10 Ways to finish a story - Claire Scobie
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10 Ways to finish a story

10 Ways to finish a story

So many writers don’t succeed because they don’t finish stories. Don’t be one of them.

As a journalist I’m used to deadlines. If I didn’t have them, I wouldn’t always finish stories. Or even start them.

When you’re working on a book or a bigger writing project you need to create your own deadlines. If you know you won’t stick to them, find someone you can be accountable to.

Here are 5 ways to be accountable

  1. Find a friend you trust or a writing buddy or a group of writers. Tell them to give you a deadline.
  2. Write out your goals – research suggests you’re more likely to succeed if you do so.
  3. Be time specific with your goals – so set a realistic date to finish your story or first draft.
  4. If you’re writing book, break down your goals. Make a commitment to write 5,000 words every month or whatever.
  5. Email all of this to your friend / buddy / group. You are now accountable to them and if you don’t meet your goals you need a VERY good excuse. (Or you may set yourself a fine.)

This works better if there is an exchange. So if you say you’re going to finish your first chapter and your friend is an artist, she needs to have done the first sketch of her watercolour.

Here are 5 more ways to finish a story.

  1. Apply for a writer’s residency. Every year the Writer’s House at Varuna offers a week-long fellowship for writers. To apply you need to submit the first 40 pages of your book. Of course, your goal is to get the residency but if you don’t, you’ve still polished a substantial chunk of work. The closing date is 28 August.
  2. Apply for a grant or enter a competition. Same principle applies. Lane Cove Library is offering $2,000 for the best 3,000 word memoir story. The closing date is 27 August.
  3. Set yourself a personal deadline just before you go on holiday. The countdown to leaving creates a pressure tunnel and can make you finish a lingering project. That’s how I submitted my Doctorate of Arts last year. Two weeks in India was my big carrot at the end.
  4. Submit a story to a publication or journal. Obviously the ideal here is to get paid. But if it’s a fanzine, it’s more about forcing you to finish your piece.
  5. Sign up for a writing course – face to face or online – which stipulates you have to produce work. Several years ago I signed up for an online course at Gotham Writers’ School and over 10 weeks the group had to produce 10,000 words. We workshopped these virtually. Some of those words made the final cut into my novel The Pagoda Tree.

How do you ensure you finish your stories?

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