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I’m just going to keep writing and see what happens

August 24, 2012

My first real attempt at writing a story came when I was about 12 years old. It was to be a kind of medieval fantasy, and it centered around a character named Valdecier who had escaped from a prison camp where he’d been made to fight in one too many bloody gladiatorial contests. I have no idea where the story idea or the character’s name came from. Although I’ve come to have a sinking suspicion that both were heavily influenced by the 1988 movie Willow starring, um, Val Kilmer.

I can’t tell you what happened to the  hero of that story in the end, because I never finished it. So along with it being the first story I actually took the time to begin writing, it’s also the first story I gave up on writing. Even at 12 years old I was both a perfectionist and a procrastinator. And when I could see that the first few pages printed out in dot matrix weren’t up to par, I moved on to other things. I wish I hadn’t done that, but such is life.

Since then I’ve finished a few stories, but I’ve begun and left unfinished dozens of other. The reason has always been some variation of my first failure. A story is either not as good as I think it could be, or I get distracted and start something else, or I just get lazy. I was never really the kind of writer that would push through to the end of a story if it didn’t look so great in the middle. I always figured the next one would be better. It usually was, but rarely was it good enough.

A few months ago I finally changed this, a little. I began a small story and, over the course of a few weeks or struggling, I finished it. I think that the beginning was pretty good. The rest, I’m sad to say, was not. It’s actually pretty terrible. But I finished it completely even after I knew it wasn’t going to turn out the way I wanted. Then I put it away for a long time and last night I took out to try and revise it. It’s as bad I remember, but not as bad as I feared. And I think with a substantial rewrite, it could actually turn out pretty good.

I’ve learned a lesson in practice that I’ve known for a long time in theory: the only way to finish a story is to keep writing until it’s done. When it’s done it might suck, but you can fix sucking (though not always I’m afraid). What you can’t fix is unfinished. A story cannot be willed into existence without work. That said, I’m off to work on another story that I started and isn’t going quite the way I expected. I’ll let you know what happens.

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