Haunted by an Unfinished Book
As a teacher and coach I’ve seen plenty of writers haunted by an abandoned book. They say things like “I didn’t see it through” or “I gave up.” Let’s face it, most of us write with the intention of at least finishing. Though ideally we want the finished manuscript to be published, preferably backed by an agent and a major house. Even if we don’t always vocalize it, we have fantasies that extend way beyond that – bestsellers, literary prizes, movie deals.
It’s easy to beat yourself up over that unfinished potential best seller, but here’s the truth: every successful writer has at least one abandoned book, probably far more than one. Some books are unfinished, others get lost in the weeds of publishing – never finding an agent or our agent was unable to sell the story.
In some cases we grieve. Other times we reread our lost stories, wince, and thank God they never escaped into the marketplace. Not every book is intended for publication and not every abandoned book is a failure. In fact, I’d say a book is a success if:
- You learned something from writing it.
- You honed your techniques and upped your skill level from the sheer practice of showing up at the computer day after day.
- The process of writing and trying to sell it brought you in contact with people who will be important to your career eventually.
- It propelled you to your next story.
- You developed some scenes or characters who – while perhaps not strong enough to support an entire work of fiction – may find a home in a different story in the future.
I’ll cop to seven dead books – three unfinished and four unsold. They’re under my bed in little rectangular boxes, whose resemblance to coffins is impossible to overlook. But those of you who have taken my classes know, I keep “cut character” and “cut scene” files and raid them on a regular basis. Who knows? Some of my murdered darlings may yet claw their way from the grave and live again in a different form.
ABOUT KIM: Kim Wright is the author of Love in Mid Air, The Unexpected Waltz, The Canterbury Sisters, Last Ride to Graceland, and The Longest Day of the Year. As The Story Doctor, she coaches and offers developmental edits. Kim is a Charlotte Lit Authors Lab faculty member and coach. When she’s not teaching, writing, and editing, she’s often talking about writing on social media.
FIND YOUR NEXT STORY WITH KIM: Successful writers will tell you they often make multiple false starts before settling on a concept that can really go the distance––but exactly where do those original ideas come from? In Generating Story Ideas Kim will teach you how to separate the concepts that are mere glimmers from those that hold narrative gold. More information here.