Search This Blog

March 20, 2012

Newbie's Guide to Writing: Finish the Damn Book

by Michelle Miles

I want to be a writer.

For as long as you can remember, these are the words that have followed you. Whether you were scribbling stories in crayon or doodling them in the back of Algebra class, you’ve always known this. You have dreams of publication and seeing your name on the cover of a book, landing that agent, getting the big deal. Going on book tours. Having adoring fans.

We won’t talk about the harsh reality. Not yet. Instead, you need to pull your head out of the clouds and focus. Writing is not about the fans, the money, landing the sweet deal. I have a little piece of advice for you.

If you want to write, you do it because you love it. You have to pay your dues. Most of all you have to finish the damn book. Oh, sure, you walk around telling people you want to write, you join numerous writing organizations and chapters, you throw yourself into volunteering to learn how things work. But are you writing? Are you actually sitting down at the computer or with pen and paper and getting the words down? Are you finishing that manuscript? Are you?

If you’re not, then you have to look at why you’re not. Are you in love with the idea and not the work? If you are, then writing isn’t for you. If you’re not, then why aren’t you writing?

My guess is you’re making excuses. You don’t have time because of work/kids/home/insert excuse here. You get home from work and you’re too tired/you have to cook dinner/help the kids with homework. Your favorite TV show is on and you can’t miss it. You need to vacuum/scrub toilets/do laundry.

I’m not saying you have to give up living to write. But what you do need to do is treat it like a job. A second job, if you already work full time. But you have to turn the TV off (record your shows if you can’t live without them). Throw dinner in the crock pot on the evenings you intend to write and let the spouse and kids figure it out. Leave the dust bunnies under the bed and the cobwebs in the corner. It won’t hurt anything. Mt. Vesuvius in the laundry room? It’ll keep until Saturday.

You have to find those stolen moments where you can sit down and hammer out some words, even if it’s only one hour a day. When I went back to work full-time after being unemployed, I didn’t want the writing to suffer. So I packed up my HP Mini and decided I would write on my lunch hour. It’s been awesome. I average about 1500 words in my allotted time. And on those days when I can’t write during lunch, I make an effort to sit down at night and hammer out the words. Tired or not. It can be done. Hey, I didn’t say it was easy.

If you want to be a writer and you want to make it a career, you have to treat it like one. You have to write every day. You have to finish the damn book. Don’t be one of those folks who work on the same book for five years. If it’s your first manuscript, finish it, allow yourself to suck at it, and then start the next one. The only way to get better is to write more.

As my daddy used to say, to get to Carnegie Hall you must practice, practice, practice. So sit down and practice your writing. You’ll get better and faster.

And as for the house? Well, the dirt isn’t going anywhere.

Michelle Miles writes contemporary, fantasy and paranormal romance. She’s not ashamed to admit her floors need mopping and her furniture needs dusting. To find out more about her and her books, visit her website at



Sasha Summers said...

Amen to that! My dust bunnies could stage a rebellion if they so chose to do so. But when I'm writing - in that groove - I leave them alone to do as they see fit. Which, just like real bunnies, seems to be making more dust bunnies. LOL! Every once in a while I sweep them out and wash all of the socks in the house - and then I sit down and write some more! Happy Writing!!!

Kelly L Lee said...

Great advice. I'm printing out a sign to put on my monitor. NO EXCUSES! That third book in my series WILL get finished!

Sylvia said...

Making your writing a priority every day is an important part of success. If you don't make it a priority, then it will show in the writing. Plus, my husband says I'm happier when I spend an hour or two a day writing. Now, I find the business side keeps interferring, but I hope to have that monster soon under control.

Great post Michelle!
Sylvia McDaniel

Liese said...

So true!
I once heard a statistics (don't know how true it is), but of those that start a novel, only 20% finish. Putting yourself in that 20% immediately puts you in a smaller group and increases your chances of selling!
Best of luck to all!

Alisha said...

Awesome post, Michelle! Just like the Nike ads, Just do it! This is also good advice for those published authors who have burn out after so many novels. You just have to jump right back in and keep at it.

Vicki Batman, sassy writer said...

Being creative involves passion and nothing should stop that. As Kelly said, NO EXCUSES.

Not writing? I'd feel like my arm had been cut off.

Even if I put something on paper, just a tiny bit, it was better than none at all.

Avery Michaels said...

Great post, Michelle. As usual, you are so right. I just have to learn that even a little writing time done is considered productive!

Karilyn Bentley said...

Great advice Michelle! I need to take it, especially recently. :) Need to put up a No Excuses sign on my desk and pay attention to it. Write On!

Kathy Ivan said...

No Excuses! What a great motto. I need to follow that advice. I tend to let everything take precedence above my writing recently, and that has to stop.

So dust bunnies, you're going to have all the freedom you need in my house to roam at will, because I'll be to busy writing the next darn book!

Great post, Michelle.