How do you know when you’re done?

When I was a small child my father used to look at me, shake his head, sigh, and say, “You are just like your grandmother.” I took it as a compliment. I still do. He didn’t really mean it that way. My grandmother, his mother, was born in Bavaria sometime before the turn of the twentieth century, left the home farm and worked in Munich as a bricklayer to earn enough money for a second-class passage to America. When she arrived in the United States she worked as a cook and attended school to learn English and accounting. She had plans and nothing stood in her way. Some people call that stubborn. If my grandmother began a task, she completed it. No matter what. Well, almost. She could drive a horse and buggy, or a horse and wagon, or ride a horse anywhere. Drive a car? After wrecking three, she admitted defeat and never tried again. No one was hurt, but she knew she was done.

Yes, I am definitely my grandmother’s descendant. I’ve been trying since the first of the new year to write the third book in the Catherine Swope series. It’s called Sanctuary City. It’s a great story. A thriller, Catherine’s best friend’s brother is found dead in his car in front of the pod houses in Florida City. Drugs are stuffed in the various voids in the car. Drug manufacturing paraphernalia is found in the in the abandoned pod houses. Brandon’s girlfriend’s family are illegals. The family has ties to the drug manufacturing operation. They relied on Miami’s status as a Sanctuary City to keep them safe from deportation. Now that status has been revoked.

I knew where the story was going, had my major plot points, twists, turns, action, betrayal, devastation, disaster, and triumph. The story was not working. Every morning I sat and my desk pulling words out letter by painful letter. I re-read chapters, they flowed and worked, and I did not care. In the back of my mind, a new story was perking. One that caught my interest. I kept telling myself I would pay attention to it after one more chapter of Sanctuary City. In the back of my mind, I heard my father’s voice. “You are just like your grandmother.”

That was it. The third car wrecked. I closed the Scrivener file, pulled out my notebook and started scribbling. Sanctuary City wasn’t holding my interest. It might hold a reader’s interest, but I had nothing to say. I wanted to write light, not heavy. I wanted to have fun.

Since that morning three weeks ago I’ve outlined Fantasy Fest Fatality a novel set in the Florida Keys. It’s set during Fantasy Fest with an entirely new cast of characters. The first of twelve (yep, twelve) books. The series is already lightly outlined and ready to go. I hope you’ll join me for a trip to the Fabulous Florida Keys – remember it’s always better if you see it with a native!

Readers and writers – do you tend to keep pushing things through to the end even if you’ve passed the point where you should have stopped?

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Author: kaitcarson

I write mysteries set in South Florida. The Hayden Kent series is set in the Florida Keys. Hayden is a SCUBA diving paralegal who keeps finding bodies. Underwater, no one can hear you scream! Catherine Swope is a Miami Realtor with a penchant for finding bodies in the darndest places. I live in an airpark in Fort Denaud, FL with my husband, five cats, and a flock of conures. And oh yes, a Piper Cherokee 6 in the hangar!

18 thoughts on “How do you know when you’re done?”

  1. Kait, your grandmother sounds fantastic! My grandmother was also quite self-sufficient and stubborn, but not nearly as interesting as yours sounds. Knowing when to quit? I’m terrible. I’ve only ever stopped reading two books, no matter how terrible – one was a Dostoevsky, the other was an Iris Johansen. His was boring and tedious; in hers, she killed the children, and I just couldn’t go further. Otherwise, I’ve suffered through some truly awful writing, hoping it gets better by the end. It rarely does, but I have a bit of OCD in that I can’t leave things unfinished. The unfinished things weigh on me terribly. Writing, I’m doing a bit better. I’m giving myself more permission to move on, and I think getting better at knowing the difference between avoiding the hard parts and accepting that something isn’t working. It’s a process, though. So excited about the series you’re mapping – it sounds wonderful!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, Pamela, I know what you mean. Mine was Steinbeck – is that even how you spell it – I couldn’t turn another page – I’m guessing the Joads got there, but I sure don’t know! I’ve not read that particular Johansen, but I wouldn’t be able to finish it either.

      Never thought of it as OCD, but I cannot fathom how people can walk away and leave something undone! What is up with that!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sometimes you just have to go with the story calling to you.

    That said, yes. I’ve stuck with a number of things past the point where I should quit. Usually technology problems, though. Rarely writing projects. My husband just shakes his head and leaves the room. I’m trying to get better about quitting before I get so frustrated I want to scream. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ah, but the breakthrough feels so good! HAH! Sometimes you know there is just that one little piece, other times – it just ain’t working. I think I missed the gene of knowing the difference! My husband does the same. When I’m lucky, he returns with wine. It helps.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m in awe of your grandmother. No, I don’t keep going if I get stuck. It usually means there’s something wrong with it. With paintings, if they aren’t horrible, I save them. Someday I’ll look at them and say “Ah! I see the problem!” or I use them for practice glazing. I do have a painting that I plan to complete but fear has stopped me because I wanted it to be better than I was capable of doing. Have figured out what I want to do now, just haven’t found the time. And now back to beating up my book…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My grandmother was unique. But no, I think a lot of her generation were just like her. We are lucky women to have those strong ladies in our background.

      I hope you keep beating up the book! I bet you know exactly where you are going with it and I’m dying for a good read. Sometimes though, I see my friends walk away from something and I know it’s because it scares them. That’s what I’m often trying to avoid by keeping at it. Just before the epiphany comes — the hell! With Sanctuary City – there didn’t seem to be another side. Maybe in the future.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Great question! It’s done when there’s nothing more you can give it with your present set of skills, tools, and passion. Hopefully, that point happens when you’re also at the end, but when it’s not, it’s done for now. Maybe later it will call you for more.

    Can’t wait to see your new series! I so want to go to the Keys!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Sue! The Keys are wonderful. I haven’t been down since Irma. That was a gamechanger and it plays a role in the first book, and probably in all 12 to one extent or another. Writing is hard work. I finally figured out it needs to be enjoyable too!

      Like

  5. As a reader, I have a different “issue.” Once I have committed to write a review, I MUST finish the book. Of course I try to select only books that I would have read anyway, but occasionally someone will request that I review some “other” book. I do feel obligated to finish those as well; my review was solicited and I was given the book after all. While I do admit that I “occasionally” skip ahead sometimes, I have only “not finished” one book that someone else requested me to read. The publisher understood and actually found my “non-review” valuable input as well.

    Besides, there usually is a nice surprise at the end of a mystery or thriller.

    Of course, everyone knows what trauma it is to have to sit, undisturbed, uninterrupted, with coffee, reading a book. (I love being a reviewer!)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. A rough job, but someone has to do it! It must be hard to write reviews and sometimes even to finish the book! I do admire you for being able to do that.

      I no longer recall the title of the worst book I ever read. It was a romance and I remember that the protagonist had a man she just met attend her hysterectomy. No, he wasn’t a doctor, he was there for moral support! The book was well worth the time spent though. It gave me my all time favorite quote for err…people who are not playing with all eight cylinders. Always a silver lining, isn’t there!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Kait, this was an interesting read. I’m more apt to stop writing a short story than a novel. Probably because I don’t have as much invested in the short. Your grandmother sounds awesome. There were a lot of strong women back then. Well, there still are. And they’re always inspirational. The worst book I ever read, I finished. It was about a woman whose husband died and haunted her as a cat. I don’t think I’ve stopped reading more than four or five books over my lifetime. I can almost always find something interesting in them.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I have a kickass grandma, too. In fact, I’ve written a book based on an episode in her young life, which I — wait for it — haven’t finished. It’ll come after it percolates enough. Same with yours. Don’t think of it as abandoning it. You’re just letting the story sit a spell and decide when it wants to make itself known. But definitely, yes, move along! Looking forward to visiting Florida with you!

    Like

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