There is no right way to write. Writing by the seat of your pants (pantsers) vs. plotters, coffee shop writers vs. do not disturb signs and locked doors, early morning writers vs. late night inspiration. You may plot every twist, kiss, and stab in the back of your story from your opening “once upon a time” to “happily ever after” or send your characters down a black hole where each turn of the page is just as surprising to you as it is to them. But no matter how you choose to write your story, the one thing all published authors share is completing their work. You must eventually write or type “the end.”

I am not alone in finding that final task overwhelming. My novel “Obedient unto Death” was a ten-year journey. That is not a misprint. From beginning ideas, through the research phase, to finding my writing critique group, reading the experts on “how to write a novel,” writing conferences, query letters to agents and publishers, and getting accepted by my wonderful publishing house, CrossRiver Media, it took ten years. Many authors take much less time, some even more, but before getting published, your novel, short story, poem, article, autobiography, memoir, graphic novel, etc., must get finished. It can be daunting.

There are many words to describe a work not getting to the end.

  • writer’s block
  • procrastination
  • distraction
  • fear of failure
  • fear of success

Writers have many excuses for not finishing (some for not starting). So, any way you can overcome those barriers is worth it. I do not recommend alcoholism, although that has been attributed to some famous writers’ successes. I am crediting a healthier and more enjoyable support system—my writer’s critique group.

The group began with three wanna-be writers meeting at a restaurant in Oxford, WI. A published author, Amy, connected us and would join future meetings. The group has lost a few members and gained a few more, but the purpose we set that morning, inexperienced, unqualified, but enthusiastic, has continued – we support each other’s writing. We settled on submitting five written pages to each group member twice a month for critique. After writing our comments on the submitted work, we would meet to discuss what was good and what needed to be worked on. We tackled character arcs, point of view, too many adjectives, telling and not showing, pushed each other to improve, and did it five pages at a time. Reading a novel in small chunks over years has its drawbacks, such as having to remind each other what had happened in the chapter we read six months before, but the amazing side-effect was that five pages at a time- Obedient unto Death was completed.

Twice a month, we submit five pages for the group to critique. And because critiquing is hard work, we celebrate our successes and treat ourselves to an occasional writing retreat where we delve into the biggest sticky issues in our stories. Mary’s POV (point of view) or who’s telling the story? Casey’s, which character has the most to lose? Developing Amy’s middle school girl voice. Where to end Shirley’s fictionalized memoir, and my deep dive into Sabina, my sleuth’s personality. Their advice has pulled, prodded, and advised me through many a quandary.


(pictures from a writing retreat)


I am counting on their sage insights while completing my next novel… five pages at a time.