Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Perseverance for finishing a book

I've decided to no longer call you guys "readers." When I used that term in the past, I meant people who read GTW and sent questions. From now on, I'll refer to you guys as "writers." Because if you're writing, you're a writer.

So. A writer e-mailed me to ask, "How do you keep up the perseverance necessary to finish a book? I've never gotten past the early middle."

Totally normal.

First of all, it sometimes takes a bit to find a story you're passionate enough about to finish. Finishing a book is hard work, especially in the beginning. I didn't finish my first one until I found a story that I was passionate enough to see it through.

But passion is fleeting. And not every minute you spend with your manuscript is going to feel magical and meaningful. So when the passion is gone - or taking a leave of absence - the only way you'll be able to keep going is if your story has a spine.

Sometimes I'm super excited about a story idea, I breeze through the first couple chapters, and then I realize I didn't have a story idea, I had a story premise. I had the set up, but I wasn't really clear about where the story was actually going. That's okay. When that happens, I'll brainstorm some ideas, but if nothing is really clicking, I'll set it aside and work on another project. As time goes on, you'll get better at determining, "Yes, this is an idea that can sustain a novel," or, "No, this idea needs fleshing out before it can become a book."

Thirdly - don't stress yourself out. I spent a decent amount of time in high school stressing out that I wasn't taking my writing serious enough, that I was already failing by not having a publishing contract, and now I look back at that and think, "What was wrong with me?" Sometimes you can be too motivated for your own good. There's nothing wrong with being serious about your writing - I love that in new writers! - but if the manuscript isn't working, feel free to move on to a new idea for a while. Or to take a break from writing all together. You'll be the envy of professional writers everywhere :)

Have a great Tuesday, guys!


  1. This can also be a situation where writing buddies can help. If you're working on a story that you know CAN be completed, meeting all the criteria Stephanie already mentioned, but you're just stuck, that's when it's handy to have a friend or two that you can toss ideas around with. I know the feedback I get from Stephanie and our other critique partners often provides the inspiration I need to fuel me through the "sagging middle" of a story. Or just talking it out with my hubby or a friend, whether they've read it or not.

    Sometimes we writers just need to get off our islands and touch base with the rest of the world in order to rekindle our passion for that story!

  2. That's totally true, Roseanna. There have been a few times where I've totally burned out on a story, but if you like it and/or have an idea about it, I can bounce back quickly.

  3. thank you so much Stephanie! You saved me from tossing away this story again. Life can get in the way can't it? No fun. Guess I'll try and persevere and keep writing!

  4. Mary, we're talking about metaphorical tossing, right? No real tossing should be going on over there :)

    I gave up on Me, Just Different about a dozen times during the years I was writing it. The frustrations and doubts are 100% normal.

  5. I personally think this is the hardest part of writing a novel...