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4 Steps To Handle Unfinished Writing Projects & Maybe Make Some Money

unfinished writingWhat should you do with those unfinished writing projects? You know the ones I mean. Those books or stories or poems you’ve started but never finished.

Oh! You thought you were the only one with folders holding manuscripts of one sort or another you’ve started but never finished? Sorry. Believe me, you’re not alone!

Back in the days before computers (yes, I’m that old) my unfinished writing would end up in a file box. The type would fade and eventually I’d throw it all out – after, of course, extracting the few pieces I thought I could turn into a decent peace of prose in my case.

I began throwing them out when I recognized that my writing really had improved with time and practice. Often even the ideas were not worth saving because they were too broad, or not fully formed.

Computer make it easier to start writing

With the advent of computers it became even easier to start something… just open a document and type away for a bit. I don’t know how many times I started something and never got it finished… and I still do.

It’s not the end of the world! In fact, that process can lead to some good writing. It’s not guaranteed, but it does happen.

I long ago agreed with my brain to thank it for all ideas, but not try to use every one. Some of those ideas got into a file.

Review and maybe find the gold

I do think it’s worthwhile reviewing those files. Here is a 4 step process that will help you find the useful ones and weed out the rest:

Reread once in a while – at least once a year, read at the titles on those files.

Retrieve those you want to finish, with retrieval date –  Open the few that spark an interest and re-read enough to know if you want to keep it or not. If you do, move it into a new folder and add the date of the move to the title.

Every 30 days look at that list and pick one or two to develop. Sometimes we have good stuff in those almost forgotten files, writings that we should develop. By checking on the list every month or so we’re giving ourselves a chance to finally get them, if not done, moved forward. Book ideas will develop over time; articles might get done in a month or two. Don’t forget to think about how you want to market the writing in question. There may be gold in those files.

Pick a time limit and throw the unused ones out. Although our computers have almost infinite memory these days, I find it helpful to actually delete the work I discover I’m not going to complete. I think it has something to do with reducing the clutter in my brain. When I finally admit I’m not ever going to finish whatever it is, and prove it by deleting it, I feel freer somehow. I tend to figure that if I haven’t done something with it after six months, I probably won’t ever.

Obviously, there are exceptions. In my case what I’ve titled ‘the family story’ has been kicking around my computer ever since my youngest son asked me to write it. I was doing pretty well until we had an event in the family I didn’t know how to write about. Now I do and almost a year later I’m picking it up again.

You’ll notice that I’ve also given myself permission not to finish writing I begin. I suggest you do the same as long as you’re confident in your ability both to write and to get the right stuff finished. Don’t use this permission as away to avoid writing.

What do you do with or about the unfinished writing projects?

Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by Robyn2175


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{ 8 comments… add one }
  • I had taken writing classes at night about 15 yrs. ago, and my teacher, who was an accomplished writer passed away. I have written many types of stories, and have them compiled in a box; as I continued my “day job”. There are a lot of ideas flowing inside my head and still at 76yrs. I feel the need to express them. I sent one article off to a publication & was told it was great writing, but the wrong “market” for it, so I ditched the idea of following a dream, until now.

  • Another idea is to re-use a story by incorporating parts of it (or the general idea) in other pieces of writing, when the theme or the perspective ties in well.

    I’m doing this right now, for a contest piece I’m writing. When it’s important enough for you to have written something about it, then you’ll see that you’ll find yourself involved in similar topics and themes as years go by.
    Helene Poulakou recently posted..Blogging Your Processes, Writing Your BookMy Profile

  • Kathy

    What do I do with my first book. I’ve been telling funny stories from my childhood, growing up in the fifties and sixties, a past abusive marriage, and living with a terminal illness. Do I separate or keep them all together?

    • Kathy, what seems to work best? No rules on this sort of thing.

  • Anne,

    What a fascinating topic. You really got me thinking. What do I do with ideas I haven’t fully developed?

    The difference between us is that I write very little that I don’t use. When I have an idea, I jot it down quickly and save it in a designated folder. Then I leaf through the folder when I’m short on ideas for blog articles or other content.

    Plus I have one document that will eventually become a book when I have enough written.

    Good for you for actually starting to write your ideas. I just keep mine rattling around my brain until I’m ready for them.


    • Diana, I suspect I use, one way or another, most everything over time… but there’s still this folder…

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