I've finally figured out why I haven't been able to finish anything for a while: I've been standing back and looking at the entire manuscript, rather than concentrating on one thing at a time. The prospect was so overwhelming, so boring since I knew what would happen at every turn, that eventually my enthusiasm sputtered out and I went looking for the next exciting project. Thus, I was falling into the trap of starting and never finishing.
But I have discovered a cure for this! Lately I've been focusing on time management, something I think we all have to do, because life has a tendency to get in the way, right? Anyway, school and work has really limited my writing time. So I resolved to get at least 1,000 words down a day to make some kind of progress on the W.I.P. I've faithfully planted my B.I.C. (butt in chair) every night, and in the last month I've managed to get up to 32,000 words! Whoo-hoo!
If any of you are having the same problem I was, here is a list of things to try.
1. Set a daily word goal.
Seriously, this has been working so well for me. Just get your butt in that chair and go. Instead of shooting for as many words as I can, I've narrowed it down to 1,000 words each day. And it's so much more doable. Once I reach that word count and I feel like going on, I do. Works for me!
2. Focus on one scene at a time.
Concentrating on the next scene, or the next chapter, is not so overwhelming as thinking about the rest of the novel. Forget about how many miles there are to go; there's just the next hill, the next hurdle. And I don't know about you, but having the rest of the story planned out bored me. There were no surprises, no moments of pleasant surprise.
3. Don't strive for perfection.
If you're the kind of writer that absolutely needs to have the flawless first draft, then this probably isn't for you. But honestly, if you don't stop to agonize over a certain word - is this the right one to use? What if it's too simple? - or wonder if this is the right action for a character, if you keep speeding along and just get the story down, you'll have a first draft soon enough. And then we can go back and fix all those details.
These points are what have been working for me. What about you? Have you been finishing your W.I.P.'s? What are your methods?