Saturday, January 17, 2015

It’s Not How You Start, It’s How You Finish

Just before Thanksgiving, I wrote the two words that every author loves--“The End,” marking the completion of my latest Victorian romance. The first in a projected series, taking place in a different year and a different setting, and featuring a cast of new characters whose dynamics are complicated and contentious even on a good day. As you can guess, it’s been quite a ride, bringing these people to life and giving the lead couple the happy ending they (mostly) deserve!

Over the years, I’ve learned that every book I write has something to teach me. The first one, which remains close to my heart, showed me that I could see a project of that scope through to the end. Waltz with a Stranger taught me about perseverance, about getting back in the game even in the face of distractions and disappointments. A Song at Twilight taught me about taking risks and trying new approaches in storytelling--because how else does one grow as a writer?

This last one? Taught me about focus. In a way, it was a little like learning the lesson of Waltz with a Stranger again, but with a difference. Waltz derailed twice due to Real-Life Stuff and I stopped work for several weeks. This time, I kept going--through a four-month stretch that was like fifty miles of bad road, which I now refer to as “The Summer of Suck.” Progress was slower, but it never completely ceased, and by mid-October, things had calmed down enough that I could retreat into the writing cave, roll a boulder in front of the entrance, and FINISH THE BOOK!

Real life wasn’t the only source of distractions. One thing I can say about myself as a writer is that I seldom have trouble finding things to write about. If one idea fizzles, another one--or ten--will come along soon enough.

That can be a mixed blessing when you’re trying to stay on point. Because, true to form, these Shiny New Ideas proliferate like bunnies and show themselves at the least convenient moment. There you are, toiling over your current project, sweating, straining, and cursing it up one side and down the other, and there they are, flashing their little white scuts at you and demanding your attention. “Here we are! Wouldn’t you rather chase us than work on that boring old thing?”

Resisting that siren song is always hard, especially when the words are flowing like cement and the Muse has decamped for sunnier climes and left you to struggle on alone. And when you’ve reached the point in your manuscript where you’re heartily sick of your characters and tempted to dispose of them all in an earthquake or a  volcanic eruption.

And that’s when you need to remind yourself that the book you’re now struggling with and possibly even hating was once a Shiny New Idea too. An idea that you loved passionately enough to pursue and pin down, and that you promised to see through to the end.

Keep going. Keep writing. Not just until you’re finished, but until you fall in love again with what you’re doing, because the rewards are infinite.

And once you get to the last page and write “The End” or “Fin” or whatever flourish you use to mark the conclusion, go forth and bag yourself some fresh plot bunnies!

Pamela Sherwood


  1. I so needed this blog today...THANK YOU!

  2. You're welcome, Carolyn! Glad this blog was able to help!

  3. That is so true, in everything, it is how you finish.

  4. And if you finish! Once you do, you're a big step ahead in the game.

  5. So true! It really is a marathon, not a sprint. Little by little, day by day, word by word.

  6. And obstacle by obstacle, especially if you hit a rough patch. But so worth it when you finally limp across the finish line!