When to write? Now. Where to write? Here.

in Nonfiction by

The biggest stumbling block to writing that novel that has been living inside you is fear. Will it be good enough? Will anyone want to read it? Am I up to all that hard work?

Although I have developed and edited more than a dozen manuscripts for others, taught writing and have written for publishers, newspapers, magazines, websites, professional publications, newsletters, videos, and the stage—I have a confession.

I have never finished a novel of my own.

Thank heavens for Elizabeth Sims, author of You’ve Got a Book in You: A Stress-Free Guide to Writing the Book of Your Dreams (Writers Digest Books). An award-winning published author and writing expert, Sims knows how scary, difficult and even overwhelming writing a book can seem and she’s here with one important central message: Writing a book is fun and easy.

I’ll give you a moment to pick your jaw up off the floor.

We have heard so often that writing is grueling hard work that we’ve come to believe it. We think we need an advanced degree or at least a past that included straight A’s in English or creative writing. At the very least we need to have a quiet room and hours of free time every day to complete a book. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If you know how to use words, you know how to tell a story. You can turn any quiet moment into a writing opportunity—waiting at the dentist’s office,  the airport, the auto mechanic’s—or getting up early and sitting at your kitchen table before the rest of the house is awake. You can start with just a germ of an idea and learn how to shape your book as you go. The only thing stopping you is you.

Part writing coach, part wise big sister, Sims will guide you every step of the way. She’ll help you find the right time and place to write, gather your creative tools and show you how it’s done—page by page, step by step. She’ll show you how to find your metaphorical writer’s garret, discover your genre, find your theme, pound out that elusive first draft, polish your manuscript and understand publishing and how it works.

Sim’s rules should be turned into memes for writers. Hell, they’re tattoo-worthy! Among the maxims she suggests being chiseled into stone for writers, are:

  • Perfect is the enemy of good.
  • When to write? Now. Where to write? Here.
  • Time is not the point. Productivity is the point.
  • When in doubt, don’t overthink it. Move forward.
  • Receptive persistence equals breakthroughs.
  • Few great artists color inside the lines.
  • Courage builds on itself.

By breaking it down and taking away the fear, I’m inspired to take that novel out of mothballs and finish it. Now that I have a clear idea how to make it fun and keep it fun—and how that translates into a great experience for readers—I’m ready to let go of my professional obsession with compound modifiers and dangling participles and get back into it.

How about you?

is a writer, editor and dabbler in arty stuff. A fourth-generation journalist (on her father’s side) and millionteenth-generation mother (on her mother’s side) she has written, edited, photographed and illustrated for newspapers, magazines, websites, blogs, videos and books. Known for her persnicketyness about grammar, she occasionally leaves in an error to delight people of similar inclination.


  1. I met Elizabeth Sims a few years ago when she taught a workshop in Anchorage, Alaska. Her enthusiasm was contagious, and she shared advice and practical exercises that washed away any doubts we had about our ability to produce a finished work. That was the day I stopped believing in writer’s block.

    • Very cool that you learned from Elizabeth in person! She has me fired up to finally finish a novel that’s been languishing for years.

  2. Cannot imagine writing a novel–dialog is so daunting. Can one have a novel with no conversations between characters? LOL

  3. This seems like the book I’ve been waiting for. I’ve always toyed around with the idea of writing a book, but with this book as a guide maybe my dream could become a reality.

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