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Saturday, August 06, 2005


Push Through Completion

It happens to me with almost every book project. I wonder how I can complete it and finish the final chapter. To write a longer work like a book is more like a marathon than a spring. Magazine article writing is often like a sprint. You can complete the entire writing process in a session (or two)—under normal circumstances and typical lengths. Certainly you may have to revise the magazine article several times and make additional adjustments. I’m talking about getting the first draft on paper.

My wife has never written a book but Christine watches me go through the creative process over and over. While I didn’t realize it, she’s come to expect certain patterns. I’ve heard her tell friends that while she’s never written a book, she has had four children. She compares the book writing process to giving birth. Each experience has it’s own patterns and events at different stages. She will tell people that just like childbirth, when a book is published, I remember all of the joy (like with a child’s arrival) and none of the pain (the process of having the baby). It’s absolutely true.

Often toward the end of a book writing manuscript, I will say something to Christine like, “I don’t know how the book ends.” Or “I’m unsure how to finish it.” I’ve been completely unaware that I’ve even repeated these sentences to her. She gives me absolutely no sympathy but says, “You can do it. Go back in there and finish.” I turn around and go back to my chair and generally write the final part of the last chapter. Then I have a complete manuscript to rewrite and rework.

Over the last few entries, I’ve been pulling a few lessons for writers from the Naomi Wolf book, The Treehouse.  The final chapter called “Frame Your Words” struck me hard as I read it, “The Chinese artists have something they call ‘the doctrine of the final inch.’ When one of them nears the completion of a project—with, say, only an inch to go—he stops; goes away; meditates’ prays; then comes back and approaches the final inch as if beginning the project anew.”

Some writers have told me that in the midst of a lengthy book project, they will stop in mid-sentence or in the middle of a paragraph. Then the next morning, they simply begin the writing process again. It might be some sound advice for you as you near the end of a particular project.

4 Comment:

At 9:58 AM, Blogger Darlene Left a note...

I followed your link from Shannon's blog and thought I'd take a peek. On her recommendation I ordered your book last Friday, and after I read the first chapter, I wanted to run to Amazon that same night to pick it up. But I'll have to wait.

Funny that I also wrote on my blog last night about giving birth, but mine was to a lizard named Sniff. You have a good blog for writers, I'll come back.

 
At 1:35 PM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...

Darlene, Thank you for the kind words about my blog and Book Proposals That Sell. I have much more ahead to write about the writing business. Ironically earlier today (also from Shannon's blog), I was reading your blog, What Would Jesus Blog? plus I looked at your creative blog designs at: Chameleon Blogskin Design. Beautiful work. Keep it up. Terry The Writing Life

 
At 8:57 PM, Blogger Lori Left a note...

A long while ago I thought I wanted to write a book...but often it is difficult just to find time for my blog! Once school begins it will be harder yet. I commend you on your writing and will read further when I have a block of time to myself. Looking forward to it!

 
At 1:37 PM, Blogger Sara Left a note...

What would we do without our spouses? Occasionally I will hit a wall when I'm up against a deadline and my husband is always the one who knows how to pull me down off the ledge, back to the chair, and my hands back on the keyboard. "You can do it" is definitely synonymous with "I love you."

 

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