Wednesday, July 15, 2015


A good writer has many different skills.  They include the ability to write sharp dialogue, the ability to be funny, to be poignant, the ability to tell a good story, the ability to keep the story moving, the ability to create compelling characters. 

There is another talent that often gets overlooked and this is the ability to finish what you start.  I believe that this skill, this great gift, is just as important as any of the others I listed.

Paradoxically this skill can often be honed by learning how to discard stories that no longer serve you.  If you’re clamping on a like a pit bull to a book that, in your heart, you no longer believe in, and no one in your writing group is crazy about it either, then it may be in your best interest to let it go and move on.  Some novels are not meant to be finished.  They serve a vital purpose as a Herculean writing exercise, a noble apprenticeship, during which you develop the mastery required to fulfill your destiny as an author.  

One of the main reasons we refuse to let a story go is because we have already invested so much time and effort, so much blood and sweat, and the thought of letting that all go to waste is maddening but does it serve you to continue working on a project that you don’t believe in with all your heart and soul?  Moving on is not a bad thing.  We move on until we find that story we must tell, and when we find it, and we certainly will, nothing, absolutely nothing will keep us from finishing it.  It doesn’t matter if there are delays.  Your novel will survive them.  Your novel will overcome any adversity because this is a story you have to tell, a story the children of the world need to hear, and by God, you’re going to finish it!  You will persevere, you will chip away, line by line, paragraph by paragraph.  You will finish that book.  Nothing on Earth will stop you from telling the story you were put on this planet to create.


  1. James, you wrote what I needed to hear today!

    I once had a novel that I started with enormous enthusiasm. Naturally, my enthusiasm waned as I wrote (I say "naturally" because that always seems to happen to me--I'm in love with the shiny new idea.) I put it aside and wrote other things. However, the characters kept reappearing at odd moments, and the story itself wouldn't let me be. THREE years later, I returned to the story, with new understanding about what it was meant to be. I completed it.

    Anybody else ever have this experience?

  2. Excellent point, Michael. Sometimes the best thing you can do to a story is put it down for an extended period.

  3. James, I ditto what Michael said! I started a novel gung-ho and every time I get delayed writing on it (family business, vacation, etc) I fall out of it flat on my face and lose the story. Then I must re-acquaint myself with it all over again and it changes. So your words comfort me and especially these:
    "It doesn’t matter if there are delays. Your novel will survive them."

    So as my hand is now delayed in writing this book - again - I am filling up my head with things to stew on instead in order to create new "Aha! moments" to drive on the story. I journal in the character's voice, I brainstorm on ordinary objects in my book to look at them with a different perspective to drive new ideas, I read writing resource books and take notes, I watch movies, and I read fiction to spark new ideas.

    And I highly recommend when anyone gets stuck on "finishing" to pick up the book by my friend Katherine Ramsland called: SNAP: Seizing Your Aha! Moments. It helps any creative type learn how to prep themselves for bursts of innovation and creativity by pumping the process until it happens. Lots is going on behind the scenes when we get stuck and "stew" and this book helps us see how to take full advantage of it. :)

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  5. I agree with putting the MS down and walking away for a week or more. You have SUCH a different perspective when you let things lie for awhile and then come back. I'll read the MS from beginning to end and find big things I need to change that I never would have seen before. It's the whole forest through the trees syndrome for sure! Great post, James!


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!