Dancing with my latest manuscript issue has reminded me of a cure for half-finished manuscripts I discovered not too long ago. Well, not a cure, but something to help limit the available excuses not to finish.

I don’t get ideas every single day of the week, but when I do, I’m passionate about them. Every waking thought is filled with an electrical storm of visions, dialog, and full scenes cascading through my head. If I listen to it, what ever piece I’m working on is left on the road side, incomplete, probably forever.

The problem with this method of writing is that nothing ever gets done. The storm rolls by, another one rolls in, and there I am with an endless succession of half finished manuscripts.

Of course, I’m not a miraculous fountain of ideas. For every idea storm I have, I also have at least one idea drought. I wonder if I’ll ever have a creative thought again. I don’t make any progress on the story I’m on because I don’t have ideas for it, or if I’ve finished the manuscript I have nothing new to work on. Those times are scary for an aspiring author.

The first year I started trying to get published, I realized that wasn’t going to work. Publishers want complete manuscripts after all. I can’t listen to the siren song every time it calls, and what happens if I hit a draught with a deadline coming up?

My solution came in the form of a folder on my computer. When ever I get an idea for a story, I open up a new document and fill the pages with everything that will immediately flow out of my fingers. Names, characters, dialog, scenes, anything. I keep going with everything that will come out of me in one sitting. Then I save it into the folder, and go back to my WIP. I don’t pick at it, organize it, or extend it past the easy stuff. If it won’t come out in the first literary burp, it doesn’t need to.

When I’m done with my WIP, I open the folder and look around for something interesting. With this system, my manuscripts get done and I don’t have any down time.

I also put scenes I have to ax but totally love in the idea box. After all, it might be out of character for Susie to be crying under a tree, but what about moody Angelica? Mm? I never delete anything anymore. It’s all in my idea box. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pondered a spot in a story I just can’t fill, only to find the perfect answer somewhere in this folder.

If you don’t have an idea box on your computer, I strongly suggest you make a folder now. It can save you a lot of time!