Anybody who's a fan of Everybody Loves Raymond will know Peggy the Cookie Lady, who prior to the annual cookie fundraising sales, drums her Brownies in their ABCs - Always Be Closing! When Ray pinches her selling spot, the best in town, she soon shows him she's not a woman to cross!
However scary her character, Peggy's ABC mantra is a very useful one for a writer - if you change the words to Always Be Completing. I've heard many an aspiring author talk about their drawers full of first chapters or partials and I can never quite understand this strategy. Writing is a learning curve, an ongoing process, and how is a writer supposed to develop if they never get past the first chapter or two? Every novel has a beginning, middle and end and, while they might get brilliant at honing that vital first chapter, or even the first three, what about the rest of the book?
Having completed five unpublished novels to date, I would always recommend finishing a story once you've started it. Even if you've submitted a partial, and it doesn't seem wise to carry on until you've heard back from the publisher or editor, leaving it to one side and, worse, starting something else is a mistake, in my opinion. What happens if they like your partial and request to see the full? It has to be finished, honed to the best possible version you can do, and ready to go. Even if it is rejected eventually, it can always be reworked later down the line, or it might just be that an editor asks you do revise and resubmit and it still gets rejected. That's not always as negative as it seems on the surface, because in the process, you'll have learned a lot and grown as an author, and those lessons can be applied to your next book.
It's important to enjoy the journey towards publication, and completing your novel, giving your characters an end to their story, is part of that enjoyment. It's also an achievement to be proud of! Completing is hard work, yes, but for me anyway, it's crucial and getting there is one of the most satisfying and empowering things about being a writer. Anyone else agree with me?