May 19 Written by 

Almost Done with That Novel

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I notice that many authors bail out, or want to, when their books are 95 percent of their way into reality. It's not writer's block; it's a more insidious self-subversion rooted in stress and exhaustion, like that of a mother who feels she can't summon the strength for one last big push to bring her baby into the world. True-life examples:


  • Author finds an off-putting clause in the book contract. Rather than negotiate, she calls the publisher a weasel and junks the deal.
  • Author completes the manuscript but can’t find the time or energy to submit it anywhere.
  • Author of a valuable manuscript chooses cheap and quick self-publishing to avoid the delays and legwork needed to find a better publisher, "and besides, Fifty Shades was self-published," and so on.
  • Co-authors complete the manuscript and then fall out over personal matters (“I’m not hearing respect in your voice,” and so on.).
  • Self-publishing author realizes he has hired an incompetent book designer/press. Too stressed to locate and hire another, the author okays a substandard cover design or interior only because he wants the whole headache over with.
  • Author intends to assemble a volume of poetry. Selects the poems, decides they all must be revised, and proceeds to revise for months.
  • Author intends to assemble a chapbook. Sorts poems out on the floor and leaves them there for weeks, thinking, “What’s the rush?” and “I have other work to do,” and “I’m letting the idea mellow,” and “I won’t win the contest anyway.”
      That last one is myself. Fortunately I ran out of excuses and sent a manuscript out today. What the 95 percent point is made of, I don't know; I simply know that it’s common, real, evil, and conquerable. Authors, it helps immensely to have fellow writers around to flog or inspire you into following through.
Catherine Rankovic

Writer, with 30+ years' writing and publishing experience, 20+ years' teaching experience. Last book read: Mrs. Lincoln by Catherine Clinton.