It sits in the back of your file, taunting you, tormenting you. Someday, you promise yourself, you may actually finish it. The truth is, though, that you might admit defeat. Don’t give up! Here are five fairly simple ways to actually finish that stubborn work-in-progress.
Spend Quality Time with Your Planner
The hard facts of life are these: you will never finish a WIP you do not sit down to write, and the best way to find time to write is to make that time. To get started in finishing that work-in-progress, you need to set aside a daily writing time. It doesn’t have to be much, but it needs to be enough to commit at least a few hundred words to paper or word processor. Find a break before bed, get up early, or set aside your lunch hour for some writing time. Without this dedicated time, you will have trouble with any of the other tips on this list, because you will probably never sit down to write.
Figure Out Where You’re Going
Being a Pantser is all well and good until you run into writer’s block. Plotters get writer’s block, too, of course, but they have a lifeline dangling down into their pit of despair – a plot. They know where the story goes next. Although we all get hung up on difficult scenes, tricky character evolutions, or simply the basics of word choice and flow, if you know where you need to be, it’s a lot easier to actually head in that direction. No matter how much you love flying by the seat of your pants, if your work-in-progress refuses to progress, then it may be time to experiment with plot outlines.
Develop a Rewards System
Working towards a goal helps you feel accomplished. Celebrating a conquered goal encourages you to tackle the next one. A work-in-progress will not be finished in one sitting, and you need to keep your motivation going, even when you don’t feel particularly inspired. Set small rewards and big rewards for appropriate word count and story milestones. Knock out 1,000 words? Get a cup of tea! Knock out 10,000 words? Get take-out tonight! Finally finished that WIP? Time to buy that new game you knew would distract you.
You know you aren’t supposed to edit as you draft, but you just can’t help yourself! Well, you still need to stop. Editing works best when it’s allowed to be its own beast. Trying to blend it with the fine art of drafting just confuses things. Maybe you make a change you hadn’t noted earlier in the story, so now you want to go back and fix those first scenes so everything works. Stop. Editing while you draft creates a looping monster. It’s like the snake that eats its own tail. It will never end.
If you make changes as your story evolves and you need to remember the when/where/why of developing alterations, make notes! If you’re a writer, chances are your friends and loved ones have given you a dozen pretty notebooks. Use them for actual note-taking. You’ll be well-equipped to begin the editing process, but your WIP won’t stall.
Have Faith in Tomorrow
When you’ve been battling to finish a WIP, it may feel like you will never, ever finish. The fact is, though, so long as you keep working on it, you will actually finish that draft. You may not finish it today, and you probably won’t write that final scene tomorrow, but the end of the story is coming, and every word you dedicate to your project brings that conclusion a step closer.
Finishing a work-in-progress is hard work, but always remember – you started that project for a reason. You can finish it. The first step is always the hardest, so the sooner you take it, the sooner it will be over, the sooner you’ll have a lovely, completed draft.