Jessica M. Simpkiss
Q: Do you have a lot of unfinished or half finished projects? Do you eventually go back to the unfinished work and complete them or do you abandon ship and move on?
I think every creative person, at some point, has unfinished work. It’s part of the process.
My first attempt at a novel-length piece of work was a miserable failure and still sits unfinished in the bottom drawer of my desk. It’s a great little story about the end of society as we know it seen through the eyes of the wife of the man who helped create the chaos. But it lacked all sense of structure. Wanting and needing the feedback that we all crave, I submitted the unfinished product for critique to a reputable literary magazine. After months and months of waiting, I finally got the feedback I was so desperate for, only to have my hopes and dreams dashed when it was the opposite of what I had been anticipating. The gist of the critique was to abandon all hope and start over. I think I cried for an hour straight and kept re-reading the analysis over and over again in utter disbelief of what I was seeing. They had to be wrong; I was a good writer. Wasn’t I?
My first mistake was submitting an unfinished product for critique. My second mistake was listening to the critique. I put the manuscript in the bottom drawer of my desk and tried to forget it ever existed. I had failed as a novelist.
After that blow, I went back to what I knew best: short stories and poetry. After months of writing and researching literary magazines, I published my first piece of flash fiction in FishFood Magazine in April 2017. (I’ll never forget receiving the acceptance email. I was in the departures terminal of LAX Airport on my way to Scotland for the first time with my best friend looking for an outlet to charge my phone when the email notification popped up on my screen.) It may have been less than 100 words, but somebody liked it enough to publish it, and that was all I needed to pick myself up and get moving again.
I worked hard over the next year, both writing and pursuing publication, and in 2018 set a New Year’s resolution to have something published in each month. I fell short of that goal by one month, which in the end still felt like a major success considering that the piece published in November was my first novel entitled The Spaewife’s Secret.
But I’ve gotten off-topic. Yes, I have unfinished work right alongside my finished work. To date, I have two unfinished novel-length manuscripts; two completed manuscripts (one published, one not) one more almost complete, and a fourth brewing on the back burner.
When the time is right, the unfinished works will find me again. Until then, I rely on them for the experience they’ve given me and the lessons I’ve learned from them and move forward with my current works in progress.
Thanks for a great question!