“It’s Not How You Start, It’s How You Finish!”

This is what I try to tell myself everyday as I work on my manuscript. Don’t worry Karen about that piece of crap you’re writing. What really matters is how it comes across at the finish.

It isn’t really a piece of crap. Well, maybe it is. Perhaps it may not be. No, it’s a piece of crap. Oh, I’m sure it isn’t. But then again, what if it is?

Since I feel so overwhelmed by this whole process, I thought I’d try to draw some inspiration from NASCAR driver Danica Patrick and the Daytona 500.


Oh, what do I get myself into?

I wrote a story a couple of years ago and sent it to an editor for an opinion. Ha! That was the brainless idea of the century. Okay, maybe a decade. But, what was I thinking? I crashed and burned. I got creamed. My little heart was smashed into pieces. Thankfully he did it with humor. But in the end, I was bleeding. It was a painful experience, really. I was a horrible mess. I thought I’d never see daylight again as I licked my wounds under the duvet with a box of Kleenex.

I had made every mistake in the book a new writer makes. Only I didn’t know it. The editor never told me. I felt like an idiot and for months I was devastated. I lost my confidence. And it took away something else from me—the willingness to just let it rip, to let creativity flow and allow myself to make mistakes. I then became my own worst enemy.

Yet, as time went on, I regained a measure of confidence. I started writing again. But this time, I was more prepared. I equipped myself by reading a number of craft books. Then off I went with vivacious verbosity, laying the foundation for another story.

I was halfway through when I took a craft class from Bob Mayer. During the class I had an Aha moment. In one of his lessons, Bob asked the question, “Do you finish what you start?”

It caught me off guard. I was not prepared to answer his question. Why?

Because when it came time to asking myself that important question, had I really finished what I had started? No, I had not.

After my defeat, I put my focus on another project. I had run away from the challenge–the challenge to finish what I had started. After all, my failure was only a first draft. Yes, I had sent a first draft to an editor.

Now I ask you, who does that sort of thing?

Me. 🙂

So, after finishing Bob Mayer’s class, I jumped right into Wana and Kristen Lamb’s Blogging for Brand class. I was now going to create my own platform. Yet, I didn’t even have a book to launch. But I was determined to make this work and gain experience.

During this time, I met a friend of Kristen Lamb who lives in England, Donna Newton. In fact, she was the first guest on my blog. After getting to know one another, she asked me to send over the bullet points from my first manuscript. After she read them, we had our first Skype session. And she was excited.

“There’s a story here Karen. But…”

What? You thought there wouldn’t be a but?

But she liked the story!

Yes, but…“you’re not showing it and I’m not going to let you get away with it! In order to do this, it needs a lot of revision.”

Then she asked me, “Will you be up to the task? Or do you want to throw the manuscript into the drawer?”

The drawer? What is the drawer really? Is this a code word for crap?

Well, I had to ask myself, what would Danica Patrick do?

It was only last year that Danica was forced to start in the back of the field after crashing during her qualifying race and was caught up again in a crash on lap three of the Daytona 500.


But did she give up?

No. She forged ahead. And since she made her debut in the same race last year, Danica Patrick will now lead the field to the green flag for this year’s 500 after qualifying at Daytona International Speedway. Danica posted the fastest speed at last Saturday’s two qualifying practices and she’s the first woman to win a pole position in Sprint Cup Series history.

People may say what they want, but this woman driver has earned her way to first position.

Now I’m not saying that this is my quest. It has never been my dream to be the fastest car in front of the pack. But if I can duplicate Danica’s persistent drive and attitude, I may just have a chance to write a pretty good story.

So I have to keep reminding myself, the race isn’t over yet. I’m in it for the long run and “it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish!”

So what do you think? Do I have what it takes to make it over the finish line? Or should I shoot myself now and get it over with? To what extent have you had to revise an MS, past or present? What sage advice was given to help pull you through the process?

Thank you so much for dropping by and for all your wonderful comments!


35 thoughts on ““It’s Not How You Start, It’s How You Finish!”

  1. Alarna Rose Gray

    You have such a positive and can do attitude, Karen! I have no doubt you can do it, and show us all how it’s done. Normally, I don’t have issues with finishing, but I’m afraid my first manuscript stopped at 20k words. It haunts me, but perhaps it’s time will come – maybe sometimes they need to sit in a drawer for a while, and mellow?
    Alarna Rose Gray recently posted..The Power to Change (Part 1)My Profile

  2. Jennifer L. Oliver

    Hi Karen!
    I definitely think you’ve got what it takes, my friend.
    I think making newbie mistakes is part of the “initiation” rights of a writer.
    When I was still working with my former writing partner, we sent out query letters for our MS. The book wasn’t even finished yet. Not to mention, neither one of us had ever written a query letter before. When looked up how to submit to an agent on the internet and it said write one – so we did. Let’s just say those were probably some of the WORST writing I’ve ever done. LOL!
    Making mistakes is par for the course in every aspect of life. We make mistakes as teens, as adults, as business people, sales people, mechanics, plumbers, writers, etc.
    It’s just one step closer to improving our craft and growing our knowledge.
    However, I know EXACTLY how you feel with the info overload. I’ve read, listened and watched everything I can get my hands on until I felt like I was going to explode with show don’t tell, dangling participles, POV, head hopping, comma placement (which I still suck at!), how to write a good hook and so much more. After a while, you realize you can’t put what you’ve learned to work until you write the story. Which is where I am now.
    I’m learning to let myself write a crappy first draft and FINISH the story. I have to get the story written before I can improve it.
    Think of it like this – you can’t build a dream house without a foundation. Let that crappy first draft be the foundation. Build upon it and let it come to life!
    You can do it, I know you can!
    Jennifer L. Oliver recently posted..By: Jennifer OliverMy Profile

    1. Karen Post author

      Hi Jennifer! “Initiation Rights” of a writer. I love that. And “making mistakes is…just one step closer to improving our craft and growing in knowledge.” No, we can’t put what we’ve learned until we write the story. Soo true. I’ve just got to gain a little more confidence in my writing ability and patience. Lots of patience. So thank you so much Jennifer for all your kind words of wisdom. You’ve really encouraged me! You have no idea how much I needed that. {{Hugs!}} 🙂

  3. Lynette M. Burrows

    Karen, you’ve gotten lots of great advice and encouragement. It’s important for us to give that to you, but girl, you gotta take it to heart. It’s your butt that has to go in that chair and get ‘er done. It’s your heart that has to bleed all over those pages. Not just once, or twice. It takes as many drafts as it takes. (How’s that for encouragement???) But as hard as it is to rip something apart and start again, if you stretch yourself – you do the hard work of improving it, the neatest thing happens! You get better and better and your manuscripts get better and better. One of these days you’ll go back and read one of your first drafts and say to yourself, ‘”Damn! That’s GOOD!”
    Lynette M. Burrows recently posted..I Can Not Tell a Lie: It’s Not Presidents DayMy Profile

    1. Karen Post author

      Hi Lynette! “How’s that for encouragement?” Well okay! You’re tough Lynette! LOL! But I needed that. It IS the reason I wrote this post. I guess I’m a little impatient. So it’s back to work for me! And I’m counting on it getting better and better. I just hope that actually happens Lynette. But for now, I’ll just keep at it because I want to say to myself one day, “That’s GOOD!” I’m counting on that. Thanks Lynette for always watching my back! 🙂

  4. KM Huber

    Writing is hard work is what I tell myself every day, adding, I wouldn’t have it any other way. As Kristen Lamb and many others have said, writers write because they have to. No other work makes us feel whole. Can you imagine not writing?!? Didn’t think so. Enjoyed your post.
    KM Huber recently posted..Thursday Tidbits: Neurosis InterruptedMy Profile

    1. Karen Post author

      Aw Karen, you are one of the most encouraging writers I know. I can’t thank you enough for all your kind words. Nope, I’m in this for the long haul. I just need a kick in the behind every once in a while. And I know that I can count on you for wisdom. Thank you again for your support! Take good care of yourself Karen. 🙂

  5. Debra Kristi

    You totally have what it takes. Look at you – putting it all out here. You are an amazingly strong woman and you will persevere. And just like all the great advise all ready says, you got a personal response – that’s amazing! Even though it’s a rejection, it still means something. Give your first MS another chance. Believe in yourself and your work. Answer Bob’s question with a resounding “YES.” You will finish what you start.
    Debra Kristi recently posted..Soap Isn’t Just for Bath Time: VlogoffMy Profile

    1. Karen Post author

      Hi Debra! Really? Do you think so? I appreciate so much your encouraging comment. I really needed back-up Debra. I have so much doubt. Do I really know what I’m doing? But that’s why I wrote this post. I knew that your comment would help give me the needed courage to press on to the finish. So thank you so much for coming to my rescue and for all your support! And I hope to see you next week! 🙂

  6. Pat O'Dea Rosen

    Hi, Karen! Because of work and family responsibilities, I stopped doing many things I enjoyed like book club and investment club. I didn’t stop writing, though. After the year+ you and your husband have been through, it’s clear, you can’t let go of writing, either. You’re right to think of it as an adventure: a Danica Patrick-like quest riddled with with potholes and skeptics but filled with thrills, too.

    Everybody sends out that first manuscript too soon. People like me send out the second and third too soon. too. Eventually, though, we learn.

    Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Write your stories. Respect your process.
    Pat O’Dea Rosen recently posted..This Blog Has Been Interrupted by JoyMy Profile

    1. Karen Post author

      Hi Pat! As always, I so appreciate your wonderful words of wisdom and experience. “Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Write your stories. Respect your process.” Sometimes I get lost in the process and feel so overwhelmed. But it helps to get others insight, such as yourself. It’s why I wrote this post. I needed a good kick in the you know where to send me in the right direction. And a good pep talk. Thanks Pat! It gives me great security to know that I can count on peeps like you! {{Hug}} 🙂

  7. Kristy K. James

    You’ll get it finished, Karen…cause you’re a writer…and that’s what we do. Love that you compared writing to racing, but I’m glad it’s not a race for us (unless we back ourselves into a corner with a deadline we didn’t take seriously enough!). Just keep plugging away and before you know it, you’ll have a final draft in your hands. 🙂
    Kristy K. James recently posted..Valentine’s Day, Book Release, & An InterviewMy Profile

    1. Karen Post author

      Oh Kristy, thank you so much for saying this. “You’ll get it finished, Karen…cause you’re a writer and that’s what we do.” Love that Kristy! And yes, thankfully we aren’t in a race. Although, I am losing patience Kristy. My life blew up and I’m having a difficult time pushing through to the finish line. I’ll have to just work on my patience and keep plugging along. Thanks Kristy! As always, I appreciate your support! 🙂

  8. Lena Corazon

    I completely understand where you’re coming from, Karen. I have countless partial drafts sitting on my external drive… and I haven’t finished a single one of them in years and years.

    I just read Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind over the weekend, and her first piece of advice is one I may need to staple to my forehead: “keep your hand moving.” If we keep writing, she says, thoughts will eventually come to us and the ideas will start to flow. It’s in the writing, in the pushing forward, that we can silence that inner editor and put words on the page.

    So, yes, I think you DO have what it takes to make it to the finish line, and I think I do, too. 😛 We’ve got this! We just have to keep on writing.
    Lena Corazon recently posted..Beauty of a Woman Blogfest: The Power of NaturalMy Profile

    1. Karen Post author

      HI Lena! I love “staple to my forehead” girl! Thank you so much for expressing your faith in me. I get so overwhelmed from time to time. And I need more patience I suppose. So yes, I’ll silence the inner editor and let’s keep on writing! Oh, and I a super excited for the chance to meet you! See you next week! 🙂

  9. Kassandra Lamb

    Karen, it took me fifteen years to get up the nerve to finish my first book. I had 32 drafts saved in my computer by the time it was published.

    I still think every one of my manuscripts is crap at some point in the process, but it is a process. You keep rewriting, editing, polishing until it really starts to come together, and you realize it’s pretty damn good!

    And look at me passing out sage advice 😛 , when I was where you are just a very short time ago… Hang in there!
    Kassandra Lamb recently posted..You Are Beautiful and Strong, Sweet Child of AbuseMy Profile

    1. Karen Post author

      Oh wow Kassandra. Thank you for your frankness and honesty. 32 drafts? But it was published! Yay! After all that work, I’m glad to hear it! And I’ll take all your sage advice you can deal out Kassandra! Thank you so much for all the encouragement and support today! It was exactly what I needed to hear. 🙂

  10. Lynn Kelley

    I have no doubt you’ll finish that ms and that it will rock and you’ll continue on to finish many books. We’ve all made those newbie mistakes, and I still make mistakes. It’s an ongoing learning process. I’ve spent years revising manuscripts. I’m more like the Tortoise when it comes to crossing the finish line, but getting there is what counts. Cheers to you and Danica Parker!

    1. Karen Post author

      Hi Lynn! How are you? I’ve been worried about you. I hope you and hubby and your growing family are well. Thank you for coming to my rescue today Lynn. As a “newbie”, I think I’ve been on informtion overload. I’ve taken in so much in such a short period of time. My head feels like it wants to explode. But then again, I’ve had so many other issues to deal with. And on that front things are easing up a bit. Hooray for that! And if you’re a tortoise, then I’m a snail. LOL! You’re a good friend Lynn! Thank you so much for all your encouragement and for always being there when I need support! {{Hugs!}} 🙂

  11. Jennifer Jensen (@jenjensen2)

    Not only does getting a rejection NOT mean the manuscript sucks, if he responded “with humor,” that’s worth framing! (In fact, I think I did just that with a particular rejection long ago.)

    And for sucky first drafts, that’s what they’re supposed to be. I’ll quote James Michener for you: “I have never thought of myself as a good writer. Anyone who wants reassurance of that should read one of my first drafts. But I’m one of the world’s greatest rewriters.”

    So to answer your final questions, YES, you have what it takes to finish! I have a WIP that has been shelved for l-o-n-g periods at a time, that keeps pulling at me to figure out how to fix its flaws. So while working on another project, something will suddenly click, and I go back to it. And guess what? I’m finishing up the FINAL revisions – it works! And if I can do it, you can do it., no matter how long it takes or how life interrupts us along the way. (hmm, I think I should make a blog post out of this!)

    One last quote for you: “Never give up, never surrender!” Go for it, Karen!

    Jennifer Jensen (@jenjensen2) recently posted..Reading is a Sign of . . .My Profile

    1. Karen Post author

      Oh Jen, that is terrific news! Yes, you should blog about this. And thank you for the quotes. I love Michener’s attitude, “I’m one of the world’s greatest rewriters.” I appreciate your great faith in my abilities. I really felt like I needed a boost and you gave that to me Jennifer. Nope, I’m not going to surrender. Not now! I’m going for it Jen! It it’s because of people like you. Thank you so much! 🙂

  12. K.B. Owen

    Karen, I’m so glad you posted this! You’ve touched upon one of those issues that’s easy for someone else to say, but hard to do yourself.

    I’ve found that, as I get older, I’m getting a little bolder and reckless with my pride, and I’m willing to take more risks. I could have never written this book at 25 (even if I had the skill back then). Ask yourself this: what’s the worst that could happen? Will someone die or land in jail? Will you end up bankrupt? I could never be a brain surgeon, because I can’t handle those sorts of high stakes, but I’m willing to gamble that I can manage a bad review or simply being ignored.

    And you should see my mom (74) these days. In her younger years, she was about as perfectionist as you can get; while she still cares about doing everything as well as she’s able, she just doesn’t give a crap anymore about what others will think or say about it if it isn’t perfect.

    I think, when we look back on our lives, we’ll regret the things we didn’t do WAY more than the things we did do (and messed up). And besides, we all got your back, lady! 😀
    K.B. Owen recently posted..Milestones: when your first-born leaves his teen years behindMy Profile

    1. Karen Post author

      Thank you Kathy! My mind is a mysterious thing. lol. It’s funny. When I saw the article on Danica Patrick, this is what came to mind. And because I am new to writing, I find it a bit frustrating trying to grasp so much in a short period of time. It’s like learning a foreign language. Once we start thinking in that language, we’re fine. And that’s what I’m hoping will happen with my story telling. Yes, I agree with you. As I’ve aged, I am more willing to expose my flaws. Yet it’s still hard to do. I’ve just bitten off a big one with practically re-writing the whole enchalada. Far be it for me not to take on such a huge project. But I appreciate all your encouragement and support. I cannot tell you how much it means to have you in my corner! Thank you Kathy! I wish you all the best with your book release! Yay, it’s here! 🙂

  13. Marcy Kennedy

    Great post 🙂 Never give up on a first draft. (And don’t kick yourself too hard for sending out a first draft–I think we’ve all done it.)

    I say give your book another try. You’ve had someone you trust tell you there’s a good story there. All you need to do now is figure out how to tell it and push through the pain.

    P.S. I haven’t forgotten our chat about a guest post. I’m still planning on it. Just got a little behind with being so sick the past couple of weeks.
    Marcy Kennedy recently posted..What Would You Trade to Look Young Forever?My Profile

    1. Karen Post author

      Really Marcy? Thanks for sharing that. Good to know that I’m not alone. “Push through the pain.” Are you ever so right Marcy. Well, and as you know, with all the stress I”ve had, it hasn’t helped me in the creativity department, you know what I mean? But I see the light at the end of the tunnel. So I’m hoping to have more time to devote to the story. Sorry to hear that you’ve been sick. I hope you enjoy WanaCon this weekend. Please take care and no worries about your post. I look forward to it whenever you have time. Thank you so much for all your encouragement Marcy! {{Hugs!}} 🙂

  14. Patricia

    Oh you silly, silly girl! Getting a rejection doesn’t mean you suck! Getting a bad review doesn’t mean you’re writing is crap! It means, you’re playing the game. You can’t win if you dont’ play. And you can’t get a review if you don’t write and submit.

    That said – rejection sucks!

    Now, suck it up, make it better and re-submit it. You took the trouble to finish it, so why not take the time to polish it up?

    You know all of this. You just need validation that’s all. Who better to give it to you than other writers and bloggers and WANA peeps?

    Danica didn’t win her first race. Danica didn’t quit when the big boys laughed at her for wanting to join their elite team. Danica dug a little deeper, sucked it up, and won the damn pole position in America’s most famous race!! And she did it with dignity and grace (even though inside I’m sure she was saying “na na na na na na.”). If she can do it – so can you!

    Go Karen, go!

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt
    Patricia recently posted..What Haven’t I? Valentine’s EditionMy Profile

    1. Karen Post author

      You “ROCK” Patricia! You are so cool! You knew what I needed to hear. “You just need validation that’s all. Who better to give it to you than other writers and bloggers and WANA peeps?” Exactly! And if we can’t get that from one another, who can we get that from? And don’t you just love Danica Patrick? Granted, she’s got attitude. But one would have to as a woman competing in a Man’s world. NASCAR? Yeah! So with your encouragement giving me a swift kick in the butt, I am off to make the best of my WIP! Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for caring enough to come by and leave that awesome comment Patricia! {{Hugs!}} 🙂

    1. Karen Post author

      Aw Jennette, you are so sweet to say that! I appreciate your encouragement and vote of confidence. I really can use it my friend. I have learned so much in a short period of time. I feel like I’m playing catch up to so many of you who have been writing for so many years. But I love it and want to do the best job possible. I keep at it. And thank you so much Jen for all your support! 🙂

  15. Susie Lindau (@SusieLindau)

    Great post Karen! I just took a screenwriting class and was reminded again of the basics.
    I don’t have a problem finishing things, but boy, am I learning through the process of writing this book. The second will be so much easier.
    Fun comparison! I am hoping not to crash and burn….
    Susie Lindau (@SusieLindau) recently posted..And the Winner Is…My Profile

    1. Karen Post author

      HI Susie! Ooh, a screen writing class? I think that was a brilliant idea girl. It really helps to put the story down. Yep, do we ever have a lot to learn. I am looking forward to the second and even third book Susie. We’ll have the basics down and we can enjoy the experience we’ve gained. And yes, let’s NOT, crash and burn! I wish you all the best! Now hurry and get your skis on. I heard you got dumped! Have fun! 🙂

  16. Prudence MacLeod

    Great post, Karen. You said it best, just let ‘er rip; get that first draft done. That’s when the work starts. once you have the essence of the story written then you go back and dress it up, tidy it up, and make it presentable to the public.
    Yes, I once sent a first draft to an editor. I don’t think he’d had much coffee that morning. tee hee hee
    Prudence MacLeod recently posted..Work Smarter? How?My Profile

    1. Karen Post author

      Hi Prudence! Thank you for sharing your editor story with me. It feels good to know I’m not the only one who did this. I had no idea what a first draft was until he asked, “Is this a first draft?” I said, “What is a first draft?” LOL! I have learn a lot in a short period of time. My head is going to explode. I really appreciate your encouragement Pru! Thanks! 🙂


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