My previous post on Mysteristas was about abandoned projects, and as it turned out, several comments addressed the difficulty of finishing projects. That made me wonder: is there a difference between an abandoned project and an unfinished one?
I think so. And it’s more than a matter of semantics.
Abandoning a project is like throwing it into a junkyard where some parts can be salvaged later. Unfinished projects lose focus.
We don’t toss out an unfinished project (let’s call it Murder in the Junkyard) if it has merit. Merit determines whether or not this mess of a manuscript should be resurrected. I’ve found that asking myself several hard questions really helps to finish a difficult project. Starting with:
1. Do I really care about this?
We don’t have to know why, but if there’s a shred of passion about the project, then the next question becomes…
2. Do I know what my protagonist wants, and why?
The answer might not be on the page, but what the protagonist wants will determine the direction the story goes.
There’s a bunch more questions to ask before tackling a revision, but that’s for another post. Skipping ahead to the end, several more questions will help us finish this darned Junkyard project:
3. Are there logical obstacles keeping my protagonist from getting what she wants?
4. Does my protagonist use her special skills to overcome those obstacles? (And by the way, what are those skills?)
5. What has my protagonist learned by the end? (If the answer is “nothing,” then remember that the writer is God. What should my protagonist learn? How has the character grown? Even in a series, the character needs to change somewhat.)
6. What is the story question, and has it been resolved?
7. What outstanding questions are there?
8. Has the story fulfilled the promise made to the reader at the beginning?
Once we figure out how to insert the scenes that will show the answers to such questions, then we can resurrect an abandoned project and finish it. With a little passion!