Finishing Your Novel — Book Recommendation

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I recently read “Finish the Damn Book!: An Inspirational Guide to Writing” by Martin McConnell, and his inspiring words came at a time when I needed to hear them the most.

I’ve been taking on a lot of writing-related projects this summer. They’ve made me stretch beyond my comfort level, and helped me grow as a writer while growing my local writing community. With this, there has been a bit of uncertainty as I worry about whether I’m going to meet other people’s expectations of me. I don’t know about you, but I have enough trouble meeting the expectations I have for myself without worrying about what other people might be expecting of me. There’s something about creative pressure, whether real or imagined, that stirs up fear, which usually leads me straight into a writing block.

I’ve been writing blog posts for nearly a year now, and in many ways it’s not all that different from the news articles I wrote as a journalist. The main difference is that I’m writing my story, drawing from my own experiences to try to help other writers. There’s been a certain amount of anxiety that’s come from that, which I’ve learned to overcome by realizing in one way they’re like pep talks to myself. They help me remember different information about writing, and I feel encouraged when I help other writers. Plus, I’ve come to realize that people who read this blog on a regular basis know what they’re getting themselves into, and they wouldn’t be here if they didn’t like what they were reading.

The trouble started when I agreed to do a guest blog for another site. I had no relationship with the readers on that site, and I didn’t know their expectations. I had my idea for the post, and I even discussed it with my writing group a few times. The problem came when I went to put the words on paper. I stared at a blank page, and the words wouldn’t come.

That’s when I decided if I couldn’t write, I’d read about writing. So I picked up Martin’s “Finish the Damn Book!” Martin follows this blog and you may notice his comments on occasion either under his name or under the name spottedgeckgo. He asked me to read his book a few months ago, and on this particular day when I read it, the timing couldn’t have been better. They were the words I needed to hear, when I needed to hear them.

The funny part is that Martin doesn’t believe in writer’s block, which you may know I have a different stance on. But it didn’t matter whether he believed in it or not, because he helped kick me out of the one I was in.

Martin starts his book describing his writing journey and how he finished his first book. The most impressive part was the long hours he put in at this day job, while still making time to write. He then gives helpful tips on how you can make time for writing every day. He systematically breaks down the day, describing common obstacles that prevent people from writing, and where we’re letting free time that can be devoted to writing slip away. He explains how to redirect that free time, and even addresses how to tackle the problem of being too tired and not having enough energy to write. And that’s all in the first two chapters.

The great thing is, even though Martin points out areas to help focus your energy on writing, he does it in a way that makes you feel encouraged and motivated to start making changes. It made me feel excited about writing. So much so, that as soon as I put down the book, I tackled that post that was haunting me. The first paragraph was painful to write, but Martin’s words kept playing in my head. And after I pushed myself through the first paragraph, the words started pouring out. I wrote the longest post I’ve ever written. I had seven and a half pages of writing when I finally finished the draft of the guest post. In the end, I had to cut more than half, but at least I had the words to cut.

Not only does this book give you tips on how to finish the first draft of your novel, it has a second part that gives advice on what to do once you finish your book. Then its appendices are filled with helpful writing resources. I enjoyed reading about Martin’s own journey and struggles with writing and about his experience with publishing. Many things in his book resonated with struggles I’ve faced. Overall, I’ve been left with this feeling that I can conquer the writing obstacles that get in my way. Whenever I’m feeling self-doubt creep in trying to derail me, I hear Martin’s voice cheering me on. And let’s be honest, his words of encouragement are much kinder than the inner voice that usually rules my thoughts.

Martin’s book is all about helping and inspiring other writers, which is right in line with what I try to do with this blog, so the message resonates with me. Even better than me telling you about what his book did for me, Martin is offering the first half of his book for free, so you can see if you get as inspired by his words as I did. And if you want the whole book, it’s available on Amazon.

 

Tell me about one of your favorite writing craft books. Is there a book that helped give you the push you needed when you were stuck on your novel?

 

15 Comments


  1. // Reply

    First, congratulations on your blog’s upcoming first birthday! I say celebrate all writing achievements. Tip from my teaching days with 7th and 8th graders, do your best, be inspired by your content of your blog and many of your readers will be inspired too. You can’t please them all.

    McConnell’s book sounds like a good one. I love “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. Copywrite 1992. Old now, but a gem and much better than her later work, in my opinion.

    I recently wrote in my journal about my procrastination with creativity. Not a solid block, but more of, I’m so busy procrastination, excuses nonsense I get caught up in. I called it my little red wagon of #*#*# that I haul around. So I made a pie chart of how I spend my time and then came up with things I can work on creatively in a (an?) one hour time frame. First on my list is ways my antagonist can be trouble. I’m a list maker, so I need to make lists and then when I am tired and making excuses I can just look at the list and get to work.

    Thanks for sharing the book.


    1. // Reply

      Thank you, Christy! I agree about celebrating achievements, they pass too quickly if you don’t take time to mark them.
      I haven’t read The Artist’s Way yet, but I know you’ve mentioned it before, because it’s already on my list of books to read. I’ll get to it eventually.
      I know what you mean about procrastination and making excuses about being too busy. I sometimes wonder if I’m too quick to accuse myself of procrastinating. I’ve been getting after myself lately about not editing my novel, but I have been doing a lot of other writing-related projects. I need to get back into editing, but I think I needed that break too. Plus, if I’d been editing, these other projects would have been put off until later and I would have accused myself of procrastinating on them. It’s a fine line. Today, my goal is to edit. So if I don’t get any done, I’ll officially know I’m procrastinating. 😉


      1. // Reply

        Prioritizing is probably the most complicated part for me. If a client needs something done, of course, I invest my time in that first. That whole paying the bills thing. I often find myself bouncing between new projects and editing time, so I’ve set daily minimums to help me. Either 1 hour of editing or 500 words on my projects daily. Then I feel as if I’m at least progressing.


        1. // Reply

          I need to find my rhythm again now that fall is coming. I don’t always do the best with specific daily goals. I find that there are days when it’s hard to hit that goal, which isn’t the bad part. The bad part is when I am coming to my goal and I have all this creative energy, and I’m excited about meeting that goal, and then I hit it and something about hitting the goal causes me to run out of steam. If I hadn’t been so focused on the number I could have done much more.
          When I find that good working rhythm with writing and editing, I discover I surpass any goal I would have set for myself. It’s just finding my way back to that point. Fortunately, I already feel it falling back into place. The summer is so hectic, but things are slowly calming down and I’m hopeful that I won’t have to wait much longer to get back into a productive place.


  2. // Reply

    Happy one-year anniversary, Mandie! Thanks for sharing this with us, and I’ve already downloaded the free version of his book.

    I’ve been dealing with so much these days, so I can use some motivation for my writing. I had no idea that you were a journalist! You’ve been writing for a long time then?

    I’m sure you’ll publish a novel one day. You’re one of the nicest writers I know, and you work hard. You’ll get there!


    1. // Reply

      Thank you, Aka. So many kind words in your message. I hope you feel as motivated and encouraged as I did when I read it.
      I wish self-doubt and motivation were obstacles that writers only had to conquer once. Unfortunately, it’s a battle I have to fight over and over again.
      Yes, I received my degree in journalism, with an emphasis in investigative journalism. I always wanted to write novels, and I figured it would be a way I could write during the day and get paid while I worked on my books at night. I never started a book while I was working as a journalist though.
      Happy reading, and thank you again for your sweet words.


  3. // Reply

    I’m so glad that Martin’s book has encouraged and inspired you so much, Mandie. Sometimes we find the advice we need to hear in a “writerly self-help” book, even if we aren’t expecting it at that moment. That’s definitely been the case with me and Sage Cohen’s Fierce on the Page this year. You might remember from my blog posts that I’ve been struggling with confidence and “self-worth” as a writer this year… and to make a long story short, Fierce has given me new perspectives and (so to speak) tools that could be really helpful with those struggles in the short and long term.

    “I have enough trouble meeting the expectations I have for myself without worrying about what other people might be expecting of me. There’s something about creative pressure, whether real or imagined, that stirs up fear, which usually leads me straight into a writing block.”

    Do I know that feeling well. Though for me, it doesn’t result in writing blocks, but in a feeling of helplessness that’s so acute, it’s almost like an anxiety attack. Here I am, working on a messy first draft of a manuscript, and I’m already panicking over what beta-readers will think of it. But getting caught up in that vortex isn’t going to help much, is it? :/


    1. // Reply

      Yes, Sara. I find writing involves a constant adjustment of the way I think. I have had several jobs over the years that require writing and editing, and they weren’t as difficult. I’ve realized the reason is that I have more at stake now. The projects I work on are stories I want to write, and they have a large part of me in them. It makes criticism and rejection more personal. I’m still working out how to make my mind ignore that aspect. It’s a never-ending tinkering.
      I’ll have to add Fierce on the Page to my list. I’m glad to hear that it helped you. Writing sometimes takes every bit of encouragement. I’m hoping one day I’ll wake up and realize it’s been a while since I was so consumed with fear and doubt about writing.


  4. // Reply

    For me personally the most important is to write every day… no matter what, try to set aside an hour or so… as I have never written a book (except my PhD thesis many years ago)… but I do not really believe in writers block… for me (and I mostly write poetry) it starts with just adding words to words and suddenly the poem is there … a bit like a photograph being developed.
    For me writing is a hobby… but one of the things I do is providing prompts for others. As for books I really enjoyed Stephen Fry’s “The ode less traveled”…


    1. // Reply

      It’s interesting that you say that writing is your hobby. I’ve been thinking about it lately, and writing is mixed in with my identity. It’s part of who I am, so the unfortunate part is that criticism of my writing feels a bit like an attack on me. That’s probably the most dangerous place to find yourself as a writer. Especially since the criticism is what helps your writing grow.
      Hobbies and jobs where I’ve wrote documents and articles as part of the work involved criticism, and that didn’t bother me. It’s the attatchment to the stories I write now that makes the same type of advice harder to hear. But I also know this about myself, so I try not to react to it, and come back and review the advice again a few days later. I receive it much better with a few days to think about it.
      And I think you’re right with your advice to write every day. It gives you a sense of accomplishment, and gives you a creative outlet, and a routine probably helps prevent writer’s block from creeping in. Martin gives the same advice, and I know every day that I write, I feel better about the day overall.


    2. // Reply

      Like Bjorn I don’t believe in writer’s block. When I get to an impasse with a story I leave it and write something else, I often work on 2 or 3 projects at a time, and write short stories or poems in between.
      And yes, write every day, on a keyboard, with a pen, or even just thoughts, plots, ideas, spoken into a phone.
      But I agree with you, Mandie, that writing is more than a hobby. I think, speaking for myself, it is more of a compulsion. If I don’t write I feel mentally constipated!


      1. // Reply

        Leave it to writers to describe similar things while disagreeing on the terminology. I have a very similar relationship with procrastination. I used to be a procrastinator, and it’s a big change to not procrastinate. But I’ll move from one project to another and not feel like I’m procrastinating on the project I pushed aside.
        Martin doesn’t believe in writer’s block either, but he describes something called resistance, which to me is the same type of thing that I call a block. And a block on one project doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m blocked on all projects, but it could lead to that.
        I suspect there’s a trick in there somewhere though, where if you refuse to acknowledge it, you’ll be busy writing instead of obsessing about how you’re stuck on a story.


  5. // Reply

    Wow! Time is flying by so fast! Happy one year anniversary! I confess that I don’t like reading self-help or motivational writing books, but I’ll still look up the one that you mentioned.

    One day, you’ll finish a novel and I’ll be holding the result in my hands! Keep writing and working to achieve your goals.


    1. // Reply

      Oh, thank you, EM! And thank you for the encouragement too! That’s just what I need as I try to get some editing done today.


      1. // Reply

        You’re utmost welcome, Mandie! Happy editing!

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