One of the questions I had in my list of seventeen questions in a post earlier this week was How many unfinished projects do I have? When I saw the poster above, it made me smile. How nice to let whoever that 'Karma guy' is to pop by my house and gather all my unfinished projects in a bag. Then he'd take them home and return them in perfect submission condition.
We all know that karma is not a person but a philosophy in the Hindu or Buddhist religion. So, I guess we are going to have to finish those half-done pieces of writing on our own. But how?
- Identify: Make a list of all the unfinished writing in your files. Are you shocked at the number or do you think that it's not so bad?
- Sort: Rearrange your list so that your first priority projects are at the top and the rest to follow in order of importance. Some of you will put the easiest first and others will begin with the one they know will be most difficult. There are pluses to both ways. Get the worst one out of the way first and the rest will seem easy. Or, do the easy ones and work up to the one that has bugged you for a long time. Your choice!
- Read thoroughly: Once you've selected a piece to begin your Finishing Project, read it slowly and carefully. Read it from your writer's viewpoint. Now read it again. This time, read it from the reader's side. How do they see it differently than you do? What things will they see the same? Read it two or three more times, still slowly. Did any ideas for revising or finishing jump out? Sometimes, that will happen and others not.
- Revise and Edit: When we talk about 'unfinished projects,' there are two kinds. Some are completed first drafts of essays or short stories, poems, articles, even a chapter of a book but we consider them as not completed because we know they should be written better. Other first drafts might be only half-finished. I have one in my files that is only one sentence! This step is where the hard work comes in.
- Simmer slowly: After you've completed #4, put the draft back in your files for a few days. This is a step too many writers skip. They are in a hurry to get something finished and ready to submit. It's well worth taking this step, however, because you'll see from a different perspective when you read it later.
- Final Edit: Make your final edit. It's probably not going to take long, if you are relatively satisfied with what you've written. There will be minor word changes, spelling corrections, deleting a few words--usually the mechanical things that need polishing.
- Seek a market: All this time that you've been finishing your piece, you have probably been considering a market that would be a good spot to submit to. Start checking guidelines and look for as many markets as you can that would be appropriate for whatever you've written.
- Ready to submit: After you've done all of the above, send that finished piece to an editor.
- Go back to the list: You've gotten one down and are ready to tackle #2 on your list. Whittle that list down one by one.
What if you still aren't satisfied with what you've come up with? What if the piece needs such a major overhaul that you are ready to dump it totally? That will happen now and then. We all have written something with three great beginning paragraphs and then there is nowhere else to go. And it's not a finished piece. It's just thoughts from your head to the printed word. It's OK. There is no Writer's Rule that says every single piece we start must be finished. Should you delete it, wipe it clean off your To-Do List? Maybe you should still save it in your files. Perhaps, two years from now, a fabulous way to continue will come to you. Or maybe it won't but it does no harm to keep that unfinished piece in your files. You might start a folder of the ones that need your attention later.
One good piece of advice in today's poster is the part that says Keep calm... Your finishing up project will go more smoothly if you do.