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Five ways to NOT finish a story

September 20, 2011

I recently surveyed my file of half-finished stories and realized there are about as many of those as I have sold stories.  Not good.  That led to wondering why I had so many unfinished stories which in turn led to this post.  Now you’re up to speed; let’s do this.

5) The fatal flaw.  The story is moving along great only to realize that the clever ending I was moving toward requires one or more characters to do/know/be something impossible per other story elements.  This technically only requires massive rewriting and/or rethinking, but it tends to result in story abandonment.

4) The Research Stall: Several of my stories grind to a hault when there’s something I need to know but can’t find on Wikipedia.  I had a military sf novel rolling along great until I realized I had never been to boot camp, so how can I send my character to boot camp without it feeling like Starship Troopers and Full Metal Jacket had a baby on my computer screen?  The answer: research.  I am not at a place to physically experience boot camp, so I needed a good documentary or something.  My search for said documentary dragged and the story stagnated.  It happens more than I care to admit.  At least I know what to do to get back into the story.

3) Shiny new story!  It never fails, inspiration strikes while you’re already in the middle of something.  Oh, and it seems brilliant and exciting and it grows like a Chia Pet until it blocks out the sky.  Accepting that bait and abandoning a story — with every intention of returning to it — usually spells doom.

2)Lack of planning.  At first this was going to say “the story sucks”, but that’s not quite right.  The story sucks because it wasn’t a full story when I started writing it, just an idea or two tossed around with minimal direction.  If you know where the story is going, it’s a lot easier to get there.  (Note that #5 Fatal flaw can still occur with planning, it just means the planning was flawed.)

1) Life just gets in the way.  Daughter, job, wife, long-neglected housework, job (yes again), relatives, pets, sickness… Sometimes I just forget the story’s even there.

There are lots of other ways to kill a story before it’s complete, but these are the five I recognize from my own junkyard.  How about you?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 20, 2011 11:05 am

    These are all too true! Still, I like revisiting stories after some time has elapsed, so it can be positive too :) I never know what can come of a story after I’ve let it go for awhile, so it’s always exciting to see!

  2. Debs permalink
    September 20, 2011 2:38 pm

    Oh man. This caught my beady little eye straight away. You are not alone. I’ve got a couple of hundred of the little blighters. In fact I did a new one today, when I was supposed to be editing. It’s so shiny.

    They sit on my computer. The stories that might have been. Every now and again I have a bash at them.

    I’m not sure what to do about them. They seem so wasteful. Maybe I’ll just call them part of my process.

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