Thursday, June 18, 2009

To Finish Or Not To Finish?

Last month, on Friday, May 15th, J.L. posted an interview with Kristen Kemp in which she said one of the biggest reasons writers fail is they don't finish what they start.

But is every project worth finishing?

Last week I wrote a retelling of the old tale about a father, his son, and their donkey traveling down a hot, dusty road. When the father is riding the donkey and his son is walking, a passerby says the little boy should be riding, not walking. So they switch places.

The next passerby says it's a disgrace the young boy is riding and the old father is walking. Now they don't know what to do, so they both walk.

The third passerby calls them fools for walking down that hot, dusty road instead of riding on the donkey.

The point of the story? You can't please everyone, or each person looks at a situation differently. But aren't these adult concepts? Would they have meaning in an easy-to-read story for children? I doubt it. I should have thought longer before beginning to write. The donkey story may be finished, but I think the hee-haw is on me.


  1. You bring up a good point. I hit a brick wall with a project I was working on when another story about the same historical period was published with rave reviews and then a sequel was published.

    How does one compete with that?

    Sometimes there is more conspiring against the writer than themselves.

  2. But I think my boys (ages 7 and 9) would "get" this least the older one would...and learn an important lesson from an enjoyable tale. Did you put it to the kid test yet? If not, I know two boys who could give it a read...then talk about it with mom.

  3. Kids are often smarter than we think.

  4. I think sometimes you just need distance to finish. Not every story can be told when it's first conceived. How many years did it take Neil Gaiman to write the Graveyard Book after he thought of the core idea?

    That said, I -- uh -- have several manuscripts stowed away that may never again see the light of day.

  5. Thanks for the comments. I'm fiddling with the ending to see if I can make it more kid friendly.

  6. J.A.: Neil Gaiman said it took him 20 years, with lots of stops and starts, to write The Graveyard Book.

  7. I abandoned my first manuscript and completed the next two (and actually like them!) I think I did the right thing with the first one, but "To finish or not to finish" is a hard question. How DO you decide when to buckle down and trudge through to the finish line or when to abandon a project? I guess ultimately it's an intuitive thing; a leap of faith one way or the other.

    btw, I agree with Bish's comment that kids are smarter than we think.