Sunday, August 16, 2009

Persistence--What You Learn When Your Book Is Finally Published

This week my long-awaited (to me, at least) novel will be published. I began writing it nine years ago while vacationing at a lakeside cabin with friends. To acknowledge the hard work it took, today I listed my activities of persistence--what it took to finish it.

1. I hired two coaches
2. I went to five series of writing classes
3. I enrolled in two years of an MFA program
4. I joined three writers' groups
5. I wrote every day for many months
6. I found a great weekly writing partner

All this helped. But in the end, it got finished--and published--because of one small writing exercise, which I'll explain below.

Belief and Persistence
I've worked with thousands of book writers. Many finish their books. Some don't. They are sometimes very talented writers with great stories to tell. Stopping mid-process puzzled me. But as I worked with more writers, I learned how persistence shapes creative work. How book writers need to keep going, even when the going is very tough.

I learned to value persistence and a healthy belief in oneself and one's creative expression. Unless you love your writing, who will? This isn't to say you are ego-driven. You acknowledge what's not working as well as what is. But to constantly doubt, that's dangerous. That will lead to endless revising, endless questioning, and not holding your published book in your hands.

This week's writing exercise is a list. It's a belief-boosting exercise that a fellow MFA student once gave me. We'd just left our morning workshopping session and I was beyond discouraged about my novel (the one that's being published this week).

"I'll never finish this," I said. I was quite certain. "I'm not meant to. I don't have it in me."

"Nonsense," she said. (I love people who use this word.) "You'll finish and you'll publish. It's a good story. It just needs your love."

She told me to go back to my dorm room and start a list of anything I liked about the book so far. Keep the ongoing list in my writing notebook. Add to it, look at it as a reminder. Like a Valentine card to my emerging creative work, it would help me remember to love it.

Here's what I wrote that day:
Molly (the main character)
Zoe (her best friend)
when they first meet at the Boat House (the local dive)
Chad's glasses
the still life painting
how Molly felt driving the motorboat that morning
the lake at sunrise

This exercise reversed my discouragement. I went back to work. I regained my persistence and belief. Since that day, I added to my list as I learned more about my book and fell in love with it again.

Start a list about your writing. What do you especially love about it, believe in? What gives you the persistence to keep going?

If you'd like to join me in celebrating my novel, please consider visiting today. They're offering a special pre-release price of $10.17 plus shipping. Hard to beat. Click here to read Molly and Zoe's story.


  1. tom combs - Mpls guySunday, August 16, 2009

    Congrats Mary -
    Happy for you and hope 'QOL' sells like mosquito spray at a northern MN nudist colony.
    I much appreciated the Loft seminar I recently attended and find your tips very helpful.
    see ya at your Loft class down the road.

  2. Thanks Mary for sharing! It always helps to hear someone else's story to give them hope! I celebrated and can't wait to read your novel!

  3. Thanks, Tom, me too! Glad you enjoyed the Loft workshop. Hope to see you at another one. All the best with your writing, Mary

  4. The advice to come back to what you love about your book and story is so spot-on, Mary...and just what I needed to remind myself of as I start to query AND tackle a new project. Thank you for reminding me of it!
    One of my favorite artist quotes is from Brian Wilson; he said that when he was working on PET SOUNDS he and his brother Carl would have prayer sessions before they'd go into the studio, "and pray for maximum love vibes to go into the music." I actually did that same thing very early on when I was drafting my novel (pre-Goddard, if you really wanna know how long this baby's been gestating). I'm not saying that I've written the literary equivalent of PET SOUNDS, but staying centered in that love of my story and my characters kept me on point...even when I did as Kurt Vonnegut counseled and put them through hell to see how they'd respond.
    I am happy for you getting this one out there and I
    look forward to reading it! :-) Max

  5. Love that quote, Max...keep on keeping on!
    And thanks! You were there for an earlier version of chapter 1--it's changed a lot since Goddard days.