Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Monday, March 8, 2010

Just Finish Already

This came up in the comments of a previous post. Ann from Inkpots and Quills said she needed to finish something, and I replied with this comment: "Ann, funny you should mention that little detail about actually finishing something. When I finished Farm Girl, I realized it was the first time I had a complete ms. in my hands, after all my years of writing. Even then, it was only 35,000 words! Embarrassing, huh?"

Without giving away my age, let me say that I've been writing for a long time. Finally, I complete a book-length manuscript, and it's under 35,000 freakin' words! My favorite rejection letter came after a week, from the University of Nebraska: "It's too short for us, but have you tried the Nebraska regional magazines?" Aaargh!! I finish my so-called book and find out it's not a book after all? It's an article for a magazine!

Well, fortunately, someone thought Farm Girl would make a delightful small book and was willing to invest in it as the first release of a new press. Short as it is, no one has complained. Not a single reviewer said it was too short. Still, needing to redeem myself as a "serious writer", my novel, Uncut Diamonds, is divided into two parts and comes to approximately 100,000 well-edited words, (including the Glossary of Mormon Terminology). Aha! Now that's a book.

This is what drives me to finish my next book. I spent too many years writing and not finishing. I know from reading your blogs that this isn't common to all writers. I see where many of you are prolific writers, churning out one full-length ms. after another. I admire you. I wish I were more like that-- more disciplined, more bursting with story ideas, more determined to spend the required time to write and to finish. More passionate about all of it.

Hats off to you finishers! You inspire me. And do you know the secret to getting published? Two words-- finish already!


  1. One thing that I've learned from reading published and aspiring (for lack of better word) writers' blogs is that each person has their own path. Some have a few ideas that they get to some stage and abandon, while others see them through. Some map it all out, while others write as they go, and others do a mix of the two. I learn from each writer.

    If you're published, you must've done something right. I'm glad it finally came together for you. I have, Farm Girl on my Amazon wishlist.

  2. Finishing the first draft is easy, it's the REVISIONS that are so tough for me!

  3. It's not like you weren't very involved elsewhere all those years--raising ten children was your priority and rightly so. Lots of things have to go on the back burner at various times in our lives. The key is that you didn't give up.

  4. Theresa, so true! The key is to never give up-- (aka Kate's comment)!

    Christine, I'm the exact opposite. Wish there was a pill I could take to get a little of that first draft finishing power.

    Kate, I definitely don't regret putting my family first, I just wish I had finished something SOONER LOL!!

  5. I WISH I could finish at least one of the somethings I've started. Don't get me wrong I know how they all end, I just can't seem to sit down and write them. However I must say for clarification, the weather has finally broken and I am climbing out of that snow haze of winter and I think I am in a much better place to finish, at least one thing. Great post.

  6. It's a great journey, that definitely takes lots of dedication. But that finished product is so very worth it!

  7. I thank you for the mention in this post! Says she hanging her head in shame. I used to say the same thing to my children...Just finish it. Be it homework, cleaning their rooms etc. I really should pay more attention and practice what I preached for all those years.

    Now I am going to have to finish something. When I do you will get a great big Thank You! LOL

  8. I agree with Theresa - every writer has their own path that works for them. I write very quickly but I end up doing a lot of revision. And hopefully (soon-ish!) something will get published. But finishing, no matter how long it takes you, is certainly the key.

  9. Great post and a great blog. Just wanted to let you know that I was over here following you.

  10. Funny I had the same problem with not finishing, but it wasn't because I didn't really finish. It was because I would write, finish, then edit for a long time, then realize it was all garbage and start something else.

    Roxanne is completed. It will be published. But in all honesty there were times through editing when I thought, "I would have abandoned this by now. In fact I hardly know how to save it." But I couldn't abandon it, and I learned how to save it, and now I know the beauty of a good editor and commitment.

  11. I have finished a couple of manuscripts, one published and one currently on the publisher’s production list, but I need to apply your “finish already” advice to a drawer full of short stories, kids stories, memoirs, etc, in various states of incompletion.

  12. Jane, thanks for stopping by and being a follower! Your drawer full of writing in "various states of incompletion" sounded just like me for way too many years! Kinda like my knitting basket!

    L.A., realizing it was all garbage shows just how good of a writer and self-editor you are. Sometimes it takes courage to leave a project and move on. Hmmm, there may be a reason why certain projects remain unfinished??!! Because we hate them? Because they're crap? That makes a LOT of sense.

    Hi Sarahjayne, thanks for following. I've been to your blog as well. I like it!

    Talli, I'm not surprised you work very quickly-- all that coffee lol!

    Ann, sorry if I put the spotlight on you, I didn't mean it to be negative. It was just that your comment made me realize what a non-finisher I've been for too much of my life. And this is just about writing. Let's not even go to the other areas lol! But yes, I did raise my kids and they're awesome!! And so's my husband, so that's all good!

    Joanne, it is SO worth it! And it's what's keeping me going on my current writing project. Just visualizing it done and published is kicking my butt into gear daily.

    Piedmont Writer, Good luck! That's great that you have so many things waiting to be finished. With a bit of effort, and going from one to the other, you could have quite a list of finished mss!

  13. I'm so glad you stopped by my blog so I could find yours! Because I am finding inspiration here that I needed, and the courage to just finish already! Thanks :)

  14. Hi Karen, thanks for visiting me! I like your blog very much (and the giraffe picture, of course). I read back a few posts and see how difficult it must be to really get published! Ah, by the way, do you really have ten children??
    I`ll order Farm Girl next thing! Cheers from Germany

  15. Crystal, How nice to know! Thank you for sharing that with me! Yours is one of the many awesomely amazing blogs I've joined lately. If someone gives me another award I'll feature the new blogs I'm following hehe, hint hint lol!

    Angela, I'm so glad I didn't miss your post today. It was very moving to me. Welcome from Germany! I wonder how long it will take Amazon to ship Farm Girl to Germany? It takes nearly a month to get it to England.

  16. Hi!

    .. a month and still waiting...! I got an email from Amazon yesterday asking me to send in a review of Farm Girl. I replied by saying "I would love to once I actually receive it from you. Kind regards".


    I have everything crossed that you "finish already" which you will cos you're fab.

    Take care
    p.s. thanks for you your kind thoughts for my cat.

  17. Gosh I can't believe you haven't gotten Farm Girl yet! My publisher is in the process of setting up pay pal and links to all the author blogs so people can buy direct from the publisher instead of having to go to Amazon. I can't wait!

    I hope your cat is fine!! I'll be watching your blog to get the report.

  18. Karen, I totally relate. My book, An Angel on Main Street was rejected several times because of the length, but it finally sold and did very well. I think books are like people, they come in all sizes some big, some small, but hopefully all gems. Much luck with your new 100,000 word book. :)

  19. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I'm really enjoying yours too!

  20. Yessss! I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes when I read other writers' blogs I feel bad because I had a problem finishing anything of length for so long. I'm 2/3 of the way through my first novel and I'm still worried I'm not going to be able to finish! I've been writing for a long time as well, and this is the first long project I've attempted. I feel like I'm behind the curve. But I refuse to let it get me down. Of course, ask me in a year if I'm still able to do that...

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment earlier! I really appreciate it.

  21. Great post. I'm so not surprised! =) I actually have 4 finished ms but only one that is really sell-able. The other three need some heavy revising. They were my practice books, you know? I'm almost finished with the sequel for the Eye of Tanub and feel so good about that. Started another that I think will be great. I love this job! Wish I would have started years ago.

  22. Very true. I feel like finishing a draft is the first big accomplishment. It's the first winnowing factor in the process. I know tons of people who want to be writers who never finish a draft.
    I'm currently struggling to refinish my draft of my WIP. Though, I do hope it isn't 100k long, stars and moon preserve me.

  23. Dominique, "the first winnowing factor in the process"-- very well put. I know tons of people like that too, in fact I used to be one of them. It wasn't until I finished a book-length ms. that I realized how key that step is lol! You'd think it would be obvious, wouldn't you? But there's all this discussion about "what publishers want and what agents want" and the first thing they want is a complete & polished ms. They can't publish it if it's sitting in a drawer.

    Melissa, I so agree with you. I love it. And making up for lost time is why I'm up at midnight to write. (After blogging of course lol)

    B.Miller, yes you will finish! It may not be very good but you must finish! Then you can go back and make it good, better and best.