Finish the Book

14 May


I started writing over five years ago when I first found out about NaNoWriMo. It sounded like fun, and I wrote 26,000 words that year. I added another 25,000 over the next six months or so.
I was so proud when I found Coeur du Bois, but then my RWA friends started giving me tips, and I began to realize writing is hard. Who knew? Boy, did I have a lot to learn, and I was lucky enough to have friends willing to help.
I took classes, read craft books and joined a critique group. I continued entering NaNoWriMo and turned out a book for each year. The problem was I didn’t do revisions or polish any of them. Heck, I didn’t even know what a revision was. I’d get around 50,000 words written when a shiny new idea would come along, and off I’d go.
Several friends and I went to the Seattle Emerald City Writers Conference in 2011, where I pitched a book and entered Cherry Adair’s Finish the Damn Book contest. Cherry recruits top name agents, editors and publishers to review everyone’s books at the next year’s conference, but her first rule is they must be finished and, as she says, polished to a perfect shine.
Now I had incentive. I had to finish a book if I was going to get my work beyond the slush pile and into someone’s capable hands. It came down to the wire, because I tend to procrastinate, but I got that book done in time for the ECWC in 2012.
One of the top agents in the romance world read the first three chapters and requested the full. Although she declined, she said she liked the book and thought it would sell. While at ECWC, I’d pitched the same book (the only one I had finished) to an editor. She requested a full. I was on cloud nine as I flew home from the conference.
A few weeks later, I got an email from another publisher I’d submitted to months before, and they wanted my book. I couldn’t believe it. Someone liked me.
The editor I’d pitched to at ECWC contacted me a few days later, and she wanted the book, too. Talk about treading water in a flood. During this time, I had two more publishers request my book. Now, I had to decide who to sign with (tough problem, I know), and for a newbie, it was overwhelming. After a lot of research and talking to friends, I decided on Evernight Publishing, and I haven’t regretted it for a minute.
The book from the contest, Sugarwater Ranch, was released on April 26, 2013. That never would have happened if I hadn’t entered Cherry’s contest and was forced to finish a book. Ideas are easy for me, but revising is not.
What did I learn from this? Simple, no matter how well you write, you have to Finish the Damn Book for it to be published.
What do you do to help push yourself to finish a book?


Posted by on May 14, 2013 in Idaho


16 responses to “Finish the Book

  1. Judith Keim

    May 14, 2013 at 7:48 AM

    Stephanie, it’s so wonderful that things have worked out so well for you! Obviously you’re a good storyteller or else the rest wouldn’t matter. But, yes, you have to write a book and then rewrite until it’s ready to go! One of my weaknesses is to not allow a book to sit for long enough before doing a final edit.

  2. stephanieberget

    May 14, 2013 at 8:11 AM

    I’m still not sure why my book sold. I’m surrounded by so many excellent writers whose books are much better than mine. i keep waiting for the publ to say, “We’ve made a mistake.” Thanks for posting, Judy.

  3. Jennifer

    May 14, 2013 at 9:36 AM

    Well, I haven’t finished one yet, so apparently I don’t do enough – lol. You’re an inspiration Steph.

  4. stephanieberget

    May 14, 2013 at 9:42 AM

    You know me, Jen. I didn’t finish anything. If I hadn’t entered the contest, I still wouldn’t have one done. Your writing is so good, I’m willing to wait. It’s not like you’re busy or anything. LOL

  5. Janis McCurry

    May 14, 2013 at 9:56 AM

    I set deadlines, but they occasionally float away and I have to reel them back. Rascals!

    • stephanieberget

      May 14, 2013 at 10:35 AM

      I have troubles even reeling them in, although I’m getting better–about 50% now.

  6. Peggy Staggs

    May 14, 2013 at 10:18 AM

    I have so many finished books. My problem is sending them out. I dither.

    • stephanieberget

      May 14, 2013 at 10:35 AM

      Sending them out is a whole nother kettle of fish. So hard.

  7. Corina Mallory

    May 14, 2013 at 10:50 AM

    I have no idea! I’ve been writing the same book (and starting a few others) for TWO YEARS now and it’s nowhere near done. It’s ridiculous. I definitely think that I need some external motivation to get something finished. Still trying to figure out what that might be. I will say that telling everyone at my ten year law school reunion that I’m writing a book was pretty motivating. I definitely can’t go back in five years and not have finished one. Hopefully several!

    You are a fantastic storyteller Steph; it doesn’t surprise me at all that once you had a polished draft people were falling all over it!

    • stephanieberget

      May 14, 2013 at 10:56 AM

      I’d say that is pretty good motivation, telling your reunion you’re writing. The only problem is that if you’re like me, in 4 1/2 years, you’ll be writing like crazy. I wish you’d finish the one I read part of. It’s great.

  8. Lynn Mapp

    May 14, 2013 at 8:41 PM

    Step, I’ve finished a few books. To be honest I haven’t completed a new book in a little over four years. When my son died my writing went off the rails. I’m working on a book now, and believe I can get it done in a few months. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

  9. stephanieberget

    May 14, 2013 at 8:46 PM

    Lynn, you’re already way ahead of me. I couldn’t get one finished by myself. I can’t wait for you to get that book done. I want to read it.

  10. maryvine

    May 16, 2013 at 11:41 AM

    I do NEW 100 or I go to our Oregon property to write. At one time, I typed for five hours a week (one hour each week day) and had the weekend free. I got some much done that way. Congrats on your success, Steph!

    • stephanieberget

      May 16, 2013 at 2:39 PM

      Thanks, Mary. I love your new 100. It seems like once I open the ms, I get alot done. It’s just opening it.

  11. marsharwest

    May 16, 2013 at 10:12 PM

    Late here, Stephanie. Sorry. Yes, Cherry Adair is famous for saying “Finish the damn book!” in her cute little accent. And of course, you must. A former critique partner of mine had never finished a book until she started meetintg with me and another partner. We committed to 20 pages a week and most weeks delivered. Nice to have someone you feel responsible to other than yourself. Excited for your first book. How’s the next one coming along? My other CP form the same group had a second book come out very quickly following the first. Really helped with sales.
    Find what works for you. If what you’re doing doesn’t work, try something different. I startetd to wish us all good luck. But I really want to say, Keep on, Keeping on. 🙂

    • stephanieberget

      May 17, 2013 at 10:03 AM

      Keep on, keeping on. That is perfect. I’m trying to do 1000 words a day and am making it about 1/2 the time, so that’s something. I’ve got 35,000 words on the next one and am trying to push to finish. Critique partners do make things go faster.


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