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A story is a house

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Here is a photo from the house which is the physical realization of a story draft:

I have so much empathy for this house maker.

I remember, before I had ever written a novel,1 I read a book by Nathan Branford called How to Write a Novel, in which he says when you finish your first draft, you should celebrate, because, even if your novel as it stands is pretty bad, the fact that you wrote a draft all the way from first page to last page is huge.2

And while I am not great at celebrating book writing milestones, I do agree that you should be proud of writing all the way through a draft. Also proud of revising. Maybe even proud of abandoning a book (or a house), if you can tell it’s not working and might never work, as long as you keep working on something else.


Writing is work! Finished books often seem effortlessly written, but they all take so much work.3 Novels take years. Some picture books take years! (They almost always take years from first draft to publication, but some of mine have taken years from first draft to final draft.)

Being a writer is holding your hope and vision in one hand, and the truth of the hard work in the other. It’s putting in the work even while you feel the hope and vision float away, dejected. It’s letting the hope come back, slowly, even though you know it might be mad at you when you start typing again.

Because, at some point, like a magic trick, the hope and vision and work will all align, they’ll coalesce, and you’ll realize that the words you’ve written are the hopeful vision of a book you originally imagined, and the momentum granted by that magical moment should not be underestimated, and never taken for granted. That momentum can roll you along to the end of the draft. The knowledge of that moment is often what keeps me writing, even if I haven’t experienced that moment in whatever book I’m currently working on.

Someone who has ideas but never acts on them is a dreamer, and yes, the world needs dreamers. But someone who has ideas and works through the difficulty of making them real is an artist. It’s hard, but you can do it. It’s not like the trick is to craft yourself wings and fly. The trick is to sit down and write the words. You can do that, yes? You can sit and write. The trick is to know that many before you have done it, so why not you?

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I have now written more novels than I can count (six? seven? ten?) and am still working to make one of them good enough to be done.


81% of people in a survey from 2002 said they want to write a book someday. Another study says half the people surveyed want to write a book, and, of those, 15% start, and 8% finish. More (possibly fake? who knows, these are internet statistics!) numbers: only 3% of the people who start a novel, finish it.


Many, many times, when I read a book, I think, “Oh, wow, the agent must have been so excited when the author sent them this book!” but I bet most of the time the version the agent got sent wasn’t anywhere near as good and polished as final book I am reading.

Do the Work
Pep talks about writing and creativity, mostly while I'm walking the dog.
Julie Falatko