Now as we all know, there are no rules for writing fiction. There are fashionable techniques for sure, but all the successful writers break them all the time. I could summarize the useful techniques in a couple of lines:
- Write in a manner that engages the reader
- Remember to vary the pace.
Trouble is that writing techniques try to tell you ‘how’ rather than ‘what’ and since ‘how’ almost by definition has to avoid creativity, wit, emotion, rhythm and ‘continuity of voice’ all those ‘hows’ will lead you astray. Because good writing needs at least two of those factors in every paragraph.
However, more and more I have come to believe that there is one writing rule that cannot be ignored for those who set themselves up as wannabe writers. That rule? Finish what you start.
Until you write ‘The End’ after a piece of work and can judge it in its entirety you can’t really see it for what it is.
- See if it makes sense
- Will satisfy a reader
- Has a purpose
- Has a viable narrative structure
This is also true for short stories. Sometimes a short work redeems itself in the final sentence that shocks and delights the readers while making sense of the narrative.
I talk to a lot of people who think of themselves as writers yet have not finished a single one of their works. Some of the unfinished work I’ve seen from them looks very competent, but if they haven’t finished it, how can I be sure? Worse – how can they be sure?
There is a point in writing any novel when a writer can run out of faith in the story. We all go through that ‘My God, will I ever make sense of all this?’ moment from time to time. My advice to writers is simple.
Finish the damn thing even if you do it as a summary chapter, or curtail half the plot you’d planned. At least then it can be judged as a work. By you. And then you can assess whether or not it worked as a novel.
Never leave anything unfinished.