Finishing What I Start

This is intended to serve as my introduction to the Insecure Writers’ Support Group – a group ran by Alex J. Cavanaugh over on Blogspot, to give other writers and would-be writers the support we need to get past our debilitating and often idiotic insecurities.
I’ve written a few times in the past few weeks about my often irrational insecurities, so it’s something that definitely makes sense to me.

InsecureWritersSupportGroupI’ve wanted to write fiction as long as I can remember, and even started writing a few scifi epics when I was a kid. Even back then, I don’t think I was great at keeping my focus all the way to the end. Though it may be because back then my plans had the habit of expanding much faster than I could write – as a writer’s hint, the other way round works better.

Somewhere along the line, I’ve gotten into the habit of beating myself up when the quality of my writing doesn’t meet the standards I want.
The characters don’t ring true. I’ve not set the scene properly. The plot doesn’t make sense.
While allย  of these are valid problems that need to be fixed (or compensated for with other strengths) for a long time I’ve allowed them to paralyse me. For instance, I’ve had an idea for a series of space opera short stories that I keep abandoning, and a sitcom pilot script that I’ve returned to again and again but never finished.

I’ve written a few short things of course. There’s a couple of thousand-ish word short stories here on my blog (under Read My Fiction); flash fiction; and short things for various competitions. There’s even been a couple of times I’ve started to write a novel chapter by chapter. My hope was that, by not being weighed down by the theoretical potential of the stories I’ve invested a lot of time and emotional effort into, I’d feel freer to write what came to mind.
Unfortunately, this idea didn’t really work out.

I’m much better at plotting than I am at actually writing, using formats like Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet and the like, and a piece of software called Anthemion Storylines to plot out a fairly detailed story structure. (If you’ve ever seen stories plotted using a series of post-it notes, or little pieces of paper attached to string, that’s basically what Storylines is. But it has the added benefit that the notes don’t fall off the wall.)
I’d even been using a character building idea to put together a detailed picture of each of my main characters.
So by November, I had a detailed story arc to follow, and I knew a lot about my characters, ready to use NaNoWriMo to get this thing finished.
Though the plan was in place, I actually waited until November 4th before starting. Because, as I’ve detailed above, I’m an idiot.

However, I take exception to this. My backside is pretty intelligent.
However, I take exception to this. My backside is fairly intelligent.

But, I got underway, finding the time to write, sometimes as much as 3,000 words in a single sitting. For those with more consistent writing habits that may not seem like a big deal, but to me it is.
I got close to the end of the first draft, over 20,000 words, after three weeks, but left it another week before going back to finish it off. That instinct inside of me, that says all my cool ideas should be left alone in case I ruin them,ย  just wasn’t giving up.
But, at the weekend, I returned, adding the few more details needed to the end. I then went through, rewriting what I’d done, and finding myself pleasantly surprised at the quality of what I’d written.

I now have a 28,000 word short-story, and I think it’s pretty decent. There’s a central mystery-action story, character conflicts, betrayal and deceit, enemies being forced to work together, moral dilemmas, a dramatic confrontation at the end.
I don’t want to get big-headed, but I think this story’s pretty decent.
It’s something that infringes on a number of copyrights, so it won’t be publishable, but it’s good to at least have written a coherent story from start to finish.
However, I actually think that this may be the longest piece of fiction I’ve written from start to finish for over a decade, so I’m pretty chuffed about that.

Once I find the time, I’m pretty upbeat about the next story.



PSย  To anyone from the Insecure Writers’ Support Group who’s found their way here – I may be away from my desk for a large part of Wednesday. Apologies if I don’t get round to reading many other posts on the day, but I promise I’ll read and comment on the blogs of anyone who posts here!

45 thoughts on “Finishing What I Start”

  1. Welcome to the fold, Joe. How you feel pretty well sums up every writer I know. I certainly feel this way most of the time. But I know you’ll keep plugging along. That’s the other thing about writers. We never know when to quit. Thank goodness.


  2. Welcome to IWSG!

    Congrats on writing a novella. That’s an accomplishment worth praising yourself for, especially if it’s good! But you shouldn’t beat yourself up when the quality of your stuff doesn’t measure up, especially if it’s just a first draft. The revision/rewrite process is where quality is born and nurtured. The first draft is just the task of lugging the giant lump of clay onto your work table. It’s an accomplishment just to get it all there, but revision is where you actually shape it into something beautiful.

    Good luck!


  3. Welcome to the group. Everyone is different. I find the first draft the most fun. I think its because I give myself permission to be free flowing and just get it one the page. Its editing that is giving me a headache. But, we all have something to overcome.


  4. Welcome to IWSG!

    Congratulations on finishing a project! As someone who has at least a dozen unfinished writing projects and maybe twice as many art ones, I commend you.


  5. Hey ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for taking the time to run over and comment on my little insecurities rant. Happy writing to you ๐Ÿ™‚

    p.s. I totally know what you mean about beating myself up over my writing. You’re your own worst critic.


  6. I think you did extremely well! You should stick to whatever works for you, if pasting post-it notes all over your walls is your approach, then go for it. Though, personally, I have found that short stories are so much harder to write. I just can’t write anything good in so few words. So I think you should really give yourself a lot of credit, as writing a short story does require a lot of skills, that I definitely lack. Thank you so much for your kind words on my blog.


    1. I think I’m much better at plotting than the actual writing – to me it feels more like recalling the coolest/most important bits of a favourite book or film, as opposed to being expected to tell the whole story, explain why the characters are sympathetic, etc.

      As for my ‘kind words’ I didn’t say anything I don’t believe to be true!


  7. Welcome to IWSG! You’ll love being part of this group! I can so relate to you – I’ve always wanted to write fiction, but worry too much about the quality. I’m doing a collab with a fellow wirter and that should be beneficial. Good luck! ๐Ÿ™‚


    1. Thanks!
      I do have a habit of hitting a block in one story, then ‘setting it to one side’ to work on something else, hitting a block in that one, etc.
      You seem to be a lot better at finishing things than I am, but I’m pretty pleased with 28k!


  8. You might want to check the thermostat on your blog – it’s snowing in here! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Like you, I started out the same way – a big sci fi epic as a kid. Reading your post was like stepping into the past. So true, but you continue to make your strides and tackle those words and it all begins to make sense. Heck, I’m still learning, but I’m better off than I was 15 years ago. Keep being awesome, and thanks for visiting my place today. Much appreciated. ๐Ÿ™‚


    1. Thanks for the welcome – and for kicking this whole thing off!

      I feel like I’ve got a lot out of the camraderie of the last few days, I really appreciate your effort in getting it off the ground.


  9. I’m glad you finished that story, and it’s quite long. Congrats.

    That devil speaking in your ear is a horrible thing. This past month, it’s been telling me I don’t have time to write, I won’t be able to “feel” the story to write it correctly, I’ve got spend to much time marketing, etc. We’ve both just got to stick our fingers to the keyboard and write, and kick the devil down where he belongs!


    1. Yeah, there’s always some reason why writing what we want to write is going to be hard, or impractical, or whatever.
      Ultimately, it’s just a matter of being able all those doubts aside for long enough to get something done!


  10. Welcome to the group and congrats on your NaNo success. 3000 words in a sitting is a pretty decent thing! I was writing that much when my kids were going to after school. Now I write 500-800 words a day, so I totally get your enthusiasm. Don’t stop trying, keep believing that you can do it and you will.

    Best of luck! Happy holidays =)


  11. Welcome to IWSG. It’s a totally cool spot to hang out and you learn so much. Thanks for visiting. Mine was on finishing the novel, so no doubt you related to that. You have the right attitude most of the time – don’t call yourself a Dumb Ass!! You’re doing the right thing, so you will get there in the end.

    WP totally hates me as I signed up twice so now it won’t let me use my email in comments and it links to my twitter a/c. Don’t bother going there, I’ve changed it.

    My link in:


      1. Thanks for the feedback – I actually just changed it two or three days ago, first anyone’s mentioned. I wanted to use more dark colours to make it feel more ‘wintery’.
        Do you mind if I ask which browser you use? I’ll take a look at other options, thanks for letting me know!


    1. Thanks for the welcome.
      It was more self-depreciation than being serious – I’m a Brit so I’d probably call myself a dumb arse or something worse if I was to be serious!

      I really appreciate your comitment in getting through to comment!


  12. Great to have you onboard, and remember, we’re all feeling the same about the same things. That’s what makes this group so great. I’m dreading and excited to publish mid-month. But right now the dread is more prevalent. Good luck for a successful month. X


  13. Welcome and thank you for the visit. 28,000 words is a great beginning. I try to expand the length of my books with each one I write. I am really jealous of writers who can sit down and write something in the 100k mark in a short space of time.

    I like the bit about the post it notes, I can so relate!


    1. I think it can be risky to write too much too fast – there’s always the chance of quality suffering. Even though it might take you a bit longer to get down what you want, you’ve had longer to play with things in your head, to go back and forth with character and plot ideas.

      Being fast isn’t everything!


  14. Hi Joe! It’s my first time here and I look forward to hanging out with you. Isn’t Blake Synder the Save the Cat author? And more software to entice me. Oh….the dangers of leaving my blog. I learn (and am tempted) by so many shiny tools. I hope you find some submission calls for your story!


    1. Hi Brinda.
      He is the same one – I’ve not actually got round to buying the book, but I’ve had his ‘beat sheet’ recommended to me, and it’s something I use a lot.
      I’d definitely recommend Storylines (I got it as part of a programme called Writer’s Cafe) if you storyboard as part of your process…


  15. Isn’t ISWG the best? Gosh, and what a great post here. I really felt it. I’m also here to say thanks for signing up for the Cheers, Cavanaugh Blogfest—I’m stoked you’re participating. Alex is the BEST. ๐Ÿ˜€


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