And then at some point, six or twelve or thirty thousand in (your mileage may vary), it doesn’t look as good as it once did. Your thoughts may go something like: What was I thinking? Maybe this was a dumb idea after all. Perhaps this story was nothing but a colossal waste of time.
And just when you’re at your most vulnerable, a new bright, shiny story idea shows up. Hurray! This idea is much better than the last. This is the idea I should have been working on all this time.
Be careful. While it may be the case that the first story is flawed, that can always be fixed. (Anything can be fixed. They’re only words.) I read some great advice from James A. Ritchie on AbsoluteWrite, the online writing group I belong to. The gist of it was: if you start it, finish it. If you finish it, polish it. And once you polish it, submit it (or publish it, in the case of self-publishing). Otherwise, you don’t learn anything.
This really resonated with me. I’ve finished eight novels and fifteen shorts. They’re all in various stages of revision (or submission, in the case of the short stories). I’ve got another partially started novel/novella awaiting further inspiration, and several shorts in the same place, but I haven’t abandoned them.
I’ve read the rueful stories of some writers who never can seem to finish a project. They get partway, and always get distracted by an idea that seems better. Then that idea gets abandoned in turn. Nothing is ever completed.
Don’t let that happen to you. An occasional story set to the side is one thing. A habit of non-completion is another. Don’t worry too much if you think your first draft isn’t all it should be. That’s why we revise and edit, to make it pretty later. For now, just get the story down. Even if you have to grit your teeth to make yourself finish. Even if it’s as spare as it can possibly be, and you’re going to have to write nearly as much fleshing it out. Or if you know you’re overwriting and a third of your words will later be consigned to oblivion.
Finish your story. Trust your original enthusiasm. Your bright, shiny idea will still be there when this story is done.