i've always struggled with committing to a story (so many wips..) and i really want to finish this one! i'm having trouble with the pacing of the story and when exactly the first chapter should be set.
I've found that getting the Whole Picture* helpful
So the Snowflake method of Story Prep can be of use at times. Use The Snowflake Method of Writing In 10 Easy Outlines: How to be a
Though there are many other methods. * Don't worry the Whole Picture you have at the start can sometimes bare little relationship to the one you have at the end. Writing can take on a different route as you go along...
Every person tackles their projects in different way, and even the same person might use different techniques for different projects. With the manuscript I'm currently editing, I had very specific scenes/events in mind and new the character progression very well, so I started with an outline and filled in the holes as I wrote. But for my next project I only had a high-level concept and 3 specific scenes, so I'm using the Snowflake Method to develop it. But if I'm writing a short story I won't need to do that much work, I could just discover it in writing (or thinking about it long enough).
You mention you have issues committing to/finishing a story, do you know why that is? Is it because a new idea is more interesting? Do you run out of steam? Do you write yourself into a corner? Do things meander and the plot doesn't progress? The hardest part of writing a story is finishing the first draft. Sometimes you're going to write utter crap! And that's fine! Sometimes you'll write "and then they fought" just so you can keep things moving to the next scene. You DISCOVER your story in writing it, and you MAKE it in editing it. No one writes perfect prose the first time around, so don't feel bad if you force yourself to write some not great stuff today so you can finish the project tomorrow.
There's also the writing excuses podcast. This is four fantasy authors talking about the art of writing. I incidentally just listened to season 10 episodes 31 & 32, and they're both about pacing and give some really useful advice. You can find them here if you're interested.
What does your writing process currently look like? It's different for everyone, and we can help best if we know yours and where you get stuck.
A few things to unpack. Firstly, don't worry about either pacing or your first chapter, until you've finished your draft. (That is, unless you're incapable of writing the rest if you don't fix those two). Many writers will change their opening chapters after they've completed the piece since along the way they've found out that they need to begin at a different spot or maybe their characters were different and had different motivations than they though. And that's fine. The same with pacing. While editing you might add in a chapter here and there, or remove one or change the order of chapters or cut out large parts of a chapter. All of that will change your pacing. So don't worry about it until you have the framework of your story complete.
As for finishing, what worked for me was writing an outline. I found out that there is a lot of words in a novel. A shocker, I know. But having a single great idea and a few scene's that go with it are not enough (for me) to write the book. I get a couple of chapters down and then I have no idea where to go next. And knowing where to go next makes it a lot easier to write the next piece. So, once I started creating basic outlines for my stories I also started finishing them. I don't know if you've ever tried outlining, but if you haven't I would suggest giving it a go.
And finaly, perhaps at some point you just need to push through, sit down and write. It takes a long time to write a book. And many writers at some point get fed up a bit with working on the same piece. Often when they're in a tough place. A new and exciting plot or story will look more appealing. Try to ignore that and simpoly push through.
Then again, everyone is different (did I already say that?). I've also read a story about a bestselling author (can't remember who, sorry), whose process had him work on a few dozen stories at the same time. Each day when he sat down to write he would take out whichever story he felt like working on. He'd read what he'd written and continue on with that piece. And the next day he'd work on something different.
In terms of pacing, start with one major event occurring in each chapter. It could be a battle, meeting a new character or travelling to a new place. For the first chapter, I like to start the day before the events of the story change the character's life. You can use this as a launching point and see how you want to tweak things.
I see multiple issues here. One of the things that can really stymie a first-time writer (defined as anyone who has not finished a book, no matter how long they've been writing and no matter how many books they've begun) is bundling all those issues together so that it looks like one big I Can't Finish.
So many works-in-progress. That's one issue. If I were trying to sort out things, I'd start by listing all my WIPs and make a note about what I think is wrong, why I haven't returned to it, and try to recall exactly what made me stop. Then I'd stand back, look at the list, and see if there are any patterns there, any clues. Is it always the same thing that derails me? Is it really that shiny new idea, or was it that I got rather lost and going forward was harder than starting anew?
Then there's pacing. See above for advice on that, but in general I'd say pacing is really more of an editing issue. You can't know you have a pacing problem unless you've written a fair amount of a book, or even got to First Draft. Or is it the pacing of a particular scene that's giving fits?
Then there's where to start. That's a very devil of a problem. There are so many possibilities and they all look so very .... possible! I don't have good advice here except to resign yourself to writing more than one beginning. Every book I've written, even every short story, has had more than one opening. Eventually I settle on one, though sometimes it's not till alarmingly late in the project. There does come a time, though, when the opening feels like it was the only possible one all along.
There's another aspect to consider, though you didn't mention it. Sometimes (often!) I have ideas. An idea, though, isn't a story. It's not even a story idea. I'm getting to the point where I can distinguish between the two. A cool idea is something that gets me writing, but there's nowhere to go because it's just an idea. It's not a story. Story needs plot, character, setting, theme. It's possible to set out with one of those missing. It's certainly possible to set sail with one or more being little more than a vague notion. But if all I have is "cool superpower" or "overthrow the tyrant" or some such, I don't have a story. It can be exciting enough to get me writing, but not to finish writing.
I don't turn these ideas away. They get sketched, outlined, begun, because I want to catch that initial enthusiasm. But then I'll let it be. It isn't soup yet. Some several I've revisited, sketched out further. A couple even turned into finished projects (one novel, one novelette, a short story), but most of them are still simmering away. The ship, to switch metaphors yet again, is still not ready to sail. I feel sort of bad about a couple of these because I quite like them and they feel like stories that want to get told. But as long as I have another story in development, they just have to wait their turn.
And finally: I have learned not to be enthusiastic. I've come to regard myself as a kind of ambassador, a speaker for the dead. There is a story. The characters deserve to have their story told and I'm the one detailed to carry out that task. My job is to do it as best I can, to do justice to the characters and to the story. Whether I am excited or weary or bored or lost is rather beside the point. Once I've undertaken the story, I've taken on the responsibility and I need to get on with it. With that mindset, being motivated or inspired just feels self-indulgent. I know others work differently--we're humans! But that mentality works for me.