I’m blogging chapter by chapter through a great book on the art of writing by James Scott Bell. I encourage you to pick up a copy of “The Art Of War For Writers”.
Tip #22 in the “Art of War for Writers” from James Scott Bell is: “Finish your novel, because you learn more than way than any other.”
This is Bell’s shortest entry of his 77 different tips. But why waste words here. Just get the stinkin’ book done!
Bell writes, “Some writers tinker over their words endlessly, perhaps fearing the end result. It might stink. Yes, it might, but it’s the only way you’re going to get better.”
I so appreciate his bluntness. For years, I was a tinkerer, not a writer. And the reason was, I had several would-be books lying around my computer in unfinished form – a chapter here, three chapters there, an outline and title there. I would tell others about these wonderful stories I was going to write.
And it never happened. I’d write energetically for fifty pages or so, then stop. Looking back it was for a number of reasons.
Being a busy pastor, I’d hit stretches when I plum had no time, and I’d stop logging the words-a-day goal I had set. Once you stop the engines of any regular habit, it’s often difficult to fire them up again.
Inevitably, there are places in any long writing endeavor where you say to yourself, “This is dumb.” You begin to doubt yourself. When you’re at the beginning of a hike looking up at the peak from below, the idea of the hike seems so romantic and fun. Then you disappear into the woods, and the bugs start to nibble on you neck, and your calves start to grumble, and suddenly it’s not so fun anymore.
Hopefully, you have a storyboard in your mind of where you want to go, but it always happens that some of your characters become unruly along the way, and they start speaking for themselves, saying, “Yes, but…” or “How about this…?” and you reach impasses (which are really opportunities in disguise) which cause you to lose your way.
More than fifteen years ago now, I resolved with all my heart that I would finish my sequel to “Ben-Hur” no matter what. I put all the other projects and ideas aside, donned my toga, and systematically plugged away. It took months. But I never will forget that day when I typed the final words of the final paragraph of the final page of the final chapter.
Sure, there was endless rewriting yet to come. And a marketing maze I could barely get my brain around. But the joy of actually finishing the hike and being able to say without fudging it – “I wrote a book!” was one of the greatest joys I have ever felt.
It gave me confidence that I could do it again. And though it took more than a decade, I crossed that line again with “A Sparrow Could Fall”. Then last fall I finally wrote Day 40 of the 40-Day purity devotional I had aspired to write for so long.
My thought now as a writer still on the hike, looking for Publication Peak, is to throw so much content out there, that I have to be noticed.
‘Cuz here’s the thing. In this age of digital publishing where everyone and their dog too is “publishing”, the only way to press through the crowd is to create content – lots of it. Content that is good, that is consistent, and…drum roll, please…that is completed.