Writing is like any other profession. If you want to do it well, there are certain skills which you must learn and hone and master. And once you master them, you have to keep those skills polished. Otherwise they get rusty and dull and you forget just exactly how it's all supposed to work. You might remember more than you knew in the beginning, but you just won't be quite as sharp as you once were, and you'll have to work back up to that mastery level all over again.
(I will now stop beating up this particular metaphor and move on.)
I used to dream of someday being a writer, but then I didn't write for a long time because of reasons, and I forgot how. Years passed before I got serious about it again and I started studying and practicing. I think I got kinda good at it after a while back then. And then I stopped writing again, because of other reasons. And now here I sit, kicking myself and once more building all that muscle memory back up.
I spent a little over a year giving myself remedial discipline lessons, trying to remember how to find and commit to a regular writing schedule. Plus I had to brush up on my basics and get a general overview of the whole place, as the industry changed pretty dramatically in the few years I was gone. It was slow going, but the effort paid off. I finally got myself to a place where I really thought I might have finally scraped all the rust off my brain.
And then I realized the other day that I've somehow lost a critical skill. And I've got to get it back ASAP or I might as well pack up all my shiny new toys and go home. Because you can't really get anywhere in publishing without a finished manuscript.
I've tackled two major projects in the last two years. And with both of them, I've become convinced somewhere around the halfway mark that the story was fundamentally flawed and I either needed to stick the whole thing in a drawer and forget about it (sound Familiar?) or go back to the drawing board with it (as I'm doing with Guardian). I tried my hand at some short stories along the way too and never got very far with those either.
This is unacceptable to me. I refuse to become that writer, the one who never finishes anything and spends her days bemoaning the time she never has to devote to getting her writing career off the ground. I refuse.
I used to be able to finish things. Back before my. . . hiatus, I finished rough drafts for four different novels in three years. Sure, they were absolute crap that wasn't really good for much beyond showing me how much more I had to learn. But I finished them, dammit, and each one was better than the one before.
I must relearn how to finish the stories I start. It's important. I like writing, but I'm not doing it just for the sake of doing it. I want to make a career of this and there's nothing but frustration to be found in a trunk full of half-written novels. Or, put another way, see item #8.
So I'm putting myself through an intensive training program. I'm writing "Fishwife". After that, I'm going to finish Guardian. I want have both of those zero drafts done by the end of 2014 just to clear the current projects off the board.
And then I'm going to write another short story. And another one. And another. And another. I'm going to spend 2015 (or at least a big chunk of it) plotting and writing and revising short stories over and over again, until I can get myself all the way from start to finish on a project without getting stuck in this damn quicksand.
And then, once I'm back to being able to finish my shit, and assuming I haven't completely burned out my brain and killed all my abstracts with this torturous new creative exercise regimen, I'll write another novel.