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Q&A Day: How to stick with it when the end seems endless…

Hi all. I love getting letters from readers, and sometimes they ask me good questions. I love how many teens write to me and tell me they’re working on their own writing projects.

Here, I’ll let Grace ask her own question:
I was wondering how you stick with writing on one topic for a whole book let alone 3 books. I have a slue of journals with stories that never quite passed the 50 page mark. I just lose interest because it is not quite time for the climax and back ground knowledge and thickening the plot can only go so far. How do you keep your self interested until the end of the book?

Here’s my answer:
Before I wrote Prom Dates From Hell, I also had a whole mess of projects/books that I’d started but never finished, for exactly the same reason. I would lose interest and abandon one project for the next shiny thing. A couple of things helped me: I wrote a bunch of shorter pieces so that I got used to finishing things. A short story can be 4 pages, or it can be 40 pages. But it’s good practice being able to get a beginning, middle and end into a short space. There’s not space for the boring stuff.

For a book, I don’t just plan one climax at the end. I have several turning points that are like mini-climaxes over the course of the book. This seems obvious, I know, but it’s not just about plotting an exciting book. It’s about giving myself goals that don’t seem so waaaaaaaay far away and unattainable. If you think about the book as a series of successively higher hills rather than one long, tedious climb up a mountain, it really helps. And since those parts are usually fun to write, it’s both a goal and a reward. (I love to write the Maggie/Justin scenes, so I tell myself stuff like: well, I have to get through this scene where they explain how magic works, but then Maggie and Justin get to fight then make out… er, I mean make up.)

But whatever you do, NEVER throw away those journals! One of my abandoned projects turned into the idea for my September book (The Splendor Falls). Way back when, I had an idea for a story about a ballerina who breaks her leg and goes to stay in an old house with a ghost. The setting and whole rest of the plot ended up being completely different, but it all started from about 50 pages of story I began (then abandoned) in high school.

So to all you budding writers out there, good luck! And if you have any other writing related questions, post them in the comments or e-mail me. We can make this a regular feature.

2 thoughts on “Q&A Day: How to stick with it when the end seems endless…”

  1. Thanks for posting this, Rosemary. I do primarily academic writing, and completed my first long piece (about 70–80 pages) this summer. I had written a mid-length (40–50 pages) academic piece before, but it was pretty terrible.Writing the long piece was quite an ordeal, but I think I can apply your tips about treating the piece as a series of hills even to an academic piece. Maybe my next piece (to be written this fall, perhaps) will be more easily written.And the captcha for posting this comment is "ventio." It made me think of Harry Potter, then the scarves your mom made for Noël and Haley.

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  2. I still have my original one and the one she made me with the new design. I wear it whenever it gets cold enough which… you know. Texas. I think for any writing project, thinking of it as a series of hills that build on each other is easier than trying to wrestle with a mammoth project. The benefit isn't just psychological (i.e, smaller pieces seem easier) but makes it easier for the reader. Okay, I got that bit, now on to the next. So, good luck!

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