Fear of Finishing

… A mini course on what not to do.

By guest blogger Tricia Sutton

It should come as no surprise to anyone who’s read all or parts of my novel that I began writing it on April Fool’s Day, 2007. Nor should they be surprised it was one writing-on-steroids April Fool’s Day later that I completed the first draft. After all, my story is about several comical characters who are a few straws short of a haystack. So the April Fools-like pattern was befitting. I gave myself until the next April Fools to revise and be query ready.

We now approach April Fools, 2011 (shamefully, I’ll wait while you do the math). I speculate The Gods of Tricks and Foolery have played one upon me by replacing my steroids with tranquilizers. A warning to you all not to begin important life projects on April Fools—add Friday the 13th, too.

I have no fear of writing. I have Fear of Finishing. Fear of Failure. Fear of Success. Friend of Sabotage.

I write most days—whatever my ailing back and eye fatigue will allow—but my biggest setback is called I-Know-Too-Much. I call the glorious first year of writing my novel, The Year of No Internet. The second year I discovered agent blogs and their wealth of information, subscribed to a few, began a blog of my own. By the third year, I was in deep. I subscribed to every literary blog known to man, learned my genre was/is passé, and learned the demand for writers plummeted while the supply of them skyrocketed. According to their blogs, agents were inundated with more queries than ever before and had become even pickier with acceptances.

I have stick-to-itiveness. I persevered. But I slowed down. While it’s nice to be informed, there are only so many “Don’t quit your day job,” “The odds of acceptances are slimmer than winning PowerBall,” and “You’ll fail” messages a person can take before they finally believe it.

Couple negativity with my aversion to long-term gratification and you get burnout. Thoughts like “is it all for nothing?” crept up on me like a growing mold. And distractions like “life” made it easy to put my novel on the sidelines without, ya know, better odds. Give me incentive, and I’ll give you eight novel-focused writerly hours a day.

I know. What kind of writer am I?  Shouldn’t writers love writing just for themselves? Is it wrong to write to be read? Money’s a plus, but I want to be read. Right now. Right now’s a challenge when I’m clearly off my timetable, publishing and genre-wise. Character-driven/family stories/coming-of-age is out. YA paranormal is in.

With chances so slim, what’s a writer like me to do? Well for starters, I gave up for about a week in ’09. Then I said, Okay, this is it. Send out an excerpt to some magazines to test the waters. If an editor publishes it, you have the validation you need to finish your book. If not, nobody’ll like it, get a day job. So I did. And they did.

And I said, That was a fluke. Do it again. And I did. And they did. And I did it again. And so on until I had ten published excerpts to show for it and several more on submission. Yay for me, right? Wrong.

I woke up from my I’ll-never-make-it-in-this-business-so-why-try coma and said, “Hey, enough already.” Putting off success or failure, either way I was putting it off. I want my book published, but publishing was getting in the way. So I’m putting a moratorium on magazine submissions for now. I’ve unsubscribed to industry blogs and I’m giving myself until April Fool’s Day, 2011. Or should I wait until the 2nd?


Pictured is Tricia Sutton in her writing jacket—it’s called a robe in some parts—and one of her distractions, Spanky. She’s re-written the beginning of her novel over a hundred times, using at least 99 of the listed 100 Worst Novel Beginnings. By the time she’s finished, they’ll need to expand the list. To see what she’s been doing during The Great Novel-Writing Coma of 2009/10 (and the first month of 2011), visit her publication page.

26 Responses to Fear of Finishing
  1. Lois
    February 10, 2011 | 10:44 AM

    I have Fear of Finishing, too. I don’t have any problem finishing the first draft. It’s getting to the final draft that I can’t seem to reach. Thanks for posting this. It’s so encouraging! 😀

    • Tricia
      Twitter: Tricia_Sutton
      February 10, 2011 | 2:23 PM

      Thank you, Lois. I’m full of what-not-to-do wisdom. I knew I served a purpose in life. 🙂

      • Lois
        February 10, 2011 | 2:27 PM

        Your humor also serves to lift the spirits of those around you. Ha! You have dual purposes! 😀

        • Tricia
          Twitter: Tricia_Sutton
          February 10, 2011 | 3:03 PM

          It’s always advisable to have a back up purpose.

  2. j
    February 10, 2011 | 11:23 AM

    I love this! And your bio made me spit my coffee. 😉

    • Tricia
      Twitter: Tricia_Sutton
      February 10, 2011 | 2:25 PM

      Careful, J. Coffee is a hard stain to remove from writing jackets.

  3. Patrick Ross
    Twitter: patrickrwrites
    February 10, 2011 | 11:28 AM

    This is a great post, Tricia. Thank you, Milli, for posting it!

    I think for me the fear of finishing manifests in me not then submitting it someplace. The act of sending the query or the manuscript means it really must be done, but it also puts me at risk of finding that even “done” may not be good enough for someone. Your own query story is an interesting difference to my own!

    • Tricia
      Twitter: Tricia_Sutton
      February 10, 2011 | 2:29 PM

      Patrick, sometimes I panic and think my OCDs will always hold me back and I’ll shoot off a query to an agent then cry that it was premature. I think by the time I’m really finished, I’ll voluntarily commit myself.

      I hope the process is painless for you.

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Milli & j and Milli & j, judy clement wall. judy clement wall said: Like this from my friend, @IQOKIE. Fear Of Finishing http://t.co/FnE86zQ […]

  5. Giulietta Nardone
    February 10, 2011 | 1:14 PM

    Hi Tricia,

    Good post. Congrats on the idea to send out excerpts. A lot of writer’s can probably relate to this issue of not finishing. Sometimes it’s hard to let a writing baby go off into the world. Maybe the endless submissions reflected the empty writer’s nest syndrome?

    Thx, G.

    • Tricia
      Twitter: Tricia_Sutton
      February 10, 2011 | 2:34 PM

      G, thank you. I once heard the best way to cure the empty nest syndrome is to have another baby, figuratively speaking. But I keep making the same baby, a clone.

  6. Kiersten
    February 10, 2011 | 2:15 PM

    It’s like you reached into my head and pulled out my hang ups. I’ve said many of these same things to myself, missed self-imposed deadlines, etc, and wonder what the spit is wrong with me? I think it’s a process, allbeit a slow and ego-draining. I believe it’s what sets us aside as writers, that even feeling all this, we persevere and keep writing, eventually.

    Good luck!

    • Tricia
      Twitter: Tricia_Sutton
      February 10, 2011 | 2:38 PM

      Kiersten, so true. If we weren’t humble before we started writing, the ego drain you mentioned will do it everytime. Perservere is my favorite word.

  7. […] counts as a blog post from me.  Come visit Fear of Writing, you might learn something on What Not to […]

  8. […] “Fear of Finishing,” Tricia Sutton, guest post on Fear of Writing: A humorous and inspiring post for any creative, this novelist shares her fear of finishing a creative project, a fear of both failure and success. […]

  9. jennifer
    February 11, 2011 | 9:07 AM

    Hey Tricia – you are being read! I just read you as did a ton others! I know, it’s not quite the same thing, but it is something. And I enjoyed it, a ton!

    “I want my book published, but publishing was getting in the way.” Amazing realization! It’s all on your road to getting where you want to be.

    • Tricia
      Twitter: Tricia_Sutton
      February 11, 2011 | 12:55 PM

      Jennifer, being read on blogs and short story publications are like fuel to me. I count that as being read, thank God, because if I didn’t, I’d go mad.

      Having anything of mine published is very validating, very encouraging, but alas, the time it takes to get it there is time away from my novel. I’m so so so close to done. I must now sacrifice the instant gratification for one less attainable.

  10. […] I encouraged you to read my guest post at Fear of Writing. In that post I admit my short story publications are, in a way, a distraction from finishing the […]

  11. Boonies Chick
    Twitter: fearofwriting
    February 11, 2011 | 2:45 PM

    I adored everything about this post, down to the bio pic of you in your writing robe. Funny as all heck from start to finish!! And the comments exchange with Lois and j made me spit the cup of coffee I’m fantasizing cuz I’ve already maxed on caffeine for the day.

    I LOVE the way you nailed the I-Know-Too-Much syndrome. I’ve internalized that one all too well. I have it as a screenwriter (I even know how to fudge page margins to fool movie execs—a complex and sneaky ritual as revealed by the screenwriters of Shrek—but I also know I’d be stupid to do that as a newbie . . . how sophisticated can you get before you’ve ever been read by a producer??).

    I also have the I-Know-Too-Much syndrome in other areas of my life, such as self-improvement. The bar is now so high based on what I know that I had to chuck the whole thing and get back in my jammies (ah, what a relief) just so I wouldn’t kill myself with all the over-achieving that goes on inside my head.

    Your comic take on all this is beyond refreshing. And best of luck with your deadline!! We’re all cheering for you.

    ~ Milli

    • Tricia
      Twitter: Tricia_Sutton
      February 14, 2011 | 10:40 AM

      Milli, who ever came up with Ignorance is Bliss was either a genius or a writer.

      Thank you for sharing your experience and for all your kind words.


  12. tooty nolan
    February 12, 2011 | 3:36 AM

    When I began (what became) The Hamster-Britain series I had hopes of having them published eventually, but I quickly realised that my work (in particular) is definitely not ‘current’, and probably never was. So I took the easy option: I placed excerps on my blogsite – Tangentially Tooty (now Tangentially Tooty 2), and self-published using the download/POD format at Lulu.com. Has it been a success? Of course not – not if your counting numbers – but it has found a small niche audience, and people DO have my books sitting upon their shelves and hard drives. So maybe as an interim between writing the book and finding a publisher, we could all try POD publishing. Maybe it’s the way ahead for all of us un-mainstreamers.

    • Tricia
      Twitter: Tricia_Sutton
      February 14, 2011 | 10:45 AM

      Well, Tooty, now that self-publishing is rapidly becoming the first choice in publishing instead of the last, you may start seeing more sales. People are fed up and not taking it anymore and are supporting the self published more than ever before, or so it seems. (I got this information from industry blogs of which I no longer subscribe. ahem)

      • @fearofwriting
        Twitter: fearofwriting
        February 14, 2011 | 11:23 AM

        Tooty, I love your publishing strategy. Probably because it’s almost identical to mine (except I didn’t have a website back when my book came out in January 2000, so I didn’t publish Chapter One as an excerpt till later).

        Back when I chose to go the POD route, people still needed POD spelled out and explained and there was no such things as blogs or Twitter yet. So the lack of ready-made platform online pushed me to find other ways to get the word out about my book. Which turned out to be great for its development.

        I’m proud to say that POD publishing has helped me keep my book alive for 10+ years. If we’re defining success, a savvy 21st-Century kid would probably not quit his lemonade stand in exchange for my royalties. But if success is measured in friends made and readers who feel my book has a place in their lives, then I can say I’m a roaring success.

        I totally wish the same for you. Now I’m off to check out your site.

        ~ Milli

  13. Laura Best
    February 12, 2011 | 7:53 PM

    Loved reading this Tricia. I look forward to the day when you announce to all of us that your novel has been accepted for publication !

    • Tricia
      Twitter: Tricia_Sutton
      February 14, 2011 | 10:48 AM

      Laura, just the words you wrote, “accepted for publication” sent ripples of excitement down my spine.

      Thank you.

  14. Francisca Mcdonald
    February 19, 2012 | 4:45 PM

    Sometimes it’s hard to let a writing baby go off into the world. I’ve internalized that one all too well. When I began (what became) The Hamster-Britain series I had hopes of having them published eventually, but I quickly realised that my work (in particular) is definitely not ‘current’, and probably never was.

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