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Finishing School

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Finishing School

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Finishing School
The Happy Ending to That Writing Project You Can't Seem to Get Done
By Cary Tennis and Danelle Morton
A TarcherPerigee Book, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-3991-8470-3

Reviewed by Richard S. Rodgers - January 9, 2017

Finishing School - the term evokes images of posh debutantes heading off to Switzerland to learn how to curtsey and burp silently. This is not, however, what Cary Tennis and Danelle Morton's new book, Finishing School is about! Rather it is about helping writers finish 'that' writing project that just seems to never get finished. It is about helping writers discover what is keeping them from writing, and about helping writers learn techniques to defeat these obstacles. Most important, the book Finishing School is about helping writers making a commitment to write a certain amount of time per day or week, and in helping the writer keep that commitment. Once you develop the habit of showing up for work, no matter what, you will soon find that you now have the skill to complete your project and the motivation to start tackling your next big project.

The authors of this book are writers with long track records. Throughout, both are candid about having had trouble, in the past, completing a project. This personal experience with 'finishing' allows them to empathize with other writers, and both seem to sincerely want to help other writers to overcome their own problems with 'finishing'.

With the new year upon us, most writers have already said to themselves, "This year I'm going to get serious about my writing, I'm going to commit to being the writer I know I can be, and most important, I'm going to finish that book that I've been dragging around for years."

But let's face it. If you haven't committed to finishing your book before the turn of the New Year, what makes you think that you will this year? The answer is simple, ask for help and you will find it. You don't have to tackle this project on your own. There are many other writers who have been there and done that, and some have taken the time to share the knowledge that they have gained along the way. Case in point is Cary Tennis and Danelle Morton. As the subtitle of their Finishing School suggests, this book will help you find The Happy Ending to That Writing Project You Can't Seem to Get Done. With their help, and a few finishing school schoolmates, or a friend or two, perhaps this year you will finish that major project that you've been working on!

Finishing School is not a 'how-to-write' book. Rather it is a motivational guide that will help you to learn the skills necessary to focus on your project. It will also help motivate you, and help you develop the necessary passion, so that you stick with the project until it is done. Most important, this book will help you identify the 'blocks' that are keeping you from finishing your work (and in many cases might also be keeping you from writing in general), and help you learn to overcome these blocks so that they no longer stand in your way. Throughout the authors offer clear, and easy to follow steps that 'walk' you through each part of the finishing school process.

In the formal finishing school setting, you would be working with a group of writers, and you would help each other stick to your commitment to write, and to share tips, tricks, and strategies that each has developed to overcome the block's to their writing and how to find and keep the time they need to write. However, you don't have to be part of a formal group to benefit from attending a writer's finishing school. The methods described in this book can be followed not only by a group of writers, but also by writers working on their own. The trick, apparently, is to have some form of accountability. When you attend a finishing school group, you pick a partner and you text each other when you start writing and when you finish, so that there is someone looking over your shoulder to see if you are actually working. However, unlike a writer's group, the purpose of a finishing school group is not to read each other writings, rather it is simply to help ensure that everyone in the group spends the amount of time that they've committed to working on their projects. The group also is there to provide support to their fellow 'students' and to share tips and techniques that they learn or perfect as they strive to finish their own unique projects. If you are working through this program on your own, you can simply ask a friend or family member to be your partner. Because they will not be reading your work, they do not have to be a fellow writer. This person is simply your accountability partner, someone to whom you can text them when you start and stop working on your project on any given day. In short, a finishing school group can be one, two, or an entire flock of writers. It is up to you to discover what works best for you, and this book will provide some sign posts to help you along your way.

For me, the most important part of the book was the first section that deals with the various things that might be keeping you from writing - and finishing - your project. Blocks such as fear, doubt, shame, arrogance, and much more are covered. But, most important, so is advice and information that will help you pinpoint the blocks that are problems for you and how to overcome them. The rest of the book deals with what a finish school is, how to deal with issues of time, how to create your own finishing school, and the actual act of 'finishing' your project. While all these sections are informative and helpful, without first pinpointing the factors that are keeping you from writing, and overcoming them, I don't think that the rest of the book would be of much use. However, once you do overcome the stumbling blocks that are standing in your way - be prepared for a powerful sense of motivation and drive that will propel you to the finish of your project and, in all likelihood, start your next one.

Finishing School is geared toward writers of both fiction and nonfiction, of all skill levels. However, I think that this book will also prove useful to anyone working on any sort of creative project who happens to need a little push to get them to buckle down and work on it! If you are serious about finally getting your big project finished, try attending a formal writer's Finishing School, or start your own program. It only takes about a month to get the writing habits established that will help you get started along that path that leads to a finished project!


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