The 3 Most Important Times to Keep Writing

by Guest Blogger | 64 comments

I’m drawn to the dark side of creativity. The fears and phobias we let shut our writing down. I wasted too many years allowing the blank page to conquer me, doubting each word of every story.

The 3 Most Important Times to Keep Writing

And worse, waiting for permission from others to call myself a writer. Now, I’m almost on a mission to save others from those painful mistakes because they’re both unnecessary and abusive.

You Need to Protect Your Writing From Fear

There are just three times when fear will try to stop you from writing:

  1. The beginning
  2. The middle.
  3. The end.

You might laugh, but I’m not being flippant.

Fear will use every trick in the book to shake you to the core for whatever you’re writing—your novel, short story, a business how-to.

It’s terrifying, dealing with doubt, perfectionism, procrastination, criticism, self-sabotage, etc.

How Fear Derails Your Writing

Here are a few examples of how fear manifests itself during each phase of your writing.

1. The Beginning

You’re afraid you don’t have enough talent to pull off the project. You worry your words won’t interest anyone enough to read them in the first place, or to remember them.

Fear can cause such terror you find it impossible to even touch your keyboard. Or, maybe you find the courage to write, but you soon see it’s not as perfect as the image in your head, so you start over and over, again and again.

You might scrap that piece altogether and try something else.

It’s torturous because you can’t seem to move past GO.

2. The Middle

You’re lucky enough to have started and continued, but you either doubted yourself the whole time, or the process was going quite well, them WHAMMO!

Everything fell to pieces.

Who knows what went wrong? Maybe you got sick and lost your rhythm. Or, you shared it with a trusted friend, who loved it and that scared you to death.

Whatever the cause, you can’t seem to regain your momentum, so you set your work aside. You may even have several unfinished manuscripts.

This isn’t uncommon. I know writers who’ve taken a quick ‘break’ that lasts for years.

3. The End

Congratulations! You finished the rough draft, but you read through it and it sucks!

You really thought it’d be better than this.

Or, maybe you can’t find the final perfect plot twist to make your story extra special.

Frustrated, you never take the next step: entering that contest, letting a beta reader critique it, querying a literary agent, publishing it yourself.

Are You Going to Write Anyway?

The bad news is that fear will try to stop you every step of the way. The good news is this happens to everyone and should be expected. There’s nothing wrong with you.

You’re not lazy, untalented; you aren’t a loser because flawless prose doesn’t flow from your fingers every time you sit down to work.

You’re human, except now you must choose whether you’ll keep going, despite the obstacles and setbacks, during…

The beginning, the middle and the end. Good luck!

During which phase do you struggle most (or, does it ALL freak you out)? Let us know in the comments.


Pick a phase, then spend fifteen minutes creating a story about a tortured writer struggling with that phase of his/her story. When your finished, please post it in the comments section. If you share a practice, please comment on the stories of others.

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  1. Dana Schwartz

    Oh, this is great Marcy, and so true that doubt creeps in at all those moments. Right now, I’m having a hard time finishing my novel draft. It’s like I can almost see the end, it’s right over the next hill, but I keep coming up with excuses not to just plow through. I’m writing other stuff, just not what I need to write to be DONE. I think my worry is that I already know how much work this draft will need, and I don’t need to face the fact that revision is an enormous endeavor. Right now I can almost trick myself into believing that I’m almost done, when in fact, I have another summit to climb. But that’s writing, it’s never done after one or two passes.

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      Hey, Dana,
      Great to hear from you. I don’t know what suggestions to give you to help. Sometimes, it’s best for me to just buckle down and plow through the end of the draft. Other times, I need to just wait until I get so sick of NOT writing, that I sit down and finish it. You can do this. I have faith in you.

    • Dana Schwartz

      Thank you Marcy! That means a lot 🙂

  2. Reagan

    This is pretty much an illustration of where I am right now with my novel, at the end of the first draft:
    Here she was again. The letters of that keyboard stared back at her, as if daring her to start punching them yet again. Sweat formed on her brow at the very thought, and she could neither start typing nor get up and run. Her focus shifted from the keyboard to the screen, at the half dozen documents open in front of her, each with a piece of the book, tens of thousands of words staring back at her, waiting on her to kill some, rescue some, and leave others where they lay.
    For three years this had been her love, her life, which she had cultivated and crafted to come to this point. The adrenaline each paragraph had brought her, and the thrill that pulsated through her nerves at every perfect sentence, those had been what kept her going all this time, along with the undying dream to see these words all lined up perfectly on a bookstore shelf. She sat there now after three years, the fact looming before her that she was nowhere nearer to the bookstore shelf then she had been the first time she had sat in this chair and put her fingers to those keys, and she felt weary of even the thought of spending another hour staring at the screen.
    Leaning back in her chair and closing her eyes, she thought back over all that time, to the way she had felt at the beginning. What had she seen? Why had she done it? Why should she put herself through this anymore? She felt something come to her, a voice, a heavenly voice, and she could almost hear audibly what it said. This wasn’t for her. It was for the reader, yes, and even more than that. It was for Him, the One who had brought her here, had given her this dream, and He would be the one to get her through it. Though she was at the end, it wouldn’t end yet, and the end wouldn’t even be when this book was on that shelf. This was a calling, and He’d give her the strength.
    Smiling, she sat up straight before the screen once more. Then slowly, surely, she placed her fingers on the keys, and began to type
    “Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men”

    • Tom Farr

      I loved this line – “tens of thousands of words staring back at her, waiting on her to kill some, rescue some, and leave others where they lay.”

      Great job. And I love the source of motivation your character found to keep writing.

    • Reagan

      Thanks….That’s the exact motivation I have!

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      Wow, Reagan. I felt her pain and drudgery, “She sat there now after three years, the fact looming before her that she was nowhere nearer to the bookstore shelf then she had been the first time she had sat in this chair and put her fingers to those keys, and she felt weary of even the thought of spending another hour staring at the screen.”

      Sadly, I know that feeling. I’m glad your character was able to reshift her focus to remember why she started in the first place.

      Best of luck to her (and you) to keep writing!

    • Reagan

      Thanks, Marcy, same to you! Loved your article!

    • C. Stella

      It’s wonderful how you managed to evoke so much emotion into a short piece, from the seemingly hopeless start and right to the inspirational end. It’s like emerging from a dark cave into the light again. Loved the lines mentioned in the other comments here as well!

    • Reagan

      I like how you put that, “emerging from a dark cave into the light”. That’s the exact feeling I hope to portray with everything I write, as a conversion. I write Christian fiction, so that’s what my life is about.

  3. Catherine North

    Another great post!
    I started my current novel afraid that I couldn’t and shouldn’t write my story. Then I lost my way in the middle and almost quit. Somehow I clawed my way to the end, and now I’m tackling the first rewrite. To be honest, it’s been pure torture most of the way! But at the same time, I love this story. 🙂

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      You’re definitely experiencing it, Catherine. Isn’t it interesting how writing is sort of a love/hate relationship?! Good for you in persevering. I feel your tenacity. Good luck!

  4. Tom Farr

    I struggle with the middle the most. It feels like I lose steam and run out of ideas that I think are good during the middle. Fittingly, my story concerns a writer wrestling with the middle.

    Reed stared at the computer screen. The blinking cursor at the top of the blank page was taunting him, reminding him of how much work he put in so far that was for nothing.

    The story was nearing the midpoint, the point where everything needed to change and the protagonist needed to shift into action instead of reaction. His protagonist Kaley, a young woman scared of the future, was no nearer to figuring out who was responsible for her friends dying. Heck, even Reed wasn’t sure who did it at this point.

    What he did know was that things had drastically slowed down. Or maybe he was losing interest. If he was losing interest, what would that mean for the reader?

    He pushed away from the desk, his rolling chair making a loud creaking sound on the wood floor.

    “The bank called again today.”

    Reed turned around to see his wife Karen standing in the doorway, holding their six-month-old daughter Catherine. Catherine’s smile was a drastic contrast to the frown on Karen’s face.

    Reed stood from his seat.

    “We’re almost sixty days late on our mortgage,” Karen said, her voice shaky. “We’re going to lose this place.”

    Reed looked at the screen again. “I know I can finish this,” he said, his voice desperate. “And somebody will buy it. Or maybe I’ll self-publish.”

    Karen stepped up to him. She forced a smile. “I know you believe that,” she said. “I want to believe it too. But we need money. We’re not going to survive much longer like this.”

    Reed sighed. “You’re right.” He slumped back into his chair. “I just don’t know what to do.”

    “You have to get a second job,” she said. “Or write for pay. You can still freelance, right?”

    “Yeah,” he said, disappointed.

    Karen stepped forward and put her hand on his shoulder. “I know you can do this,” she said, trying to sound reassuring. “But maybe now’s just not the right time.”

    Reed took a deep breath, glancing at the cursor still taunting him. “Okay. I’ll get to work right now. I know a guy who needs some articles written.”

    She bent down and kissed him on the forehead. “I know it’s hard, but it’s for the best right now.”

    He looked up at her and smiled. Catherine giggled, and he felt a new resolve. He’d finish his novel someday, but now wasn’t the time.

    Karen left him to work, and though he struggled to get his head into non-fiction mode, he was able to secure a couple projects that would hopefully pay their mortgage bill.

    Several hours later, he’d fallen asleep at the keyboard. He opened his eyes at 1:27 a.m. and noticed the screen was still on. He wondered how many words he’d written half-conscious.

    Through bleary eyes, he read what he’d written before passing out. At least, he thought he’d written something before passing out, but this wasn’t something he recognized.

    Reed woke from being slumped over the keyboard. He looked at what he’d written before passing out, but he didn’t recognize it. He read it, confused as he read what seemed like a narration of his life. He screamed as a blade broke through his stomach from behind. Blood gushed out as he stared down at the blade. He heard a laugh and he glanced back to see the face of someone he didn’t expect because this person shouldn’t have a face. And yet it looked exactly like he’d imagine it as he was writing it.

    “You can’t be real,” Reed said, gasping for breath.

    “You think you’re afraid now?” the character from his novel said. “This is what will happen if you don’t finish that novel.”

    “But I can’t,” Reed said. “I’m stuck. I don’t know who’s doing all this.”

    The young man from his novel gestured toward the computer screen. “Isn’t it obvious?”

    Reed heard movement behind and spun around, his fists raised.

    Karen jumped back. “Whoa. I think it’s time to come to bed, Sweetie.”

    Reed sighed in relief. “Not just yet,” he said. “I’ve got work to do.”

    Karen smiled. “Okay. But come to bed soon, okay?”

    “I will.”

    Karen walked away Reed returned to his keyboard. “Alright, Kaley,” he said. “It’s time for you and me both to be more proactive about this thing.”

    He started typing, sure of where his story should go next.

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      I love the twists you always have in your stories, Tom. They’re real, but fanciful. Very intriguing. I’m glad Reed has money coming in and knows where his story is headed. Win, win.

    • Tom Farr

      Thanks. The story he’s working on is actually mine. It’s a novel I started years ago and stopped shortly after the middle. I keep wanting to go back to it and finish it so I thought I’d make Reed a little autobiographical. Maybe, like Reed, I’ll finish the story.

      Thanks for the practice today. It was fun.

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      Thanks for the backstory, Tom. I hope you do use Reed’s victory to inspire you finish your novel as well (without your characters stabbing you, of course).

    • C. Stella

      Loved the hallucination moment; I could clearly imagine it as if it was a movie scene! “His protagonist Kaley, a young woman scared of the future, was no nearer to figuring out who was responsible for her friends dying. Heck, even Reed wasn’t sure who did it at this point.” I can really relate to Reed on this one, but that’s one of the best parts of spontaneous writing, being able to discover the story as you’re writing it. 😀

    • Tom Farr

      Thanks. I appreciate the comparison to a movie scene. I actually spend a lot of my writing time ghostwriting screenplays, so when I write prose, I’m always thinking cinematically.

      Spontaneous writing can be a lot of fun.

    • Lujain Alkhateeb

      I WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!!! i am hooked!
      i love the evil part at the end.
      i need more.

  5. Carrie Lynn Lewis

    I can have a panic attack at any time in the writing process. There’s always room for improvement and I’m all too willing to believe that to the detriment of finishing first drafts.
    Or getting revisions to the point of actually submitting them.
    So you’ve pretty much described my writing life in total. Not a very flattering picture, I assure you, but totally accurate!

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      Not to fret, Carrie Lynn! Many of us have been EXACTLY where you are. Now that you understand: a) you’re not the only one experiencing this trauma, and b) it’s PERFECTLY normal, you can stop letting it shut you down. Push forward, keep writing, revising, sharing your book with beta readers, submitting your final manuscript for publication.

      WHATEVER that next step is, you know it, and keep working towards it (despite the fears and frustrations.

  6. kathunsworth

    Marcy I have made it through the first crappy draft and almost quit when I asked a professional editor to critique first chapters. But then I realised I could take a course in editing and that’s where I’m at. Taking the novel through the course with me. Even if it’s not that good in the end I would have learned so many valuable lessons and can use the process over and over. That’s what writing is all about. Thanks for the reminder to keep going.

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      What an excellent idea to you use your book as you take this editing course. You’ll learn so much for this novel and your future work, tighten up your story and build confidence in yourself.

      I’m glad you didn’t quit and found that determination deep within you. Good luck.

    • kathunsworth

      Thank you Marcy appreciate that, have a great day.

  7. Madani

    Hi, Marcy
    You are arriving just at the right time. I am at page 30 of my sixth or seventh novel I don’t know. I haven’t published anything. Yesterday I came back home eager to sit at my desk to start page 31 and what happened just at that moment? My neighbour started using his hammer drill. It was 9 pm. Impossible to touch the keyboard. That was yesterday, 24 hours ago.
    To come back to the writing, I read the last pages which I have printed, I don’t know why. I am happy to hear from you again. I am sure I am going to sit again at my desk.

    • Reagan

      Reading the last pages you wrote sounds like a great technique to get you in the mood to write. Hope you can get your book published.

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      How frustrating, Madani! But, I’m glad you reconnected with your writing. You obviously knows what it takes to complete a novel since you’ve written at least six.
      You can do this. I have a feeling this is your greatest work yet. It’s why you’re so scared. Keep going.

  8. Terence Verma

    The thing is to just begin writing. To empty onto paper the jumble of thoughts that fronts up as an iron curtain, not allowing any new ideas to come in. The beginning the middle and the end is in that jumble…let it all spill out, and lie around to be re-organized in the edit. Then clarity happens.

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      Clearly, you understand, Terence. You bring up an excellent point, “reorganized in the edit.” We must FIRST get words onto the page, all those jumbled thoughts, in order to have something to EDIT.

  9. Parsinegar

    For me fear particularly shows up in the beginning. It’s like my fingers get jammed and I just don’t dare to pour the words on paper, though I have many stories to write for sure. I know I need to write, but every time I find a way to trick myself (usually in a foxy fashion!) into hoping for a better plot or story sketch to come to me. It’s like I’m wasting lots of time and ideas to avoid what’s inside. The post positively got me to notice that not every thing I write is supposed to be perfect prose and what matters most is to keep writing for sure. I think I finally am going to start and keeeeep writing, thanks to you.

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      Oh my, NO. Our words may be complete JUNK in the beginning. In fact, with my last novel, I feel like it was just a laundry list of action in my first draft:

      She did this.
      Then, he de that.
      It made her feel this way…blah, blah, blah.

      I was so disappointed, so I went back and added more feel to it. Described the setting and the mood, etc.. My beta readers loved, so I obviously added enough to sparkle and shine.

      SOMETIMES, our writing may be awesome on the first go-round, but don’t let it get you down if it’s not. ESPECIALLY since you have so many ideas in your head…you’re definitely a writer, so write. Good luck.

    • C. Stella

      I definitely agree with the first draft thing – it almost always sound more like a mixed salad of actions, dialogues and ideas rather than a coherent story. I can’t even call it a first draft (it’s more like a sketchbook)! It only serves as a basis for the rewrite, so you can focus on adding style and beefing it up without having to worry about the direction the story is taking.

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      You get it, C. Stella. This summarizes it perfectly, “It only serves as a basis for the rewrite…”

      Yes, oh, yes!

  10. C. Stella

    Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with you~“…the song “Stuck in the Middle with You” pops into head, haha. I often crash and burn halfway through a story, mostly because I run out of interest, but that can be fixed with a break or two. The biggest problem is also being ridiculously unsatisfied with everything that’s been written, being overly critical of yourself and basically self-sabotaging the writing process. Coupled with losing interest, it can easily become a recipe for long-term stagnation. It’s something I still have to overcome…this article helped, so thanks for that 🙂

    Here’s the practice result:


    The backspace button had never been more of a friend than it was now. A few more taps of it and it would’ve qualified as family. Family was nice, like cousin Farley – he was a fun guy in reunions, that is, until he gets started with the racist anecdotes. The button was just like cousin Farley, and Lowell knew everything about it. He knew all four corners of the rectangular plastic like how a man would know the curves and secret tattoos of his woman. He knew how much pressure it’d take to execute the command on the old keyboard, the faded printing that read “Bac ace” instead of “Back Space”, and the dirt and grime clogged beneath it. The backspace button was family alright.

    The blinking cursor patiently waited beside the last letter on the word processor, the only animated object in the large screen of speckled blacks over a sea of blinding white. As if set on replay, Lowell’s eyes scanned the last sentence with unforgiving scrutiny that felt harsh when compared to the pride and love he’d poured out on those same words just moments before. He felt schizophrenic over the course of every session. But he knew it should be done.

    Judge, jury, executioner, he’d say in mind.

    When his eyes completed the disapproving glare at the sentence, they would continue with the previous one, and then another, and another until he finished an entire paragraph. No words were spoken, although his mouth still muttered incoherently, an action he would no doubt describe as demented, if only he could see his reflection on the screen that was too white and bright to allow that to happen. The arrow on the screen swiftly moved to the beginning of the paragraph and an all-too familiar ‘click’ resounded from the mouse. Suddenly, the once-monochromatic screen became partially filled with a splash of blue as the entire paragraph was selected.

    Judge, jury, executioner, he unconsciously repeated. Guilty.

    Another tap on the beloved button, and the blue was gone. Lowell stared at the same screen again, now a lot more white than before. He sighed and looked at the clock. It was one in the morning, and he’d deleted more words again than he’d written in the past three hours since he got home from another shift at the bar. He wondered if he should go back and throw down drinks with Luke instead, who was probably slacking off right now. There weren’t many patrons in that place past midnight.

    “So how’s that book o’ yours comin’ along?” Lowell imagined Luke’s voice asking him.

    “Awesome. Halfway through,” he would say.
    The blinking cursor laughed at him.
    He was halfway through. At least he was a week ago before his favorite sibling, the backspace button, decided to visit and turn halfway into something more of a 35%. Cousins Cut and Paste also had their hands in helping butchering up the manuscript. Pieces of amputated paragraphs and orphaned sentences lay scattered in another document labeled “Scraps”.

    Lowell wasn’t sure if that was how real writers worked. He wasn’t sure if they were neurotic backspace button pushers as well. He felt that he wasn’t doing it right. He felt unprofessional.

    He looked at the clock again and thought about the lie he was going to tell Luke at the bar. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. He deserved a break. He was sure of that. Judge, jury, executioner. He deserved a break.

    The monitor blacked out as soon as the computer was set to sleep mode, and the lighting of the room was once again balanced without the blaring white screen. Lowell picked up a notepad and pen as he went for the door, in case a bolt of genius strikes him while he’s getting drunk with Luke. He thought of Hemingway and remembered that writing and drinking were barely separable for that man. Alcohol helped him write. Lowell thought about the bar and his job, and the seemingly unlimited supply of whiskey and beer he had. He grinned and looked forward to the long night ahead.

    At least I got that part right, he said to himself.

    • Reagan

      Love how you illustrate the familiarity with the buttons. I think if all writers just wrote stories about their own struggles, they’d have a bestseller. Personal experience is the best stuff there is.
      I hope Lowell can find inspiration in something other then the bottle. Wish you the best with your writing!

    • C. Stella

      Thanks! I agree with you; personal experiences bring out so much more depth and realism to the feelings and descriptions in the writing. The backspace button was my nemesis, which is why I always start writing now on actual paper instead.

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      Terrific. In my mind, I titled this, “Judge, Jury, Executioner.” I loved his fib when folks about his book, “Awesome. Halfway though.”

      Been there, done that. 🙂

    • C. Stella


    • nearingthere

      STELLA! i loved this piece, especially the metaphor of the keys for family members. Also the honesty. Felt honest to me. I identified. I don’t drink. Reading and binge streaming Netflix is my avoidance “go to,: but this felt real in many ways. I’ve made the final draft my enemy and inertia my lover…just cant get close enough to the final draft to do it. I have projected it either into “Not good enought to bother with” or ” A tedious chore that has no attraction for me.” submitting the work either electronically or via snail mail will be followed waiting and expecting the worst, while fully knowing that the worst is NOT a rejection letter. In reality I’d be proud that i had the gumption to submit a piece, I would love to have multiple rejection letters that would prove I am trying and open to feedback from the pro’s. So instead of continuing to avoid the steps that i seem stuck at, I am participating on this blog for starters.

    • C. Stella

      Thank you! I’m really happy that it came out honest. I don’t drink as well (aside from the occassional glass or two), but it felt suitable for the character. I use personal experience to amp up the writing as much as possible and flesh out characters, but still keep the characters and story fiction enough to try and make it interesting. As for that ‘tedious chore’ feeling…I feel you as well. Glad we both found this blog, it’s real fun to be able to write short prompts without having to think much about drafts and long tedious editing!

    • dr

      wow, it really is so well written u just successfully discouraged me from sharing my are a good writer, for what its worth. I have the attention span of a sparrow or a mouse may be. And I read through your work. Nice writing.

    • C. Stella

      Aw, shucks. Thanks a load for the kind words, and for reading through my work as well! I appreciate that 🙂 As for your practice, please do share it here!

    • Lujain Alkhateeb

      I loved this! the family part, exquisitely described.

  11. Vaughn Roycroft

    Well, I guess you could say I identify with this, Marcy. I recently finished one, received a boatload of feedback on it, and I’m scared crapless over going back at it. In response I recently decided to take another shot at my trilogy (been shelved for about a year). A wonderful writing friend – someone I greatly respect, in so many ways, but in particular her writing and mentoring skillz – has offered to be my critique and accountability partner for the project… And – yep, you guessed – now I’m scared crapless to start it.

    I have some ideas for the opening, but as I sit to take notes on them, my dumb ole’ self-doubting brain tells me they won’t be any better than any of my other (failed) attempts at opening this huge story. I *will* start. I *will* turn off the self-censoring machine that is my ego, and immerse myself again. I’m on the cusp of it. The lure to go in is getting very strong now. I think about it constantly (while mowing, on the way to market, walking on the beach with the dog, etc.). Almost there. (Thank goodness I don’t have this issue with middles. Once I’m in, I’m good.Phew!)

    Good stuff today! Thanks for the nudge, Marcy!

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      OMG, Vaughn?! Do you REALIZE how incredibly lucky you are?! I know the crowd you run with, so you are a lucky, lucky man to have such talent offering to help you. Even if she’s charging you…you’re going to learn so much. Yes, it may bumpy at first, but you’re a smart guy. Once you get through the first through chapters, you’ll know what changes she’s going to tell you and you’ll fix that beforehand.

      AND, if she’s doing this for free, I must say ARE YOU CRAZY! Jump in there and start writing. I would give anything to be in your shoes. Kick fear’s ass and start writing. You’ve been handed a HUGE BLESSING. Take advantage of it. You can do this, Vaughn. I believe in you.

    • Vaughn Roycroft

      I totally understand what a lucky guy I am. And to answer your question, yes, I am crazy to not have already started. And double-yes, huge blessings abound, and even that doesn’t fully capture how lucky I am. But thanks for reminding me in such stark terms. 😉 I need a kick in the butt every once in a while to remind me of my good fortune. I really appreciate your belief in me, Marcy. Please know it’s reciprocal. Have a great weekend!

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      Thanks for responding, Vaughn and forgive my over-zealousness. I didn’t mean to minimize your fear. Writing is scary enough and I can see how working with the mentor would actually heighten that terror.

      So, let’s dish. What’s the worst that can happen with your novel?
      To me, the answer would be, it sucks.

      Okay, so what if your first try does suck? That’s what this mentor is there for — she’ll help you de-suck it to where you’re both pleased with your story.

      To me, all you’ve got to lose is time. When the pain of not writing is stronger than the fear of failure, then you’ll get to work. Good luck before, during, and after with this project.

    • Vaughn Roycroft

      Thanks again, Marcy! I’m feeling excited today. You really have reminded me. And I love thinking of it in these terms. Very wise and encouraging. Have a great weekend!

    • nearingthere

      I envy you for having a “project” to work on. AT least 2 it sounds like…your completed piece with the boatload of feedback and the trilogy project. Your burden Vaugn is my lack. okay to be honest I do have 2 completed pieces I could submit…but I suffer from inertia. would rather read something already published…so get yours out there so I can read it and procrastinate more on mine!

    • Vaughn Roycroft

      Thanks for the encouragement, Sheila! I’d like to pass it back to you, and offer the nudge that ends your inertia. As one of my mentors ends every note: Write on!

  12. nearingthere

    I may have written for more than 15 min, but it was fun. I put it in 3rd person to create some distance and combined a few characters one of them being myself but here is my piece on The End:

    Mark did it. He finally finished a complete story. His beta readers gave it great praise, but with their usual caveats about punctuation.
    He didn’t care about punctuation. He only cared about the story. If punctuation was going to throw an editor off, then the story wasn’t likely good enough to begin with.

    One beta reader told him, “Get off your high horse, Mark. Consider the likelihood that if you don’t respect your own work or the editor’s time enough to correctly punctuate your submissions, or pay a copy editor to do so, a magazine editor probably won’t respect your work enough to go past the second sentence lacking proper punctuation.”

    Mark was living in the fantasy of creating such an amazing story that any editor, or more accurately, the right editor, would be dazzled by it. Comma’s and periods were for punctuation purist prudes, and he wasn’t one of them. He was a creative genius. At least that is what his writing group kept telling him.

    He asked his fellow writers not to even bother to note punctuation corrections in his work. The only feedback he was interested in was whether or not the characters and actions of his stories held his readers interest. And in the case of this most recent story, and first one with a beginning middle and an end, if the ending satisfied. So what if a sentence was run on? Or his pronoun didn’t relate to the character
    or object intended. The story was paramount, not the mechanics.

    He had finally submitted a re-worked and finished piece to his group, but the fuddy-duddies just couldn’t help themselves. Why couldn’t he force them to focus on the story? Why were they so anal retentive about writing rules? Had they never read
    anything out of the box…what about ee cummings…had none of these dilatants ever
    heard of him?

    As co-founder of the writing group, he emphasized that his interest was creativity and story telling, not school ma’rm, red-ink, nit picking over lack of commas and periods, not being reprimanded like a child by people not half as talented in creativity as he was.

    Kevin the newest and youngest member asked, “Mark how many rejection letters do you have to your credit?”

    “I don’t see any credit it rejection letters,” Mark opined.

    “Irrelevant word choice,” the newbie responded. “How many rejection letters do you have?”

    “None, and I hope never to have any.”

    Everyone in the group laughed at him, and almost in unison cried out, “A certainty in your case since you’ve never ever submitted anything!”

    But the newbie handed Mark a printout, saying, “Keep this if you like. I have more copies and always keep a few with me. I find it very inspiring. It’s a list of many
    successful best-selling authors, from C.S. Lewis to Louis L’Amoure, James
    Joyce, Louisa May Alcott, Joseph Heller, and Beatrix Potter. Some you may have never heard of and some you might not even think highly of their writing. But what we think of their writing doesn’t matter. They each experienced multiple rejections and persisted and became well known writers.”

    “So? What’s your point, Kevin,” Mark asked.

    “I encourage you to submit your work however you want to submit it. You might not get a rejection letter, but even if you do, you’ll get feedback from people with more power than we have to grant your work publication.”

    The other older members of the group were on the verge of contradicting
    the young upstart. Granted Mark’s work was good, his stories even brilliant at times, but was this young man so enamored , that he’d encourage Mark to submit without copy edits. Such innocence, each quiety thought. but at same time were stunned momentarily by his bravado.

    “Have you submitted any of your pieces?” Sue asked.

    “Everything I’ve written since I was ten,” Kevin said, chin up and chest out. I have files full of rejection letters and some pieces I’ve revised and resubmitted dozens’s of times. and I’ve never been published, yet, but I will be someday, even if I have to do it myself.”

    “Self-publishing! Please, “ Mark said, “why would anyone pay to publish their work?

    “Because they can and because some people believe that their work is good enough to be published, especially after reading the rejection letters to now-famous writers.”

    “ But let’s not diverge. Let’s stop the discussion over the rules and just revise
    what we think is most important and submit our work and see what happens. I’m here to get feedback from your age group,but also to light a fire under you all.
    Act to find out. I know my work hasn’t found its publisher yet. But I
    will get better and better and eventually it will.”

    Mark nearing his double nickel birthday felt bested momentarily by this youth Mark resolved that very night to pick one of his many archived pieces revise it and submit it somewhere with or without the requisite punctuation

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      Hi Sheila,

      I really enjoyed Mark’s story. Both his innocence and arrogance were interesting. I’m glad he decided to submit his work, and hope he’ll keep going with the rejections start to come because they WILL come to him. Good work.

  13. David

    Starting – starting is definitely my biggest issue. All I ever do is start. I never have to worry about the middle or the end because I NEVER get there! SO I’m gonna stick my neck out there and post this for you all there at TWP to read. All I ask is that if you decide to report me to the “crazy-person’s-who-need-help” authorities, please tell them to let me commit myself, at least then I can get myself out. If they commit me involuntarily they’ll probably throw away the key. 🙂

    My practice was actually written before this boring prologue. What you’re about to read is the actual, non-fiction discussion I had with myself as I was trying to come up with something to write. I’m now going back to edit. Oh, and the answer is yes. I really did write all this blather (I mean, that blather, you know, the words down below) without once looking up at the screen to edit. Honest. I know, I do sound nuts don’t I …

    P.S. to the post-written practice piece prologue: I had surprisingly few squiggly red and green lines when I finally looked at the page! Maybe I’m onto something with this not looking at the screen idea …

    I know, you’re probably thinking this guy really is a “half a card short of a full deck” … and you’re probably right …

    Here’s my practice … … …

    Write something, anything! Don’t just sit there and stare at nothing and hope something comes to mind. DO something. No, procrastination is not a something, quit trying to fool yourself.

    Look, you’ve got a few words on the page and you haven’t edited yet. Way to go. If staring at the keyboard as you type helps keep you focused then do it! Now, as you’re doing this try to think of something to write about other than staring at the screen that you still haven’t looked at.

    Once upon a time, in a place not all that far away a man sat down at a computer and started pressing down on the letters of the alphabet only to have them magically appear on a screen, a screen that he’s trying his best not to look at but can almost see out of the periphery at the top of his eyes. The words are supposed to be forming a story but the dude hasn’t got a story line or even a clue, for that matter how to actually write a story. Still, he plugs away, hoping something might pop into his head.

    No luck so far but keep pressing on, keep tapping those keys. Something’s bound to give – maybe – hopefully. Just don’t despair. That’s what you’ve always done. Well, despair might be an overstatement but whatever, it always leads to procrastination. Don’t do it!

    Press on those keys – keep pressing, tapping, typing, whatever you want to call it – JUST KEEP THOSE FINGERS MOVING! DO IT!

    What do you think? Do you want to write fiction, non-fiction, a poem? Well, you can always fall back on poems, you’ve written several over the years. I know, your inner creator wants to do more but it’s going to take work. The best thing is, though, you have written all these words and haven’t fallen into edit mode. Dude, that’s progress. Celebrate yourself but don’t fall to the temptation to look up at that screen and start redoing what you’ve just done … progress … slow but sure … progress.

    So where are you going to go from here? Hmm? Don’t look at that screen – CONCENTRATE. Free write. Come on, you can do this even though that meddling voice in the back of your head is trying to tell you otherwise, you CAN do this. Take a quick break. Put in a cup of tea, but DO NOT look at that screen when you get up or when you come back to sit down. Give yourself a return carriage and see if you can come back and change the subject. BUT KEEP WRITING and NO PEEKING! Return carriage to follow … ready, set – GO!

    You’re back. You didn’t look. Good for you. You know if you decide to publish this in the comments section at TWP, they’re gonna think you’re nuts. Am I? Maybe, but isn’t everyone, you know, at least a wee bit nuts?

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      Congratulations, David,

      You’re officially not nuts. Or, if you are cuckoo, then I need to join you in the looney bin because I’ve also written stream-of-consciousness conversations with myself before about my writing.

      Actually, I’m going back to original diagnosis. You’re not nuts. You’re a writer. There’s a difference. 🙂

      I especially liked your updated version of, “Once Upon a Time.” It made my laugh. In that brief paragraph I can feel for your humor and talent as a writer. Keep at it. You need to move beyond just the beginning because you’re good.

  14. Lola Chan

    He got everything planned. The character profiles, the plot, the theme… everything went fine, but why can’t he write a word?!
    No, he knew why. He was aware of the importance of the beginning, so he wanted to write something awesome, something that will catch the reader’s attentions so much, even the hardest readers to satisfy will get hooked, but he didn’t know how to write such a beginning.
    At first, he thought of writing aa morning wake up scene, but that’s so cliche, it got repeated more than those “oh my scar hurts” scenes in the Harry Potter books.
    He tapped the table with his finger, trying to get that imagination engine hot and working. In the end, he wrote a couple of paragraphs of a cafe scene where the protagonist had a drink with his friends. Then, his wife called for lunch.
    “But sweet pie I’m busy,” he said.
    “Don’t expect any good writing to come up from your hands with no meal.”
    That actually convinced him. He quickly got off his chair and into the dining room.
    First thing he did after that meal was sit down, and review what he wrote, but after that, he realized how horrible the thing was, which made him decide to scratch the whole stupid beginning off.
    Wrote for slightly more than 15 min.
    Tehe ^^

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      I could SO relate to this, Lola. I can always be seduced by food. Also, I’ve started a new “thing” that I’m not allowed to rewrite the beginning until I’ve written the end, whether it’s a magazine article, short story or novel.

      I learned this the hard way. I wasted YEARS with my first novel, trying to get the first three chapters perfect. I didn’t know then that you don’t truly understand what’s the right beginning until you’ve written until the end and have a BIGGER understanding of your story.

    • Lola Chan

      This is actually a reflection of my experience with writing a beginning.
      I have this project which I realized I didn’t plan well. So I stopped writing it, fixed my character profiles, and laid down my general plot, then started fresh, but then I spent days thinking of a beginning. After settling on something, I would read it again after a break, then scratch it off and think of another beginning. It was very annoying, so I wrote this short story to vent out my frustration c:

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      Awww, I understand. I really encourage you to do like I did. STOP worrying about the beginning and just get the whole thing (poem, short story, novel) written, THEN you’ll have a better understanding of what you’re beginning should be. Good luck!

    • Aala Elsadig

      Good luck with whatever work you’re doing now too. 😉

  15. Emma Hoyle

    I couldn’t put it better than Ernest Hemingway when he found it hard to put pen to paper (and if *he* felt that way, then anyone can!):

    “All you have to do is write one true sentence.”

    • Marcy Mason McKay

      Oooooh, Emma. I LOVE that. Thanks so much for sharing words of wisdom from Papa. 🙂

  16. kwjordy

    ‘She died a slow, agonizing death as the maid arrived to clean up the mess.’

    “No, no,” he thought. “Can’t just end it this way. Besides, sounds like the maid is…”

    Jack hit the BACKSPACE key and held it down. The offending sentence was gone.

    He typed.

    ‘As Hilda, the maid, came into the room she discovered her mistress’s lifeless body writhing on the floor, the empty Bartles & Jaymes bottle at her side.”


    ‘Manuel held Emily in his arms as the blood slowly dripped from her lifeless limbs. “Emily, nooooooooo!”, he yelled as Hilda entered the room and screamed.’

    Jack had been at this for over an hour. For 33 straight days he had been
    inspired. Words flowed from his fingers like water from a tap; at times he
    couldn’t make his fingers keep up with his brain. He had never felt such elation as he wrote what would surely be his best entry in the “Manuel from Mexico” series of books
    that had been so successful. He was drunk with inspiration.

    The book practically wrote itself. The beginning was a tour-de-force of action
    that saw Manuel take on the mission to save his adopted country from nuclear
    annihilation. As he wrote the middle of the book, Jack soared to new heights of expression, finding words in the thesaurus on his desk he never dreamed existed, or were so fitting.

    His publisher had read most of the book, and eagerly awaited this final chapter. Would Manuel ride off to a Puerto Vallarta sunset with Emily, forever abandoning world-saving missions? Would Emily be happy away from her New York City existence? Would Hilda find another job as a maid? He would know soon enough as the final chapter was due today. If Jack failed to turn it in on time he risked losing a hefty bonus, one Jack had already spent on a small yacht he’d seen sitting in a berth on a Long Island pier.

    Jack pecked and pecked at his keyboard, praying the ending would come. But it would not. He tried running, going for coffee, walking the dog, even sex, but the old inspiration was gone; he was dry.

    Jack remembered the old writing blogs he once subscribed to, before he was a hugely successful, and rich he might add, writer of espionage. He tried to remember the
    blogs’ names, but the names, like his book ending, wouldn’t come. He Googled “writers’ blogs” and there it was: “So You Think You Are A”. He
    quickly clicked on the link and was soon perusing the many writing prompts
    offered. Sure, they were old and archaic; the blog had not been updated in several years. But he found one that interested him: Describe a long trip you would
    like to take.

    That was it – that was the little nudge Jack needed. He returned to his novel and began writing. Soon the words were flowing again. Planes flew and trains ran, cars
    sped and boats…did whatever it is they do.

    Jack was a writer again!

    Thirty minutes later Jack hit SAVE and relaxed back into his office chair. He had found his ending and life was good, again. “Yacht”, he thought, “here I come!”

    Jack’s publisher quickly scanned his inbox for the final chapter he had been emailed. And there it was, the golden egg. He read it with a relish he usually saved for hot dogs, knowing a movie deal was not far off. He reached the book’s end:

    ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’

    “Brilliant!”, he thought. “Now that’s a line people are going to remember!”

  17. Lujain Alkhateeb

    I’ve been wanting to reply since last week so i jotted it down on my phone, it’s rushed but i needed to write it down so i silenced my inner editor and went with it.

    it was cathartic.

    So thank you Marcy <3

    here's my two cents:

    "She sat there. At her desk. After hours of scrubbing the window and wiping off the desk. Organizing the mountain of useless papers just lying there taunting her.

    Finally. With a cup of steaming hot tea she sat.

    The blank page glaring back at her.

    Her pen drawing aimless doodles.

    Her mind whirring with unwritten words.

    She wrote

    The world will never read this.

    There. She said it. The worst possible outcome of writing this book.

    No one will ever know it existed. Much like they don't know I do, either. She wrote again.

    She seesawed the pen On her finger. Resting her Chin atop the page. Those words. Those hateful words carving tunnels in her mind.

    No! She sat upright and banged her fist on the table.

    Startling the cat sleeping on her bookshelves.

    I will write. Until all the words dry up.

    Until all the ink that runs through my veins has spilled.

    Write, then, a voice in the back of her mind said.

    No one is stopping you. But you.

    She took it. Word by word. Second by second

    The sentences were sloppy and the timelines fractured. But she wrote. And the more the words flowed. The better they meshed.

    Ideas popped left and right and she stuck them in post-its and scribbled in the margins. Not giving them the power to derail her from her is soon to keep going.

    Because no matter how hard. And how stilted the scenes were.

    No matter how painful it was to read the dialogue as she wrote it.

    She had to keep going.

    I'll clean up later. She promised the novel.

    I'll make you beautiful. In the end.

    Not now.

    Be patient.

    So on she went."

    It's how i feel at the moment, how things are coming together but theres so much more to go. The first draft isn't done yet, not by a long shot. but thanks to you Marcy and my local writing group I'm feeling motivated.



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