Finishing is a skill.
Seriously. Most writers don't seem to realize that you actually have to practice finishing a story before you get good at it.
I used to tell student writers that they had to finish ten stories before they were ready to start submitting. There would always be one student who would say "Well, one novel is more than enough to equal ten short stories, right? So I don't have to write ten...."
I would break it to them as gently as I could: it isn't the word count that gives you the experience. It's the completion. Anybody can blather out decent random scenes. It takes skill to pull them together into a cohesive whole. So if you don't want to write short stories or novellas, you will need to finish lots of novels to gain the same experience.
Furthermore, as writers we find it easy to scatter our attention. Shiny new ideas are much more fun than old ones. And yes, sometimes we need to jump around to set our creativity loose, but it doesn't count until you've turned it into a story. And it's not a story until you've finished it.
Otherwise you're just daydreaming with notes, as mentioned in yesterday's post.
So if you look at your body of work, and it's shorter than your list of things you haven't finished... get cracking.
If your list is long, you may have trouble making up your mind about which idea to tackle. So here are some tips toward finishing some stories on your to do list:
1.) Let your creative self dither a bit, and then pick one at random. Draw lots. Use a computerized random choice generator. Flip a coin. Let your cat choose. But pick ONE.
2.) If the idea of finishing a story overwhelms you - if it's something that you're blocked on and you get performance anxiety - set a timer for a moderate period of time. Maybe fifteen or twenty minutes. Concentrate on that story completely for just that amount of time, and see what you can get done.
3.) If you MUST dither among several projects, set a timer for each project, and you must think only of the story at hand for that period. Come on, it's a short session. You can behave for that long. Do this a lot and you'll get stuff done.
4.) Give yourself a break with a brainstorming session. If a story is utterly blocked, then go to a coffee house or MacDonald's or the park - some place airy and relaxed - and sit with a notepad and write down all the questions you need to answer to move forward with the story. And then start listing possible answers.
5.) If nothing else, write some freaking haiku! Write a dozen of them. Remind yourself of the good feeling you get from having accomplished something, and train your brain to focus.
Tomorrow we take on Heinlein's most controversial rules: to refrain from rewriting except to editorial order.