Are You 90% Done…and Stuck? Finding the Moxie to Finish Your Project.

Happy 2021, friends! So excited to begin a new year and new creative visions.

BTW: I love the word “moxie.” And today I’m re-sharing a piece I originally wrote for Frolic Magazine but is having a lot of resonance for me as we enter this new year:

90% Done…and Stuck? Finding the Moxie to Finish Your Project

There it sits. Maybe it’s a book you started during last year’s NaNoWrimo. Maybe it’s something you’ve been working on since 2005. Or maybe it’s your quarantine project, started in a flurry of inspiration in the spring…and now it’s stalled.

Unfinished work is painful. Projects sitting there are painful. We feel like we let ourselves (and our vision) down. But most of us don’t know how to finish our projects because we don’t get a lot of practice at the skill of finishing.

We get lots of practice at beginnings. Beginnings are fun! Beginnings are full of promise, all hearts and flowers. But even if we’re great at beginning, we haven’t perfected the art of dragging those ideas back to shore and landing them. 

And that’s when people quit. 

I write flash fiction, stories under 1,000 words, and one of the benefits to writing flash fiction is that you get a lot of practice at finishing. When you sit down to write a flash fiction story you always see the end in sight. Finishing is a skill, like any other skill, and with practice you will get better.

“Finishing” can mean many things. Maybe you need to write the actual ending. Maybe you’re stalled somewhere in the middle, or even in the revising. But if you are in the “90% and stuck” category, you probably need to do one of three things:

LET GO

You’ve mapped everything out, the entire timeline, a gorgeous synopsis, and you’ve been faithfully following your map…but you’re bored. When you know how your story ends, there’s less motivation to return. No mystery. You already know what’s going to happen, so you aren’t being driven to your computer in the middle of the night with crazy insights and inspiration. No, you are instead following your script, and most days it feels like you’re just punching in on the creative time clock. No wonder you aren’t finished! 

What your manuscript needs from you is some spontaneity, some breathing room. You might be really attached to your original vision, you may have spent countless hours mapping it out, but it’s time to “re-vision” your vision. It’s time to give the story some autonomy. Our stories are smarter than we are—and when we try to control and tame them…they can dry up. 

SHOW UP

Or, on the other end, you have no idea where this project is going at all! You worry that you bit off more than you can chew. It all feels out of control. You’re avoiding it because you’re scared of it, intimidated by the scope of finishing. 

Welcome to the creative process. Remember, the muse gives it to us in HER time, so sometimes you just have to be patient. But being patient means showing up every day with an open heart. The long-term relationship of a big project includes the good and bad, the up days and the down days. Your job is to keep showing up. It’s this daily “checking in” with our work that allows it to come to life–or shift gears or whatever it wants to do. Like any relationship, you have to be there consistently, even in small ways, if you want it to trust you and reveal itself.  

GET PERSPECTIVE

Sometimes the project is technically “finished” but you’re stuck in the revision process. Maybe there is something missing and you just can’t see it. Maybe it just feels lackluster. Maybe you need to cut some fluff. Maybe you need to go deeper. 

In this case it’s time for a second opinion. You’ve been looking at your manuscript for too long and you have blind spots; allow someone who is less invested, and whose eyes are less tired, to give you a new perspective, a fresh vantagepoint. Whether this is a paid professional or a trusted colleague (emphasis on quality here!), remember a good reader/editor will interrogate your text, not rewrite it. They will help you see your project with clear eyes, shine a flashlight into your blind spots, so that you become clear about your next steps. 

So whether you need to let goshow up or phone a friend, the important thing is to keep going, if only for the practice of finishing.

Now let’s be clear: There is no shame in quitting a project if you just aren’t feeling the love. Life is too short to waste finishing work we don’t like. 

But if you still feel the spark, if your project still has something special, if you’re still curious about how it’s going to end or how to finish what you have started… then it’s time to get yourself back in the game.

Because only you can make your art.

Love, Nancy

Summer Resolution #1: Finish That Manuscript online workshop

An Online Workshop on Re-visioning, Taking the Next Step, and Falling (Back) in Love with Your Vision.

Starts April 27!

Are you or someone you know working on a manuscript? Are you stuck in the writing phase or in the revision process? Or have you “finished” but not gotten the response you wanted out in the world? Are you not sure what comes next? Most of us are better at starting manuscripts than we are at finishing them. But it’s only when we can conceive, create, and bring our projects to fruition that we begin to master the longer form known as a book. Each book we write brings us closer to understanding how to write a book. What phase of the finishing process are you in? And what do you need to cross the finish line and get it out into the world?

Are you ready? Find out more

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Summer Project #1: Finish That Manuscript! An Online Workshop with Nancy Stohlman

the end

Are you still sitting on that same manuscript? Are you stuck in the writing phase or in the revision process? Most of us are better at starting manuscripts than we are at finishing them. But it’s only when we can conceive, create, and bring our projects to fruition that we begin to master the longer form known as a book.

In this 4-week virtual workshop I’ll give you the deadlines you might need, help you structure your writing time into your life, help you transition more easily between creation and revision, and help you become your own best editor. Whether you are planning to submit or self publish, you’ll learn writing tips, editorial and publication advice, how to excerpt and query, and even when to let a manuscript go. And most importantly, you’ll finally rescue your work from the desk drawer and give yourself the satisfaction of completion.

The workshop format will include weekly online instruction, telephone check-ins, and professional line edits (limited). Both fiction and nonfiction manuscripts are welcome.

Are you ready?

  • Four week session begins Monday, July 1.
  • $149 workshop tuition ($75 due upon registration)
  • Bring a friend discount—10% off if you sign up with a friend
  • Available seats: 15

To apply, send the first page of your manuscript as well as a bio/statement of intent to

nancystohlman@gmail.com

Deadline June 30.

**Join me for a 30-min free informational phone session at 7 pm MST on Tuesday, June 25. Contact me for details or for registration information at nancystohlman@gmail.com

Nancy Stohlman is the author of two novels, Searching for Suzi (Monkey Puzzle Press, 2009), and The Monster Opera (forthcoming Bartleby Snopes Press, 2013), and the editor of four anthologies, including Live From Palestine and Fast Forward: The Mix Tape, which was a finalist for a 2011 Colorado Book Award.  In 2004 she founded To Get The Words Right Manuscript Editing, in 2007 she co-founded Fast Forward Press, and over the last 10 years she has helped hundreds of writers bring their manuscripts to completion and move confidently into the public arena. She lives and teaches writing in Denver, writes a semi-weekly blog, Ask A Flash Fiction Editor, and is the proud author of many, many manuscripts in drawers. Read more at www.nancystohlman.com