Peggy Bechko: So Finish It Already!

Seabiscuit always finished what he started. You should too!
Seabiscuit always finished what he started. You should too!

by Peggy Bechko

You’re a writer. Maybe of scripts, perhaps of novels or even non-fiction.

Maybe you have a couple of unfinished scripts laying around. A novel half done. A memoir or non-fiction expose roughed out. No doubt you have a stream of ideas, probably some really good ones.

BUT, you know what? If you don’t finish it you can’t get it out there. Others can’t read it, you can’t sell it, you career is stuck in the mire.

God knows I’ve been there. And, I admit I usually have two or three projects going at the same time. BUT, that isn’t the same as not finishing and moving on to something else. Many times my projects kind of play leapfrog until I focus in real hard, then boom, boom, boom, one after the other hits the finishing line. Goes to edit, then on to readers.

The fact of the matter is a writer may start off strong with a great idea that really excites him or her and it’s off to the races. But somewhere along the line the thing just won’t really pop, it’s running into a wall and the writer gets discouraged. Pretty soon, after agonizing over it, following leads that lead nowhere, the wall still firmly in place it’s walk away time. Maybe the next one will go better…

Maybe not. It might be that the original story idea just didn’t have enough moxie. How to work with that? Well, it’s a good idea to make a plan, maybe an outline, to work the idea through thoroughly before you leap into writing pages. If a script writer, there’s still those old stand-by cards you can jot things on an rearrange. You can write out the whole treatment and give yourself direction. A novel writer can make use of those outline cards as well or just create a rough outline and go from there. Make sure you’re well acquainted with the structure of the medium you’re leaping into. Understand screenwriting structure, know the mechanics of novel writing.

So many new writers tell me, “I don’t want to outline and block myself in, I have to be free to create!”

Yeah, yeah, you’re free already. Just because you work through an idea to be sure it DOES work and give yourself a direction doesn’t mean you’re trapped. You’re the writer, you can change things in flight. But if you don’t change your approach you’re going to pile up half done scripts like bundled newspaper for recycling.

Or maybe you’re one of our clan who has that fear of failure (or success for that matter) thing. After all if you complete a script or a manuscript it’s likely to be ready by someone, right? Maybe by someone who’ll be truthful and helpful, maybe by a nasty, snotty intern wannabe. What if they don’t like it? What if they dissect it and leave you with your guts spilling out on the floor? What if your dream of being a writer is only that and no more?

In that case all I can say is suck it up and move on. Rejection is a major component of being a writer. Don’t laugh nervously and shake your head. It’s simply true. You’re going to get criticism and rejection. Many will pass, but as my mother always told me, it only takes one to say yes.

And if one script or manuscript can’t find a home you write another one and hope that one will. It can be really painful, but it’s the mine field we must traverse if we really want to be writers. Take the negative feedback and learn from it, or, in some cases, reject it and move on. Toughen your hide and keep writing.

But, of course, for some writers, the whole thing is a bit much and thus the stack of half completed scripts or manuscripts. They just can’t get past that wall. These writers frequent the social media bemoaning the state of a writer’s lot, judging others, giving opinions that rarely hold water. In fact they spend so much time there it’s a wonder they begin that next script that will peter out.

Don’t be one of them. Yes, it can be a lot more fun to talk about or write about writing than actually taking it through to completion. After all, who really wants to send their heart out there to be stabbed and stomped? But here’s the thing gang, that’s the obstacle course that confronts you.

If you decide it’s all too unfair, that you’re going to skip the whole thing, well, that’s okay. Not everyone wants to be a writer, really and if you give up you open up another spot for another writer who’ll finish those novels and scripts over and over and over and over…

Take stock now, what kind of writer are you? What are your demons? Confront them and move on.