Thursday, September 3, 2015

Ode to the Unfinished Novel by Irene Latham

one of many unfinished novels
I wrote as a child
I love beginnings. I love the buzz in my stomach as a new idea takes hold. I love first lines, first glimpses of character and plot. So much life! So much promise!

But then... sometimes things get fuzzy, a fog settles in. I don't know which way to turn, or where. And lo, is that another new idea buzzing in the distance? Maybe that's a better idea. If I don't chase it, it might just disappear!

And there's this: if I never finish the story, if I never reach THE END, the idea remains viable, sparkling, alive. I haven't failed.

Which means, not finishing is mostly related to FEAR. If I don't finish, and you never read it, then you can't say it needs work or it fails completely. It seems a safe-r place to be. But it's not the way to be an artist.

The way to be an artist is to develop the discipline to carry our buzzy ideas all the way to THE END. To tunnel through that fear, to allow our plots to fail, our characters to flounder, our sentences to fall apart. There is no such thing as "wasted time." It all matters, each and every word. It all helps get us where we need to be. And then, only then, in the midst of all that wreckage, can a beautiful, breathing thing emerge.

This is what I tell myself when I am ready to dump a project: At least, at least one draft. Be brave enough to take it all the way to THE END.

Let the story live!


  1. Irene, I'm glad I'm not the only one who sometimes feel like I'll never get through the middle to the end!

  2. It's as if you've read my own mind Irene!

  3. Your words: "It all helps get us where we need to be" are so true, and the reminder all of us need when we are questioning ourselves. Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. You speak (write) words of wisdom that I can totally relate to. Getting to the end is scary indeed. I want to hold on to the magic of beginning. I am now in the fearful process of querying. I don't know if I have it in me.

  5. I'm a total beginning junkie, and have to admit--this is a fascinating look at endings.

  6. Thanks for this, Irene. You've helped me realize that I have a couple of "shelved" projects that I should bravely bring out and try to keep developing.