Satisfaction Through Frustration: Why Don't You Reach The End?
     Victoria Grossack

 In one of my on-line classes, a student mentioned that he had trouble finishing his writing projects and he wanted to know why. As I know that other people have this problem – and as I’ve experienced it myself in the past myself – I decided to devote a column to the subject. This article is written as a series of questions to ask yourself, with suggestions with what to do depending on your answers.

Do You Finish Other Projects?

If not, perhaps the problem is not you and writing, but you. You need to review your general behavior and the projects which you do finish versus those which you do not.

Maybe you only finish projects when you have deadlines. If this is the case, perhaps you can arrange to be in a writing situation where you have deadlines. For example, you may take a class where you have to turn in a short story, or join a writer’s group where it will be your turn to present a chapter or a scene.

Do You Want to Write?

I know this is a heretical suggestion, but there are plenty of people out there who want to be authors – that is, to see their names on the cover of a book with the great sense of accomplishment and all the expected collateral fame and money (which usually, alas, does not arrive). There are others who are moved greatly by the stories of their imaginations and who want to have these transformed into books.

Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that they actually want to actually do the real writing part, with all the time devoted to typing, thinking, deleting, editing, and concentrating on a single story for what can be as long as two years or even more.

Do You Actually Have Time to Write?

If you’re a Mom with three kids under the age of five, a job outside the home as well, and you haven’t had a full night of sleep since, oh, gosh, when Clinton was in the White House, well, then, maybe you’re too busy just now. You may think it’s your right to have it all, but I believe that it’s simply too exhausting to have it all at the same time.

If you’re in this position, but you know that writing is a dream that has been with you forever, and will be with you later, keep yourself in training. Read – read what you love; read critically and keep expanding your mind. Read, too, about writing.

Write, too – but perhaps this isn’t the time of your life to start work on a 1,500-page trilogy. Write letters, e-mails, scenes, blogs, short stories and essays. Write short items, when and if you have the time. Work on your vocabulary and on your skills.

I am not saying that you can’t start work on your dream project. Just don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get very far very fast. And, if writing is important to you, you will have to eventually find a way to make it a priority. This may mean sacrifices, certainly of time, possibly of money and even of relationships.

Do You Have the Training to Write a Book?

If you had never jogged around the block before, would you sign up for a marathon and drive to the starting point? If you had never run before, would you seriously expect to finish said marathon? And, even if you did finish – instead of having a sprained ankle or even a heart attack – would you actually expect your time in the race to be good?

The same is true for writing. You need to develop stamina for concentrating on a story, for putting words down on paper. Yet there are many who think that they can just sit down and the words will flow from their fingers onto the paper. This happens occasionally (I adore it when my muse is generous) but it doesn’t happen consistently. There are too many people who assume that, just because they know how to read – and they may even be well-read – that they’re ready to write.

More unfathomable are the people who don’t read who assume, nevertheless, that they can write. Yet I have encountered a number of these people too. Often they don’t have much respect for fiction. As you are reading this column, which is one way of working on your craft, you’re probably not in this group.

Of course, you have to start somewhere. My suggestion, again, is to begin with smaller items, such as short stories. If no short stories come to mind – and short stories are an art form that is very different from the novel – try writing up a few events from your life – or the lives of others. Get in some practice; some calisthenics; increase your stamina before buying your ticket to Mount Everest. Learn how to write a word, a phrase, a sentence and a paragraph and especially a scene before tackling the 1,500-page trilogy. Don’t assume that you can do this in a vacuum; you need feedback and criticism. If you’re not familiar with soliciting critiques, please visit the Fiction Fix archives, “How to Get – and Take – Criticism.

Is the Project Itself the Problem?

If you have successfully reached the end of other projects and you generally know how to write, but you are still having problem with a particular project, perhaps this writing project has problems. Perhaps there’s something wrong with the storyline. Or perhaps it is good so far but you don’t know what happens next.

If the story is truly flawed, there is always the possibility that you may have to throw it away or edit severely. I have many flawed stories in my files. Some I have rescued through serious cutting; others don’t deserve it.

If you are stuck, well, then you need to think things through. To see more on overcoming writer’s block, there’s an article in the archives called “Writers Block Remedies.”

The End…

Perhaps you work through these problems, personal and project-related, and finally make it to the end. Let me be the first to wish you the most sincere Congratulations! You have written a book. Give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back.

However, here’s the next question – is it a good book? Is it as good as it can be? It’s time to look at your story critically, to edit and to re-write. These subjects, however, will be saved for future columns.

Questions or comments? Write to me at grossackva at yahoo dot com. More next time!

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About the Writer:

Victoria Grossack is, with Alice Underwood, the internationally published author of Iokaste: The Novel of the Mother-Wife of Oedipus, and other books coming out in the series called the Tapestry of Bronze (Tapestry of  You can also read more of her articles on writing by ordering the e-book, Levels of Structure in Fiction from  

Victoria was a moderator of a critique group for Coffeehouse for Writers and teaches the From Leaves to Forests and Writing Historical Fiction workshops for Coffeehouse for Writers.