Everybody has unfinished stories, even if they don’t want to admit it. I know I have. It’s hard to finish everything, even though the work seems really promising to start off with!
One day I’m hoping that one of those unfinished stories hanging around on my hard drive will grow into something that I can work with and love. I know the idea for my novel developed from an unfinished idea I once had.
Many authors left behind unfinished works after they died, Charles Dickens being a famous example with The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Another example is David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King discovered after the author had committed suicide. Many more examples can be found after a quick google.
Leaving a work unfinished may feel quite unsatisfying and as if you’ve just abandoned something, but I think it is better to leave it and go back to it someday, even if it is years later, than to keep working and working on it to get so fed up you delete the whole thing. (I don’t think I’ve ever deleted a whole file of my original work. I think I’d regret it too quickly and realise I should have kept it!)
But then, you can think of it as ‘no work is ever complete’. One of my biggest writing fears is that I’ll have a novel out in the world and then have a really good idea of something I could change or improve about it, even though, at that point there will be nothing I can do. Maybe once the book is out in the real world, you just forget about it and the plot development leaves you alone.
One of my favourite thoughts on this is from the author John Green, who says he doesn’t believe in characters having a life outside of the book and that books, ultimately belong to their readers. He subscribes to the view that once the book is out of the authors hands and into the published world, the characters are no longer just the creation on the author.
I may come back to these thoughts at some point, but for now, I shall leave it there.