A couple weeks back, I wrote a post about novels I never finished, as a reader. This is the flipside: books I started to write but never finished, and the reason behind each.
- Lost interest in the genre. This happens fairly often. I start a (usually science fiction or fantasy novel), write the first few chapters, and realize I can’t hold my own interest—which is a terrible sign. But I keep starting new ideas along these lines, so I usually let them play out, in case I finally manage to finish one.
- Story became too mundane. I finished a few stories along these lines, but typically I find it becomes way more difficult if I don’t feel personally invested—and the result is mediocre, at best. The particular novel I’m thinking about started as a good idea, but I let myself write chapter after chapter without any nuggets to change the story. It was predictable from beginning to end, and I couldn’t bring myself to finish.
- Started editing before I finished. Once I become focused on how terrible the story I’m working on is (and nine times of ten, my first draft isn’t so great), the story starts to revolve around fixing all of the issues, making it worse and causing me to lose interest.
- Spent too long researching. I might actually finish the book that inspired this point, but for now it remains on the list. I spent so long becoming immersed in the world I was learning about that I realized a lot of what I wanted to do wasn’t possible within it, and felt more constrained than liberated (since it was another attempt at a fantasy novel, that was definitely bad).
- Became a totally different story from the one I wanted to write. Not much explanation needed for this, I think. The story went from unique to average, and I began to question why I was even working on it.
- Not enough material for a full novel. I’ll admit, I tend to be one of those writers on the short end of the spectrum. My novels tend toward 60k words, with thirty or more chapters. When I don’t have enough ideas for those chapters, there isn’t a lot of wiggle-room if I want to write a full novel. On its own, I’d be fine with that, but paired with other items on the list—well, maybe I’ll come back to that story.
- Put on hold. I’ve started about three dozen different ideas for novels, and this is the serial killer. Walking away from a WIP and coming back to it just lets the idea become stale.
What this list comes down to, I suppose, is that my muse is very particular. She doesn’t have the greatest attention span, and when she’s bored nothing I can do will convince her to write well. The benefit, I suppose, is that when I feel invested in a novel I’m working on, I can finish in a matter of weeks. The only fix I’ve come up with is to start as many ideas as I can, and avoid the common pitfalls that result in putting an unfinished manuscript away.
So what about you? Do you find yourself starting ideas, only to leave them after a short time? Or do you finish every story you start? Let me know in the comments below!