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I have been writing bits and pieces for quite a while now. I just can't ever follow through. I have written tons of poems (close to 50) but the only reason they have been possible is because I can finish them in one sitting.

I've been thinking of trying to do a short story instead of a full length novel I've been working on. How can I stick with one story instead of constantly skipping around?

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3 Answers 3

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This could be a problem with discipline on your part. Nobody can help you follow through on commitments except yourself, but perhaps the problem is that you don't have a commitment of any sort.

Maybe that's not it; maybe you get writer's block? Maybe you follow the rule of thumb, "when you get stuck on a story, write something else." And maybe that happens a lot to you?

Either way, ask yourself with each project: "What do I want to achieve?" Do you want to write a short story? A novel? a decalogy of books? All of these are achievable goals. Pick a project ("A story of length [foo] about [topic]") and set a deadline for yourself. Whether you want to break that deadline down into dates for outlines, character sketches, first draft - that's up to you. But tell yourself you'll be coming back to that, because you've set a hard date for completion of the first draft and the final edit and submission to a magazine/agent/publisher.

A short story is a great stepping-stone to a novel. But a novel is not the be-all and end-all of writing. (Except for established novelists, of course.) Some of my favorite books are barely novels by the modern definition. But if you want it to be a step on the way to a longer book, plan for it.

There are tricks for how to stick to a deadline: Set a daily word count, set aside daily writing time, get yourself a place to write (home office, the bus, coffeeshop) - but these are frills.

What seems to work for more people is to write every day. Don't stop. Ever. If you don't enjoy the process of writing, if you're not doing it all the time, you won't improve and you won't keep it up. (Okay, fine, take the weekends off if you must.)

Get off the internet, stop reading books about writing, stop planning (particularly if you have world-builder's syndrome). Sit down and write. When you finish the thing you're writing? Write something else. Stuck on the piece you're working on? Write something else for a while. But, since your problem is that you're skipping around, leave yourself an easy place to pick up. Stop in the middle of a sentence, perhaps, or leave yourself a few notes about what you want to do and why you're stuck.

Write.

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Disclaimer: Links go to a site where I post. –  Neil Fein Jun 18 '12 at 1:09
    
Thanks. BTW what's world-builder's syndrome? –  shachna Jun 18 '12 at 1:22
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@shachna: When you spend so much time creating a new world (country, society, universe, whatever) that you aren't writing the actual story. –  Lauren Ipsum Jun 18 '12 at 1:56
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Yep, @Lauren's got it in one. I added a link anyway. –  Neil Fein Jun 18 '12 at 3:54

Write an outline. At the very least write a sketch. So you are writing your story before you write your story. Have an idea of where it starts, what happens, and how it ends.

This gives you something to hang your ideas on. Then when you feel like walking away, or you get bored, you can go over your outline and see what's supposed to happen, and pick some other part to work on. Or focus on getting from wherever you are to some arbitrary next point in the outline.

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Thanks. I'll try that let you know if it helps. –  shachna Jun 18 '12 at 1:20

In many respects, you have hit on the core problem of many writers, which is sticking with a task that has become boring ( new work is always far more interesting ). This is a discipline, that you need to develop to become a good writer, because the rework, rewrite, critique process is so important to producing really good material.

Incidentally, I am writing up my PhD thesis ATM, It is tedious, boring work. I have done most of the interesting stuff already, but I need to achieve this document before I can get any credit for that. And re-writing it again and again is hard going, but necessity. Because the end result is not my experimental work, but my written thesis. In the same way with other work, the result is not your brilliant initial idea, it is the slow and careful crafting of that into a work that means other people can get your brilliant idea.

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