Finishing What You’ve Started – The Power of Doing

As a species, we respect accomplishment more than intent. Judgment is passed based on our actions, while intent serves only as a mitigating factor. In addition, action endures in memories, while intentions will be quickly forgotten. As such, any creative legacy isn’t built on plans, wishes or hopes, but rather on actions and accomplishments.

Though Tolkien spent a significant portion of his life world-building Middle Earth, he isn’t best known for the milieu. Instead, he is largely remembered for having written The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Based on the sheer quantity of poetry, songs, linguistic details and other minute aspects of culture captured in The Silmarillion, Tolkien must have found joy in the world-building. However, because The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are more focused on story and a small cast seeking to accomplish their goals, they have a larger audience appeal.

One of the many reasons I respect those who complete NaNoWriMo is that they have accomplished a significant goal. Word counts are important as there are no stories without words on the page. However, when the word count is the only metric of success, I think there is something essential missed. To be marketable, the story needs to be brought to a close and then given the tender love and care it deserves in the editing phase. An incomplete manuscript can neither be sold, nor will attract readers.

I have known many writers who abandon their projects after NaNo. No editor is interested in buying an incomplete or unpolished manuscript from a novice writer. Only seasoned pros can sell that way. I have heard, and used, every excuse in the book for not writing or editing. We all have obligations, time that we must devote to our day jobs, spending with family and friends, and the other multitude of tasks that make life run smoothly. However, no one will ever give you the time you need to write or edit. You must choose to carve it out of your schedule for yourself. The project doesn’t end with November 31st, but rather must be carried through to completion to achieve NaNoWriMo’s full benefit.

Though some people find enjoyment in the building of worlds and the plotting of story lines, neither activity is enough by themselves to put food on the table or win a writing contract. In the end, the only way to be a professional writer and make a living from your craft is to complete stories. So whether you're on track to finish NaNoWriMo this year, or so far behind that you no longer think you'll make it, find a way to bring your story to a satisfying conclusion. Endings are hard, and so they need as much practice as any other aspect of craft. Just because your ending didn’t happen past the 50,000 word mark, doesn’t make it any less meaningful.


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