If you’re like me, and I suspect many of you are, knowing what to write about is often a daunting task that often results in a failure to complete the whole work. There are two main points I want to discuss regarding this phenomenon beginning with the fact that, especially in fiction writing, it’s perfectly okay to not always know what is going to happen next or to not write for large portions of time. I’ve been slowly writing a story for almost a year now and I’ve barely finished two chapters. Tolkien spent his lifetime writing Middle Earth and the stories therein. Writers are often pushed with deadlines to get things done by because, as Brooks from the Shawshank Redemption so accurately pointed out, the world has gone and gotten itself in a big hurry. Sometimes I think it is better to spend a longer amount of time working on a single piece, because even if we don’t get that piece as perfect as we may want it, it will still be better than before. So my first point is to never be afraid to act like an Ent. If your story isn’t worth taking a long time to write, it’s probably not worth writing.
My second point is that an unfinished story should never be seen as a failure. I have dozens of unfinished stories that have a lot of potential but for whatever reason I just couldn’t get around to closing them out. That does not make any of those stories a failure because even in their incomplete status they helped to develop my writing further. They helped me to build a realistic world, and they helped me learn how to create realistic characters. In my mind this is a huge success because I think the measure of a story is not solely in the number of copies it can sell, but also in how it changes the author. We learn from our past writing and we improve, so never be afraid to leave a story behind in pursuit of a better one.