East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Scrap paper


One of Bob Heinlein’s rules for writers is, you shall finish what you started. It’s useless to start a dozen stories and not finish even one of them. And I did, for ages – I had boxes full of started-and-never-finished short stories, back when I still used a typewriter. And later, diskettes – dozens of them.

Nowadays, what with the fact that writing is paying the bills and all that, I finish what I start – or try to be smart enough to drop it after 1000 words tops. If the story is not working for me after 1000 words (give or take 200), it means that it needs more thinking and planning. I drop it and move on to something more defined, that I can reasonably start and finish.

This is the case with the stories in the new series I had planned, and that are going nowhere. I have three – count’em, THREE! – stories outlined and defined, the characters are profiled and engaging (to me, at least) but the stories fail to start up. They are limp and undefined. They are broken. They are bad. So I dropped them.

I’m moving on to other things, while ideas sediment and I wait for the right angle to become clear. This means that my planned new project on a new platform will have to wait. But what the hell – there’s my name on the stories, they are better be good.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

5 thoughts on “Scrap paper

  1. I’v got plenty of never finished typewiterd tales also, I started whan I was a kid and a young man. I know the feeling. I’m currently writing a novel that struggles to be better defined. I just finished the first act (30.000 words, after other 30.000 I trashed ) and I’m currently designing the main events in the second act, while the antifacts snake to a new and more appealing shape. In the meantime, today, I finished a new 28.000 words book for a customer and transcribing hours of converasation for the new project… At the moment about 15.000 words.
    And, you know, no way that one of them stops in the middle of nowhere! Finisghing what you started is one of the main challenge a writer has to face, no matter the subject.


    • Yes, finishing a job can be hard – and I sometimes find it harder than usual.
      But it’s a momentary thing. I hope.
      Having a number of open projects means we can jump from one to the other when we’re stuck.


  2. I have a few unfinished stories, but I fully intend to come back to them. If one isn’t going well for me (and I know it was planned to be a novel or novella) I turn it into a short story and clip it off, usually with a cliffhanger. Then at least it’s done and off my proverbial plate.


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