I know a lot of writers, myself included, who have a hard time finishing stories (are you nodding as you read this?). I don’t think this an unusual problem.
Writing stories is a lot like running a race. At the beginning, I’m fresh and eager to start something new and interesting. The words come with relative ease as new, exciting situations roll from my fingers. That initial burst of creative energy generally carries me through the first half of a story. I can also usually write the ending with ease (assuming I know the ending, but that’s a topic for another time) because once the “finish line” is in sight, I get a jolt of new energy, and I can plow through to “The End.”
It’s that third quarter that I find the hardest. The excitement of the fresh idea has faded. “The End” isn’t in sight yet, just a seemingly endless, rocky path that saps the strength. It’s this rough third that I find I need to push through. Generally I tell myself to stick to it…to keep putting words on the paper and slowly, gradually knock of the scenes until I see the ending creeping over the distant horizon. (It helps that I use an outline, crude as it may be, to map my progress.) At this stage of the story writing, I don’t worry about the quality of the words—the craft, so to speak. Instead I focus on simply telling the minimum. After I’ve finished the story, I go back and edit it, with that third quarter getting a disproportionate amount of my attention to bring it into shape.
While I’ve gotten better with that third quarter over the course of my writing career, I still wish I had the secret to make it easy writing. (I don’t think there is a secret, but if you know it, will you share it?) That third quarter is nose-to-the-grindstone time, when writers earn their pay. So until I locate the elusive grail (if it exists), I guess I’ll have to keep pushing though to “The End” with sweat and determination.