fresh without a blueprint in your mind. Tell yourself that it’s just an exercise. See what you come up with. Adjust your manuscript’s outline, even if only slightly.

 2. You noticed the release of a similar book

You thought you had this brilliant idea and lo and behold you see it on the shelf at your local bookstore. Now you’re discouraged and can’t face the music of seeing your own manuscript to the finish line. It happens every day in the writing world.Don’t abandon your manuscript just because a similar idea exists. Instead use it as an opportunity to collect research on how your book can be even more unique. Clearly your idea is marketable, so by investigating the competing titles you can identify creative ways to position it differently.

3. You’re avoiding doing the necessary research to round out and add more substance to your book

Your manuscript is pretty much done, except for critical last steps like citing your sources, adding statistics, fact checking, or perhaps adding details that require research. You can’t get beyond the massive assignment ahead of you so you’ve opted to procrastinate instead of forging ahead. Here’s an idea: organize a list of what topics need researching and tackle a topic a week. Also, use a site like www.questia.com for research and www.bibme.org to help you quickly and easily find your sources and format them properly.

4. You’ve lost interest in the topic

This is the most common reason writers leave manuscripts in the dust. Of course some manuscripts should be tucked away and never brought out again. But some can–and should–be saved. Taking a break is sometimes needed to add a fresh perspective.If you have a manuscript that you’ve lost interest in for any number of reasons and want to revisit it, try letting someone else read it–a trusted friend or a writer’s group buddy. A nudge from someone you trust is often the medicine needed to get the creative juices recirculating.

Did we leave any reasons off the list? Why have you abandoned a manuscript?

 

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  1. I know for me, creative burnout (or, alternately, the popping up of a NEW idea) can lead me to abandon a piece of work. Sometimes there’s so much bouncing around in my head, it’s difficult to dig in, set goals, and get things done! Great post, as always, Wise, Ink crew!

  2. I completely suffer from Writing ADD so when I have an idea, unless I make a deliberate effort to focus and finish it, I’m prone to abandon it too. That’s actually how I became a short story writer! Thanks for the comment Toni!

    Dara

  3. i actually have ADHD (inattentive type) and i have the same exact problem as what Toni said

    i started writing a couple of stories, with one i started in the middle and wrote a couple paragraphs, then i wrote what happens in the beginning. i am really hoping to continue it, but i have so many other ideas and they all seem to be begging for attention –__– maybe i should make a few of them into short stories instead of going for writing a full novel. idk i just hope to get it straightened out sometime and write, my friend is writing a book too, only he is much better at sticking with it than i am and has made a lot more progress. oh well i am not giving up, these were good tips i will also keep them in mind as well.

    • Summer I feel your pain. You know it sounds like you make more progress than I do. Have you tried a writer’s group or a writing class. When I took a a class, we actually completed a couple works in progress. The accountability helps!

      Thanks a ton for the comment!

  4. Surely the idea cloud is a problem for most writers. A new idea (or twenty) pops up and lures us to greener pastures. I suppose this is a permutation of loosing interest in the topic.
    I find that my biggest problem, especially with longer pieces, is that by the time I’m half or three-quarters through it, I’ve already written all of it in my head and it feels done. Working on something that feels done, is like another dreaded duty of myself and many other writers: rewriting. It takes a great effort on my part to finish once I get this feeling in my head. It’s then that discipline and sometimes the nagging of my well-meaning readers that keeps me going. I also hate to leave things unfinished – so a little OCD in that direction never hurts.
    I have also fallen victim to the other reasons you mentioned above, and have put several project into “the drawer” for later (or never). If I were to wish for anything it would be to become a faster writer, so I wouldn’t have to struggle so hard with any of them (at least not for long).

  5. KC,

    You are so right to touch on the “I’m done” complex. I’ve never pinpointed that and yet I think that could be the reason I feel like revising some of my pieces is a chore — because I’m done with it. Having fans to nudge you forward must be a nice incentive to get it finished though. Keep up the good fight.

    Thanks for the comment!

    Dara

  6. I can’t seem to stick to my character’s voice. Maybe I am forcing the wrong character to lead my book. I’ve tried writing in third person but I’m having difficulties since I’m used to first person. This helps though :)