Author On The Ledge!


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Your humble host


You’ll know it when you see it.

An author friend has started the downward spiral of doubt.

Here’s an example from a blog post of an obviously dismayed author friend, followed by my reply:



…it seems as if I’ve just wasted the last (fill in your number here of the weeks, months or years) of my life writing a story no one will ever be interested in EVER. It should be printed off only to be burned in a barrel and then bombed with a nuclear warhead. I have THREE chapters left to write. THREE. At the end of the summer, in September, I had FIVE.

 This week I sat down to write and . . . nothing happened. I stared at a blinking cursor for six hours. Well, that’s not entirely true. I checked my email. I went to town on Twitter. I cleaned the house and did two loads of laundry. I watched a few cat videos on Facebook.

 AND I deleted two thousand words from my latest draft

This is what we call the ledge.

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Is this you?

Occasionally I’ll see a writer out there and talk them back in through a window. Just as often they let me know they’re out on the ledge and I talk them down. But on rare occasions they get out there and start deleting thousands of words and then it’s more a matter of getting them to hit the net when they jump.

Or if they slip.

You don’t strike me as a jumper so we’ll say slip. Yeah, that’s it. The ledge needed cleaning and next thing you know you were out there on it. It happens.

In fact, it can happen to any of us. You’re chugging along thinking positive thoughts about yourself and your writing, and then you reread the latest chapter of your GAM (Great American Novel) it and you’re like whaaat? Or a trusted CP (Critique Partner) starts asking if you wrote you latest submission while under the influence of prescription cough medicine.

Okay, so what do we know, and what do we do about it? Cos if you think I’m gonna hold your hand, you might have shot me a Facebook message (I have messenger now, too; it rocks) BEFORE you deleted thousands of words – and managed to write a thousand on your blog lamenting… your inability to write? Do I have that correct?

Well, I love irony as much as the next guy. Heck, maybe more. I even have sympathy for anybody buried under a foot of snow while I contemplate whether I’ll wear a sweatshirt with my shorts as I go buy chlorine for the pool. (I decided yes on the sweatshirt, but only because it was a little windy.)

Okay, sister, time for the tough love.

If you think this is the hard part, you are wrong. This writing stuff? This is the easy part. Even when it’s hard, it’s easy. The hard part – the part we refer to as the abyss – that’s when you press the “publish” button and a few weeks go by and nothing really happens. Or you get three or four bad reviews in a row. Or your sales drop for some unknown reason. Or you have no sales and you suddenly realize it’s been quite a while since you did have some.

We talked about the emotional roller coaster that is authordom, HERE.

You’ll want to crawl under a rock and question your right to exist because nobody anywhere wants to read your story. Or review it. Or recommend it to friends. Or any one of a thousand other ways your shiny new manuscript will bring harm to your delicate little writer psyche.

But there’s good news! I can help you avoid the abyss!

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This does not have to be you!

And I could have helped you avoid the freaking ledge! Do you not know how to get ahold of me? Facebook, Twitter, the Contact Me button on the blog, Instagram, Pinterest… You can call. I’m in the book, for pete’s sake. There’s like two guys with my name in the whole United States and I’m not the radical priest in Texas.

Okay, okay, here’s the deal:

  1. You have probably written a pretty good book. You may still f*ck it up, but more than likely it’s completely readable and interesting. (Amazeballs in Jennyspeak.) How can I say this? You’re here on my site, which means you have a clue and you give a damn, and you know the difference. I don’t say that to everybody – check the array of carcasses in my critique group that got a “better luck next time” card from me. My readers have, almost without exception, been good writers. (I say almost because nobody bats .1000)
  1. If it was easy, everybody would write a book. 80% of US Americans want to and the vast majority don’t.
  1. Of those who attempt to write a book, MOST SUCK. Your book probably does not suck. (See #1)
  1. You have a LOT of people who want to help you in whatever way is needed. Don’t be afraid to ask for that help when you’re blocked. (And I don’t mean constipated, but I’m sure you know somebody to call about that, too. It’s not me. I wanna get on the record about that right now.)
  1. You are beautiful, funny, interesting, and a nice person. And your family loves you. Probably friends, too; I only know you online. But let’s give you that one, too.
  1. You have a LOT of people who want to help you in whatever way is needed. Sometimes that means goofing off with them for an hour on Facebook chat (now messenger; I upgraded and it’s totally addictive) until they prod you to get creative and clear the logjam. After all, you managed to put down tens of thousands of words in a mostly cohesive string so far. Odds are a few more thousand are in you. Here’s proof, click HERE.
  1. This was not going to be a list but what the hell, it is now.
  1. As a list, it needed to stop at three or five, but once we sailed past those, ten seemed to be the magic number.
  1. Have a drink. (Like I need to tell you that.) Try writing drunk, like Hemingway said – write drunk, edit sober. It’s worth a shot (get it? Shot?) You may come up with something really interesting. You may not. But at least you’ll be drunk. And cut back on the cat videos. They obviously aren’t helping.
  1. You have a LOT of people who want to help you in whatever way is needed.

Whatever way is needed.

WHAT EVER way is needed.

You have a LOT of people who want to help you in whatever way is needed.

Get it?

Let them.

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Your humble host

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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the amazingly great upcoming sci fi action thriller “The Navigators.” Click HERE to check out his other works.

I Can’t Finish My Story! Failure To Launch, a (common) writer nightmare

Your humble host.
Your humble host.

Occasionally a writer reaches out and laments about a writerly problem. Here’s one I received recently that I think is fairly common.


Dear Dan,

I recently realized that my writing has slowed to a standstill, not because I’m busy, but because I’m terrified to finish.


Scared Storyteller


Dear Storyteller,

It’s not uncommon to see the finish line and suddenly become… intimidated.

Truman Capote said finishing a story is like taking your child out in the back yard and shooting it.

Oh yes he did
Oh yes he did


Why is that?

Why do so many writers get so far along and then not finish?

I think the reason(s) is basically simple. First of all, a lot of people get a great idea for a story, but once they get that idea down – Oh, wouldn’t it be neat if the Easter Bunny murdered Santa Claus? So they set up the murder, and the rabbit whacks the fat guy!

And then they’re sitting there thinking… Now what?

Yeah. No idea.

(Recently we discussed ways to find more time to write, HERE

Didn't happen
Awesome dragon hunt? Didn’t happen.

Or a writer decides they’re going to have a big dragon hunt and their critique partner says no dragon cos it doesn’t fit in the world you constructed. And then you’re sitting there saying, okay, no dragon, no dragon hunt… Now what?

And some people just plain old get stuck. They have an idea but they don’t have a story. Big, big, BIG difference. Stories have beginnings, middles and ends. Ideas – maybe not!

Other writers get stuck in what’s called the mushy middle. They have a beginning: Easter Bunny intends to kill Santa Claus over a long standing feud about candy. They have a great ending: Easter Bunny and Santa reconcile and Santa is not killed.

But they don’t have a middle – known as a big part of the story – and they can’t figure out how to go connect the dots to make it happen. THAT one’s a BIG “now what.”

I'm a pantser. Something will come to me.
I’m a pantser. Something will come to me.

But I believe far away the biggest reason real writers don’t finish a story is: once you get close to the end, you begin to lose your identity.

You have been spending time with these characters. You know them. You look forward to seeing them each day and you wonder what kind of funny things you can have them do or what interesting situations they’re going to get into or what new romance is right around the corner…

Shutting that door and walking away is tragic!

It’s extremely difficult!

And while I think Truman was a little over the top with his infanticide reference, finishing a story – and the fear of what waits on the other side – it is a lot like graduating high school not seeing all your friends anymore, or leaving a fun job where we had a lot of friends and going to a new job we don’t know anybody.

Introvert viewing a new workplace.
Introvert viewing a new workplace.

Graduating college, my world became very different. Bosses expected me to show up every morning and know things. There were no noon classes, it was 8am every day, butts in seats. And within 18 months, I moved across the state to take a different job, so I didn’t know anybody. I struggled for a while.

Finishing your story can be like that. It’s a big change

It’s the unknown, and people are like rightly afraid of that. You knew every day what was going to happen with your characters and now, sadly, that is going to stop.

Personally, I think that’s why a lot of sequels and trilogies get written (even when they shouldn’t). They can’t walk away from the characters, so they don’t. And only a few stories deserve trilogies. A few.

To contrast, the great John Belushi once said no sequels. And he was right, too.

There’s nothing wrong with a trilogy, but most the time one book will do it. Think of movies and think of sequels, and almost never – almost never – is the sequel (or the third or fourth) as good as the first.

The original and different and exciting. It’s usually best if we leave it that way. But…

I DID have that idea about the Santa murder...
I DID have that idea about the Santa murder…

I also believe that your ONE BIG STORY is not the only one great story you’re ever going to have!

Finishing it and setting it aside allows you get on to your next story, which will probably be even better. Do you know how I know? Because I was in the same boat. I was finishing a story and I was scared to death of what was gonna happen. I was rushing to finish because I was so excited about my story, and then it was done – and I was shocked. I didn’t know what to do. I enjoyed a few days off, basking in the glow, knowing I’d written my best work ever, and then I became borderline depressed. Well, depressed for me, anyway, which means I was sad for a few hours. (Okay, maybe the better part of a day.)

So I get it.

And then I went on to write what most people regard as my best work ever.

Shameless plug for upcoming book.
Shameless plug for upcoming book.

And then I stretched those writer muscles and wrote another one. It’s pretty darned good, too. It has flashes of brilliance, honest.

You can do that, too.

Writers, you are NOT alone. You may be the only one typing the words of your story, but there are plenty of helpful hands patting you in the back or helping you back on your feet – or feet kicking you in the butt if necessary.

Finish your book! The NEXT great story awaits, and you can’t write that one while you’re fiddling around with this one!

Don’t be afraid to ask a friend for a suggestion. I’ve done that, on the giving end AND the receiving end. Collaborate. Ask for ideas. As soon as you hear the shitty stuff your friends come up with, an amazing idea will pop into your head.

Thumbs Up
Novellas rock!

You have short stories and blog posts you’ve wanted to do, and that will fill the void.

And then one day a pretty girl will sit across from you on a train and you’ll say, Hmm… and an amazing story will start flowing through your fingers into the keyboard.

You can do it. Writing takes a brave spirit. So does finishing.

Be brave. Your next great story is in there dying to get out. Let it.

What are some of YOUR tips to finish or experiences near the finish line?


Your humble host.
Your humble host.

REBLOG me! Or SHARE this post on Facebook and Twitter! See those little buttons down below? Put on your glasses. There they are. Click them. The FOLLOW button is now in the lower right hand corner.

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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.