On Writing – Goals & Finish Lines

I’ve casually mentioned here that in addition to drafting my next novel, I’m also recording Five Talents as an audiobook to coincide with a June self-publishing date for Kindle and Paperback editions.

I did a similar thing with Beneath the Wood, wherein I finished it, shopped it around to agents, and when none bit, I self-published it. Five Talents was shopped around and got no positive takes, so I’m at peace with it. I’ve had a couple friends question this, telling me I shouldn’t give up on it and continue editing and shopping it around.

The question I ask myself with any story as a project, Beneath the Wood first and now Five Talents, is this: is this the story I want to tell, and have I made it as good as I reasonably can? A teacher once told me that no art is ever truly finished, only abandoned.

That word choice may seem bleak, but the subjectivity of art makes such that there will always be another chip, word adjustment, or brush stroke you can apply to a work. At a point you have to step back and take in the big picture of whether or not you’ve achieved in sum total what you set out to do.

When I started from scratch with my material almost two years ago and deleted all my writing, I did so first to force myself to focus singularly on a given project to completion. That focus is undermined if I do not set a finish line for myself wherein I completely step away and call a work done.

That’s easy enough to do if you’re just leaving it on your computer or archives, but the goal of producing a work I’m confident in asking people to pay money for increases the accountability and ultimately pushes me to more thorough, thoughtful, and attentive editing and rewriting through the process. It motivates me to go further with my editing before shopping around, and further still with proofreading prior to putting it up for sale.

When I’ve hit the mark and a story is the one I want told, three things happen. First, I’m confident to put it out there for anyone who wants to read it, which is why I can confidently laugh off and even appreciate my friend’s *ahem* blunt response to my protagonist in Beneath the Wood.

Second, I’m able to move on to my next project without any lingering tugs to revert or distract myself with continued tweaking and adjustment. As I’ve noted in prior posts, I have the very fortunate problem for now of having a queue of projects to try to develop and execute. While I need to make each one as good as they can be, I also have to strike a balance and not obsess and stall on any given one for too long either.

Third, and most importantly, I’m at peace. While that success of an agent or publisher picking up my story is one I’ve yet to taste, I have now called two projects finished  without any shame or discomfiture at how far I took them. I am proud of Beneath the Wood, and can’t wait to share Five Talents with you all in June. I went the distance on them. They are the stories I wanted them to be, and I am ready for what comes next.

Of course, this is what I mean when I say it repeatedly here: We move forward.

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