But how do I know when or if I've finished? My artistic mother had the same problem with her paintings. Sometimes we would encourage her to stop daubing on more colour, anxious that she should avoid obvious areas of repainted landscape or clumsily altered shapes of her still-life compositions.
I am a poor finisher; of everything really. Have a look through my huge kitchen cupboard one day (no don't, you might never come out alive!) There you will find half-knitted baby clothes intended for grandchildren now in their late teens, an unfinished dress worked on for a long-gone graduation ceremony and somewhere in there is a barely-started patchwork quilt. Then, not in the same cupboard (obviously), consider my downstairs cloakroom. Adorned with old music as wallpaper, beautiful cream tiling and a new floor, it has undergone a transformation during the last year. I am pleased with it until I realise that it was practically completed 9 months ago but is still waiting for me to paint the shabby woodwork.
Praying about my shortcomings, I became convicted that this year would be a year of finishing all four of my works-in-progress. There is little help for me in this task - books on writers' block tend to focus on getting going, not stopping. They bear no guidance on why procrastination rears its ugly slothfulness right near the last chapter or the probably final edit. Or, even worse, why after the most stringent editing there is that overwhelming feeling that it just needs a touch more tweaking.
So, with little weaponry apart from teeth-gritting, I started by forcing myself to stop. The YA novel I had been trying to polish was becoming worse, not better. I re-named it 'The Crazy Dance of Emma J' and wrote a letter to my chosen publisher in the vague hope she might choose me. The synopsis had to be rewritten to suit the most recent final chapter (ending number 4?) I openly declared it finished and hid it from members of my ACW Writing Group (lovely though they are, I needed no distracting suggestions, just a determination to make it through to the finish line). When the publisher asked me to send more, I even managed to scan through it only once before printing a copy and rushing it to the post.
I didn't wait for the outcome of this courageous act, but immediately turned to the next novel in line. This one has been edited about fourteen times but one chapter needs enhancing with words from an authentic but obscure African language. A quick fifteenth edit was sufficient to help me realise this was all it lacked. Normally a few weeks of trying to find a resource for the language would follow - with no writing - but this time I simply . . . set it to one side!
On with novel 3, 'Trying to Fly'. This was getting to be fun! It's the one I've mentioned at the top of today's blog and at last I am enjoying finishing.
So we are into August - 8 months into the 'Finishing Year'. Two books ready to go, a third needing an obscure language supplier and the fourth . . .well, six chapters in and I don't know where I am going. I am literally losing the plot! Do I really think I can write? Maybe I could finish the baby jumper instead, clear out that cupboard, renew my interest in patchwork or perhaps paint the woodwork?
No, if God wants me to complete this amount of writing in a year, I figure there's a reason, so it's time to restore my finalising resolution and press on with it.