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I finished the manuscript!

I did it! After two years—an ignominious record for me—I finally, finally, finally finished my latest manuscript. It was a challenge for so many reasons (end of a series, start of a new series, the pandemic, my adult kids coming and going for months at a time, elections, my husband working from home, me getting increasingly worried that I’d lost my ability to finish a book), but the first draft is D-O-N-E.

What a relief!

The best thing about having it done, besides restoring my confidence that I can actually finish a 75000-word book, is that I learned a lot about my writing process and how my brain works.

I had already planned to pay more attention to what worked for me while writing this book, and sometimes my experiments failed, which slowed me down. I’m also a heavy thinker, and my instinct is to sit and think about the book a lot. Turns out, that’s not the best practice for me.

In case you’re curious, here’s what does work for me:

  • Commit to 2-4 hours of time in the manuscript each writing day (even if I just end up writing about the writing, or doing research I need to move forward)
  • Wear headphones. Even if I have nothing playing, it’s creates a virtual cone of space around me that helps me get into the zone. I often work best with one song playing on repeat that kind of sets a mood and isn’t too intrusive, but neural beats or rain sounds work too.
  • Asking questions about whatever I’m stuck on (what should come next, how to resolve a situation, the villain’s motivation), and writing answers until something sparks. I’ve found this works even better with a large pad of drawing paper—a white board would also be great if I had the space—and colorful Sharpies.
  • Write some backstory, or just free-write thoughts about the manuscript and what’s going on. Writing begets writing. (And in my case, also triggers revisionist thoughts that help make the story better and move it forward.)
  • If stuck and writing about it hasn’t produced an answer yet, meditate, take a short nap, or go for a walk. Ask the questions before bed, in writing or out loud, and ponder them while falling asleep, or just after waking up.

I don’t think you should take that list as a prescription for your own writing. More as motivation to figure out your own best practices. If you already know, I’d love to hear about it!

Also, if you’re looking for the perfect gift for the writer in your life, The Emotion Thesaurus is hands-down the reference book I use the most while writing. It gives me ideas for how to describe the emotion someone is feeling or displaying. What it feels like, where they feel it in the body, and how it manifests physically.

If I could only have one writing book, it would be this one.

I hope your own writing is going well. Have a wonderful holiday!!