How many unfinished manuscripts do you have? If it's a ton, you're not alone.

It has almost become routine.

Get a great idea — this is the one! Jot it down. Make notes. Wait until you’re at your computer, and then type away, cranking out as many details as you can remember from the initial burst of inspiration. This is the one that will make my writing known.

And then, about two weeks and ten thousand words later…a new great idea! Scratch that old one, this new one is where I need to focus my writing energy.

It’s cyclical. Until one day you manage to snap the cycle and actually finish a manuscript — which has happened to me three times. How many not-quite-finished or was-once-a-great-idea-until-it-wasn’t-anymore drafts do I have saved on my computer? Dozens. A good fifteen or twenty for every book I completed. You can do the math: we’re probably talking about 50 or so.

That’s just the way it goes.

Does the process discourage me? At first, sure, it did. When you have yet to complete anything and you feel like you are wasting your time, it’s far from encouraging. It’s a rollercoaster. Best idea ever! Nevermind. Oh, new best idea ever! Hmm…

But after a while you come to realize that no writing is wasted. Your memory will draw upon your past work — for better or worse. Maybe it truly was a great idea and there are parts of the unfinished draft that you can use in your new project. Or maybe you learned the way not to craft an opening scene.

Take what you can from everything that you write. Make each word worth writing. Make each page better than the previous.

And when you feel like giving up, stop yourself. You never know how close you are to that diamond in the sand. Keep digging.


  1. I’m a story teller and stories are all around. They start where they start: place, person, object, plot … So I accepted long ago that I could never craft all these stories into finished pieces. Yet they pester me for attention. So I created my ‘Inchoate Ideas’ file. I draw from this file twice a month for my blog site: “Strange Things Done” … thank you for subscribing. Look forward to more of your thoughts … BTW I’m a fellow Yooper.


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