A Writer’s Journal, Day #1059

Day Four of “Journal of Finishing a Novel” and we’re done! Yesterday’s work took us all the way to THE END. I think it works. I hope so. But I will not drive myself crazy, chewing it over. Instead I will start today, as soon as I finish writing this post, revisiting and reworking a couple of sticking points in the narrative that I’ve bypassed on the headlong march to the finish.

These go-backs can be particularly scary. In fact I’m more trepidatious about today’s work–and the next few days’–than I was about the actual climax. The alternative to bypassing such sticking points though (i.e., dealing with them in the real-time flow of start-to-finish) is too risky. They can bring the work to a grinding halt. And that must be avoided at all costs.

I’m a believer in bypassing parts of the story that are non-essential but that put up a stubborn fight when you try to lick them. Those pockets of resistance will break our momentum, bog us down and wear out our spirit. If we let enough of them build up, they can wind up defeating us entirely.

When the First Marine Division invaded Iraq seven years ago, its #1 priority was to get to Baghdad–fast. Baghdad for you and me is finishing the book, completing the project. That is Job One, because once we’ve done that, we’ve won the war. If we have to go back and mop up Al Kut and An Nasiriyah later, so be it. At least we’ve got the campaign in hand.

So I’ve got to THE END, which is great. But now I have to pay the piper of passages I’ve skipped over.

The last big pocket of resistance is a long sequence—seven or eight pages—where I originally killed off a major character. Only now I’ve decided to keep him alive till the climax. His death in the originally-bypassed sequence was the Big Bang that gave the sequence its punch. Now that’s gone. I’ve got to come up with something to replace it. I have no idea what that’ll be.

Okay, I can feel this journaling is turning into Resistance and avoidance. That’s enough for today. Let’s get to work and see what we can come up with …


Read this one first.
It identifies the enemy—what I call Resistance with a capital “R,” i.e. fear, self-doubt, procrastination, perfectionism, all the forms of self-sabotage—that stop us from doing our work and realizing our dreams.
Start here.
Everything else proceeds from this.



  1. David on August 21, 2010 at 6:40 am

    Thanks Steve. This has been a great sequence of posts. I love that once you got to the end you are going back in for more – no stopping to celebrate and slow down (and allow for the resistance to creep back in).

  2. Andrew Lubin on August 21, 2010 at 6:49 am

    OMG; I’m actually doing it right! Except I need to keep all my chapters (with different Marines, Bn, companies) on a huge sheet of paper so I can keep the action straight and it all makes sense as I jump around //

  3. Sarah on August 21, 2010 at 9:14 am

    What is Baghdad or The End for an entrepreneur?

  4. Borna on August 21, 2010 at 9:33 am

    I must admit that these posts have been very inspiring. It compels me to be as determined. Keep it up Steve!

  5. Lamghari on August 21, 2010 at 11:50 am

    IMHO, the end for an entrepreneur is being just profitable. Paul Graham call it “ramen profitable” http://www.paulgraham.com/ramenprofitable.html

    that is “enough to pay the founders’ living expenses “.

    Then the adventure can start …

  6. Andrew on August 21, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    Hahaha…ramen profitable. Love that.

  7. mike kirkeberg on August 21, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Done. What a great word. Congratulations and get to fixin’ what needs to be fixed.

  8. Chris Duel on August 21, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    Congratulations, Steven, on taking Baghdad! You rock! Thanks for the years of inspiration.

  9. Melissa on August 28, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Thank you so much for your insights on staying the course despite fickle sticking points. Those issues always stop me in my tracks and I’ve never reached “The End.” But I’ll get there. Thanks for being so transparent about your process.

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