Pushing Through the Ugly

Today, we get some good advice from Jennifer Slattery. She writes soul-stirring fiction.  She also writes for several Internet sites.  Take it away, Jennifer.

“This story stinks,” I say, as I close my computer and stomp toward the kitchen—to make myself a giant bowl of ice cream.Slattery - headshot2013c

“You say that every time,” my husband answers.

“No. I mean, really, it stinks. Like bad.”

“So fix it.”

And then I sigh, stomp some more—into the bedroom this time, lugging my ice cream with me.

Only to return to my computer the next day, determined to push through.

My daughter, an artist, says every painting goes through an ugly phase.

The same is true for writing. I’m convinced every literary work goes through an awkward, ugly phase as well. And it’s during that phase the temptation to give up, to walk away, to close one’s computer and never return again, becomes the strongest. Or at the very least, to walk away from that story to begin another. Then another, then another, abandoning countless novels to their awkward, middle-school years.

When the stories are but a few rewrites away from awesome.

Because I believe every story is fixable, and many times, it’s during the fixing that we learn and grow the most.

Conversely, I believe it’s in the walking away that we lose the most, because the more we walk away from a tough or frustrating story, the easier it becomes to do so again. I’ve encountered so many writers who’ve accumulated a dozen or more novel starts but absolutely zero finishes. I’ve also encountered authors who’ve spent years, decades even, working on that one novel.

Neither approach is helpful.

Slattery-cover-WhenDawnBreaks-cEarly in my career, I made a commitment to finish absolutely every project I undertook. No matter how much I hated it. This has led to countless tears and headaches, but also many celebrations when, after hours upon hours of revising, the final story has taken shape and I can, with peace and contentment, close my computer and walk away.

That doesn’t mean the story’s perfect. I’ll never write a perfect novel, regardless of how many times I revise. In fact, I might absolutely hate the end product, but at least I finished it. That’s something to celebrate, right?

Which leads me to my next commitment, which involves setting and sticking to time-frame plans. Before I begin a novel, open my day planner and determine how many words I want to write a day. Then, adding in some days for life-happens buffers, I determine when the novel must be completed. I do the same for my edits, determining how many pages I want to edit a day and therefore, how many days it will take me to edit. Again, I add in some life-happens (or plot unravels) buffers.

But even so, I write in an end date.

Because I don’t want to write a book. I want to be a novelist, which means I need to learn to push through when life, and my story, gets tough. I need to learn when to revise and when to walk away. And most importantly, I need to grow my perseverance, making sure to always, always, always finish what I start.

Even if I hate the end product. Because I’m vehemently opposed to the alternative—a computer full of first chapters but void of “the ends”.

What about you? Do you make a point to finish the writing projects you start? Why or why not? Do you have any tips you can share for pushing through a literary work’s “ugly phase”? Share your suggestions and ideas with us, because we can all learn from one another.

JIM:  Good advice, Jennifer.  We’ve all said “This story stinks.”  You’ve helped us deal with that. Leave a comment with your suggestions for pushing through a literary work’s “ugly phase.”

Here’s a blurb on her latest novel, Intertwined.

Abandoned by her husband for another woman, Tammy Kuhn,Slattery - intertwined an organ procurement coordinator often finds herself in tense and bitter moments. After an altercation with a doctor, she is fighting to keep her job and her sanity when one late night she encounters her old flame Nick. She walks right into his moment of facing an unthinkable tragedy. Because they both have learned to find eternal purposes in every event and encounter, it doesn’t take long to discover that their lives are intertwined but the ICU is no place for romance….or is it? Could this be where life begins again?

You can find it at:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Intertwined-Jennifer-Slattery/dp/1596694432/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8


The Emerald Isle

At long last, the blog has been disinfected and virus free.  Welcome back.

We took off again this summer, this time to northern Europe. We started with Ireland.   It became clear why it is called the Emerald Island. Beautiful green fieldsireland green fields were everywhere. And probably the most beautiful flowers we’ve seen anywhere.   Of course, as one of the locals said, “If it rains every day, you can have green fields and beautiful flowers.” We did see a lot of rain – gentle rain – but a fine rain during some part of almost every day.


ireland - flowers


Of course we visited Callan, Ireland. Found some Callan graves in an old, old cemetery, (fortunately none was mine). We stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast and enjoyed walking the streets of Callan.



We were in Ireland, so we had to visit the Blarney Castle, which almost demands that one kiss the Blarney Stone. The stone was set into a tower of the castle a few years back – in 1446. The legend is that if you kiss the Blarney Stone, you will receive the gift of eloquence, or nowadays, the gift of gab.

The word blarney is often used to indicate a person is a flatterer, and not necessarily sincere. But Irishman John O’Conner Power said, “Blarney is something more than mere flattery. It is flattery sweetened by humor and flavored by wit.” That’s the essence of the Irish.

Kissing the Blarney Stone is not an easy thing to do. As my backBlarney stone-s was not in great shape that day (and some said I did not need to get any more gift of gab), I did not kiss the Blarney Stone. It is not a simple task. You must lie on your back, hanging out over the edge of the castle about four stories above the ground. (There are some bars to insure that you won’t fall to the ground.)

Still, we couldn’t visit the castle without one of us kissing the Blarney Stone. So, Earlene did. I’m sure I’ll never hear the end of that.

yeatsWe visited the graves of St. Patrick and W.B. Yeats. St. Patrick is credited with driving the snakes out of Ireland, and there seems to be no snakes there to this day. Yeats is not the most famous Irish author, but in the top few and a writer should not go to Ireland and fail to visit Yeats. We also had lunch with the son of famous Irish playwright/author John B. Keane. And naturally, one of my generation would visit the area where The Quiet Man was filmed.

ireland small townOther ireland - sheepmemories include lots of sheep, many fascinating small towns, beautiful countryside, hundreds of churches and cathedrals older than the U.S., and so much more. It was a great visit.


Ireland was only the start of our adventure, but I won’t bore you with more – today.

Anybody want to add their fond memories of the Emerald Island? Just leave a comment. And if you’d like to hear less, or more, about our northern Europe adventure, leave a comment “More” or “Less.”


Writing with Pain


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Patty Smith-Hall is a multi-published, award-winning author with Love Inspired Historical/Heartsong and currently serves as president of the ACFW-Atlanta chapter. Today, she offers suggestions on how to write when you are in pain.  She will also give a copy of her latest book … Continue reading

Don’t Annoy the Novelist


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Today, our guest is Janet Sketchley, a Canadian writer of suspense and redemption. She has also had published over one hundred articles. She likes Formula 1 Racing, adventure stories and tea. She has also generously agreed to give a free … Continue reading