Three years ago, I was jogging on a trail sandwiched between a cornfield and a forest when a curious thought crossed my mind. Wouldn’t it be interesting, I wondered, if I fell through time and awoke a thousand years in the future? What would it be like? (Normal things to ponder while out for a run.)
It captured my imagination. So much so that I created an entire world from that single thought. I decided to write a science fiction book about a woman who, while out for a jog, is ripped through time into the future. The protagonist, Renee, became a young, successful researcher who, while something of a misfit, loves her life right up until everything she knows is buried under a millennium of time. Renee’s unexpected arrival offers man-of-the-future Kar, a scientist who doesn’t like to talk very much, the chance to break free from the confines of his current role. And YunJon, the confused and strained leader of the team responsible for Renee’s presence, must contend with the most difficult decision of his life.
The story just streamed from my fingertips. Within four months, I cranked out a first draft of the whole book. Characters evolved, plots developed and I created a vision for Earth one thousand years from today.
Then I didn’t do anything with it for a long, long time after that. I started to hate it. It languished. A year passed. I poked at it a little. I tried to edit it. I really hated it. I edited it a lot. I still didn’t like it. Then I left it alone for another entire year.
The whole time it hung, in the back of my mind, like a dark, annoying little storm cloud. “Finiiiiiish me,” it cried. “Go away,” I said petulantly. My sister forced me to send it to her. She actually liked it. Then she kept threatening to publish it posthumously if I didn’t do it myself. Even then I dragged my feet for two months before deciding enough is enough.
I went back to it, almost three full years later, and did a huge, massive edit. I fixed one of the characters. I chopped out 30 pages. And then, lo and behold, I actually started to like it a little.
Then I made myself publish it.
I learned about writing. I learned about stories and characters and dialogue and self-editing. But all of that pales in comparison to The Big Lesson, which can be summed up on one word. Finish. The roadside is littered with half-completed projects. Don’t relegate your hard work and time to a dump on the side of the road where it will languish with all the other rotting half-finished projects.
I want to add a caveat. There are times when you should stop. There are times when projects really aren’t working (it’s not just a hiccup) or they are self-destructive or you need to get yourself out of a bad work situation or you or someone you love has serious health problems and you just can’t do it. You know what? Be gracious and gently step aside.
But if it’s not? Refer to The Big Lesson as detailed above. I learned a lot from writing Renee, but what I will carry with me longest is the knowledge that I finished.