The first step that is vital to publishing

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You have a chance of publishing a book. A real chance, and it’s not like it’s a lottery, either. The brutal realism you’re likely to read by the tough-love agents and editors won’t inspire you much. I don’t recommend it as bedtime reading, or in-between-revising-scenes reading.

The odds can be long. Stephen King’s first book was rejected by more than 20 publishers. Yeah, Carrie was a loser, as far as the editors could see. Didn’t matter to King, or later on to his wife Tabitha, who rescued the manuscript from the trashcan where he chucked it. It didn’t matter, because that was a book that was finished.

Plenty of books get published that are unworthy of the paper or ink. The only thing that’s certain to keep your book from getting into print is not finishing it.

In an issue of The Writer, novelist Katrina Kittle says her writing got better by writing:

My writing improved the most after I had finished a full draft of the whole novel. There’s a great Isaac Asimov quote that says, “It’s the writing that teaches you.” Once you have a story actually on paper, you can then begin to edit and revise and learn from it. As long as you’re talking about a story as an abstract idea, you’ve got nothing.

Finish the book. Even a raw first draft is better than one stalled in its tracks, but with a brilliant beginning. That raw draft is closer to being a finished manuscript.

How to get unstuck? Have a chat with your characters. I interviewed Angela Consoli, the heroine of my novel Viral Times, to get past a tough little stretch where I had to describe her dodgy background. Turned out she had reasons for getting involved with the wrong people.

Do a mind map. You can have fun with your colored pencils on this one, writing down major concepts, characters and settings, letting them feed off one another. Free associate. Don’t be serious.

You also need to check if you’ve retained your enthusiasm for the project. A creative community is one way to keep that fire stoked. Not to talk about the project endlessly; that saps the writing. But to have people in your life who care about your progress toward a goal — that’s a tool which belongs in every writer’s workshop.

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