Yes, You Can Finish Your Story
By Paul Malone
If you enjoy creative writing but struggle to finish your story, then this article can help you. Rest assured you’re not alone – anyone who writes regularly is likely to have amassed pages of ideas, observations, the beginnings of stories, entire rough drafts even. It’s all creative endeavour, the fertile soil from which stories emerge. When you nurture your stories, they will grow. And every finished story is like a ripened fruit ready to be picked and enjoyed by your readers.
Stepping out of this bountiful story garden for a moment…
Why bother finishing a story?
Clearly there is a great deal of satisfaction and sense of achievement that comes with finishing a story. This Sunday Writers’ Club blog celebrates such writing achievements: we’ve been publishing our members’ stories since 2018. But of equal importance, when you finish a story, you develop as a writer – practically learning about the entire writing process, from the writing the first draft to submitting your story for publication.
From the garden to the tennis court…
Writing is like tennis – the joy is in the game.
Imagine joining a tennis club and then never actually playing a match – just whacking the ball over the net or up against a wall. No challenging opponent, no keeping score, no umpire, no cheering spectators, no trophy at the end. It might be fun for a while, but every player knows that the joy of tennis is in the game. The same goes for writing – you can certainly write for pleasure, revel in the cathartic experience, if you please; but if you’ve been creative writing for a while, you’re probably itching for a challenge – to get out there and show the world what you can do.
If you bristle at the idea of seeing writing in such a sporting light, then think of that succulent garden mentioned earlier: Wouldn’t you like to share the fruits of your writing with readers?
Can you get your story published?
Can you win a tennis match? Most likely, provided you apply yourself: practice regularly, sign up for matches, play to win. Common sense tells you that you’ll start at a lower division and gradually improve your ranking. Same goes with getting published: write and finish your stories, submit them to an appropriate market (amateur perhaps to start with) and work your way up. How high can you go? Only you can discover this for yourself through writing.
How to finish your story
Finishing your story is simple. Here’s how:
- Write a first draft.
- Revise your story.
- Edit, format, and submit your story to your chosen market.
That is all there is to the story game! Play it often enough and not only will you dramatically improve your writing, but you’re likely to get published.
Of course, there are all sorts of thorny details entangled with the three points listed above. And the best way to understand them is to simply start writing and finishing your stories. You’ll soon discover for yourself how important it is to be able to effectively revise and edit your story. A publication will feel like a win. You’ll naturally want to win more, to lift your game and get published in ever more prestigious markets.
Five tips to help get you across the finishing line:
- Read, read, and read some more
For many writers, reading is one of life’s big pleasures. It’s no labour at all to devour books like others might, the latest hit Netflix series. Still, there is a slight difference between reading for pleasure and reading to improve one’s own writing. For example, you might decide that you’d like to write in a particular genre, one that you’re not so up to date with. Perhaps you read that genre in your younger years, and now you’re inspired to write the same. It’s important to rediscover the genre, to get a feel for the current market and the target audience, to understand how your story might belong. Genres aside, reading brings us up close to the use of language, to the techniques of other writers, to the art of storytelling. In short, reading connects us to all those things we hope to master as writers.
- Read about writing
Just as a tennis player must learn the various shots – the serve, the forehand, the backhand, the volley, etc. – in the same way, a fiction writer must learn the various aspects of their craft: dialogue, POV, plot, etc. There are plenty of books out there about the craft of writing fiction. It’s a good idea to invest in a few.
- Get organised
Make writing a priority. Find time in your busy schedule to write on a regular basis. Perhaps you can manage half an hour a day to begin with. Maybe you can manage longer on weekends. Make the regular time (no excuses) and harvest the fruits of your writing efforts. If you’re a deadline sort of person (many of us are), then set yourself one: When do you plan to finish your current story?
You might also divide your time according to various writing tasks such as revising and editing a story in progress or exploring a new story idea. Experiment a little and see what works best for you. And keep in mind that what works for you right now might not in the future. All things change.
- Experiment with writing location
Try experimenting with writing location: Do you write best at home? In a café? Maybe one location is more suitable for one writing task than another. For example, you might prefer a quiet room at home to edit your stories; but the aromas, bustle, and background noise (yet no major interruptions) afforded by a seat in a café are better for writing flow.
- Join a writers’ group
Join a writers’ group for good company and motivation. Make sure you join a group where the participants are supportive, any feedback is objective, and where you can develop as a writer and take advantage of opportunities. Sunday Writers’ Club is one such writers’ group, but there are many more out there. You might benefit from joining your local writers’ group where you can meet other writers in person.
Get writing now!
I hope this article has helped you see clearly how you can finish your stories, and that you now feel encouraged to do so. Please feel free to comment or ask questions.
If you’re looking for books on writing, here are three recommendations:
The Secrets of Story by Matt Bird (about storytelling in general)
Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain (a classic dealing specifically with writing fiction)
Rules for Writers by Diana Hacker and Nancy Sommers (because editing is important)
Where to get your story published
Check out Duotrope – a comprehensive publication database where you can search for the best market for your story.
Sunday Writers' Club Team Member
You can find out more about Paul on the Sunday Writers’ Club about page here