Monday, January 2, 2017

New Year, Old You

Writers like new years, because new years come with resolutions, and resolutions come with lists, and writers like to make lists. Also there’s that word “new.” Is there anything that gets a writer’s heart pumping more than that brand-new idea? That shiny, sparkling new character? Typing the words “fade in,” putting in that fresh piece of typewriter paper (okay, haven’t done this since the 1980s but I still remember the feeling), new new new!!

I love resolutions, and I’ve started many a new year making lists of what I was going to accomplish, writer and life wise. Many of these resolutions were familiar because I’d made them the previous year, and the year before that… and the year before that….
But most of the resolutions around writing centered around new projects. My latest idea for a screenplay. A short story. Two novels. So many exciting beginnings, so much promise, so much fun.

Many writers don’t have a problem starting new projects. We have a problem finishing them.

And while it’s true that some ideas honestly aren’t as good as the writer originally thought they were, others could have been workable if the writer had barreled her way through. Too often, though, while we’re in the middle of the muck, another new shiny idea pops into our minds, and we abandon what we’re working on to play with the new toy.

I admit I’m guilty of this myself. Several months ago I abandoned a YA project when I read of very similar projects being purchased by major publishers. I was also very aware of the issue of cultural appropriation, and I feared I wasn’t the right writer for this story; the authors who had sold their stories mirrored their protagonists, and I did not.

However, in a few weeks (once I get the notes back from the developmental editor I hired), I plan on starting the 10th draft of a manuscript I’ve been working on for over two years. I’ve worked on other projects in the meantime, and several times I’ve thought of just chucking the whole thing when I couldn’t figure out how to solve a problem. But I think the concept is appealing, and timely, so I’m not going to give up on it. Even though I’m 70 pages into a book that also has an appealing concept.

Ultimately, it’s up to the writer to decide for herself whether a project is worth the hours, days and even years it might take to get it up to publication standards. Having a writers group is a great place to share these dilemmas. If other writers tell you not to give up, you should listen.

In my own writers group, though, there are several writers who’ve been working on great ideas, only to set them aside to play with the next great idea. Sometimes I want to shake them when they report they spent the week researching Next Great Idea, when the Last Great Idea was something that was marketable in a number of ways.

For 2017, let’s put away the shiny new toys and dig up some old, abandoned projects. Yes, the blinking cursor on a blank screen is always exciting, but so is finding the first several chapters of a book that was begun two years ago.

My 2017 writing goals are:
 Update my latest novel and self-publish it if my agent can’t sell it;
 Rewrite the first ten pages of an old screenplay and enter it in the contests;
 Rewrite another screenplay and enter it into the contests;
 Rewrite and polish the novel currently out to the developmental editor;
 Finish the first draft of my latest novel.

I’m not starting anything new. But if I’m successful, 2017 will have a lot of endings.

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