I Don’t Know How to Finish

Lightbox 2016 - Feb 12 I don t know how to finish

I Can’t Believe it!

I’ve written a book!

I’ve created people who ran around and did things, loved each other, hated each other, saved each other from danger. I love them ALL! Yesss!

But I can’t seem to stop going back into their lives and “fixing” this and “fixing” that. Just in case.

Two posts ago (“Blame it on Writer’s Block”), I wrote:

We need to choose one story/book/article and be faithful to it until the end. When we get to the inevitable end of it where we almost always find it difficult to bid it adieu, it is quite acceptable [read, recommended] to start an affair with another story/book/article as this will entice us to hurry and finish the original so we can play with the new one. This is human nature no matter how hard we try to suppress it.

… and …

Summation of Writer’s Block Advice

  • plug your ears to the voices of friends, family, and your self-deprecating self

  • hunch over the keyboard so no one can see what you are writing

  • love the one you’re with until it’s time to say goodbye


There’s a condition called OCD or OCPD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder) which causes the sufferer to follow certain patterns of behaviour. These patterns can range from extreme to mild: blinking three times with the left eye before pushing any elevator button while in a building with more than six floors; avoiding cracks in the sidewalk — “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back”; having an unnecessary fear of germs and constantly washing one’s hands; always doing things the exact same way (and expecting different results …); going over and over and over a manuscript believing that it’s inferior somehow and needs to be perfectly perfect.

As writers, we must not do this kind of thing to ourselves. Having OCD/OCPD would be an enormous barrier to being a writer in the first place so let’s assume, since we have actually finished our book (right?), that we are free of the extreme version (usually related to the physical brain rather than conditioned behaviour) and find out what’s next.

What’s Next?

  • Type “THE END”.
  • Go through it to ensure that no subplot thread went off to Limbo unless this was the conclusion of that [one] subplot thread. Fix.
  • Go through it (yes, again) for each individual character’s dialogue to ensure that his/her voice is consistent throughout and sounds like no other character’s voice. Fix.
  • Edit it for spellos.
  • Edit it for grammeros in narrative. Characters can have grammeros in dialogue and in fact, it’s recommended (see above). Example: A teenager might say “Me and her went to the concert” or “Me and Janice went to the concert” but I doubt if any teenager would say “She and I attended the concert.” It sounds contrived. Don’t overdo regionalisms but throw some in for one character. In narrative, we must write the grammatically correct “between you and me” but in dialogue, we can have a character say “between you and I” because that’s the way a lot of people talk.
  • Do a manuscript exchange (good ol’ barter system) with another writer, preferably one who writes in another genre, to get feedback from somebody who knows how to make story/character/etc. suggestions without holding back!
  • Stew about what this colleague has suggested. Pout as much as you want then either accept or reject some or all of the suggestions. Forgive your newfound and valuable friend.
  • Seek out an editor (or two, or three): http://www.editors.ca/hire/definitions.html
  • Say “buh-bye now” to your baby and send it to your editor(s).
  • Forget about it entirely.
  • Get going on your next project.


Next Post — When Do My Millions Start Rolling In?

Sherrill Wark is the author of Really Stupid Writing Mistakes: How to Avoid Them: http://www.amazon.com/Really-Stupid-Writing-Mistakes-Avoid/dp/1479308226

… and Death in l’Acadie: a Kesk8a story (fiction): http://www.amazon.com/Death-lAcadie-Kesk8a-Sherrill-Wark/dp/1511501154/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8


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