Friday, April 2, 2010

If You're Serious, Finish the #@$@ Book

Currently reading - Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand

I'm in the weird position of making money on non-fiction and still looking for that first fiction contract. As such, newbie writers will ask me for advice because in their minds I'm not as scary as, say, Nora Roberts. (Who I almost ran over with my car at an RWA convention, but that's another story.)

Invariably, my doe-eyed innocent wants feedback on their manuscript from me. (Yeah, I know. I snorted coffee through my nose the first time it happened too.)

My time's valuable. And no, this isn't the ego of the ex-attorney talking. This is the two part-time jobs, trying to get a hurricane-damaged house fixed and on the market, home-schooling mom talking. I just can't do it all.

So I've taken to asking the wet-behind-the-ears writer a question, "Have you finished the first draft yet?"

Yeah, you know what the answer is. My follow-up question, "Have you finished anything yet? And the angsty poems you wrote in high school don't count."

[insert chirping crickets] (Damn, I really need to find a sound bite for this.)

*sigh* If there's any rule in the business, it's this: Unless you got a contract in hand, you've got to finish the damn book first. IMHO, that's the real test of finding success in this crazy world of writing.

A while ago, I belonged to a lovely critique group once, friendly folks who'd go out of their way for a person. I had to leave because most of the members rehashed the same first chapter over and over again. And in the mumble, mumble time since I left that group, I've finished two novels. As far as I know, only one other person has finished one as well.

So if you only make one goal for yourself this year, finish the fucking book.


  1. I laughed out loud when I read this. I'm one of those people that writes incredibly fast (six complete novels since last May) and I don't obsess over little things on the first draft, but lots of editing has to come later and of course I'm cheering over 1000 word articles in a magazine and am not even close to having a novel published.

    But I get frustrated reading things that aren't even close to finished and then they'll tell me - I think I'll work on this other book instead. Ugh!

  2. Hey, Julie, more power to you in my book for writing fast. It's how you make money in today's publishing world.

    And I don't care if someone switches back and forth between projects. Heck, I do it quite a bit as shown by my previous posts. But I'm with you on the folks who can't get over the middle of the book slump and quit. If you don't learn to work through it, you'll never get published.

  3. LOL! Hey, those crickets get a lot of work at my place too. :D

    Heinlein's rules for writers:

    1. You must write.
    2. You must finish what you write.
    3. You must send your finished writing to someone who can give you money for it.
    4. You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order.
    5. You must keep sending it out until it sells, or you run out of paying markets.

    Harlan Ellison adds one in the middle:

    4a. ...and only if you agree with the requested rewrite.

    Way too many wannabe writers get hung up on number two.

    Julie -- wow, go you! That's awesome speed! :D


  4. LOL And Angie, don't forgot Ellison's most important caveat--get fucking paid for your work.

    (Gotta love his rants!)