What Does It Take to Finish a Book?

Last month, Incubator instructors Michelle Hoover (The Quickening and Bottomland), and Alex Marzano-Lesnevich (Any One of Us, forthcoming), got chatty over twitter with authors Steve Beeber, Rebecca Makkai, Kate Racculia, Patricia Park, Christopher Castellani, Novel Incubator alums and authors Louise Miller, Stephanie Gayle, Emily Ross, and a host of writers and students from the Grub community. The topic in question? What does it take to finish a book? We collected some highlights from the chat, chock full of priceless writing advice, inspiration, and insight to help you over the finish line, whether you're writing a novel or a memoir. Check out #GrubInc on Twitter for the whole thing!


Q1: What does it mean to do a “deep revision” of a novel or a memoir? 


Q2: What strategies do novelists and memoirists use to develop their initial ideas?


Q3: Can you learn how to finish a novel or memoir in a traditional workshop? (i.e. 10-15 weeks, workshopping short pieces.)


Q4: What do programs for the novel and the memoir do differently from programs that focus on short fiction or essays?


Q5: What stage of the writing process is it helpful to get feedback on a novel or a memoir?


Q6: Do novelists and memoirists need writing programs to finish their books?

Q7: How do you know when a book is finished?



grubstreet Image
About the Author

Colwill is an instructor and manuscript consultant at GrubStreet, an associate editor at Bat City Review, and an MFA candidate at the University of Texas at Austin. After graduating a scholarship awardee of GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator program, Colwill found representation for her first novel, Before We Tear Our Selves Apart, with Robert Guinsler of Sterling Lord Literistic, which is currently on submission to publishing houses. She is the recipient of the Wellspring House Emerging Writer Fellowship, the Henry Blackwell Essay Prize, and a Crawley-Garwood Research Grant, and has received fellowships and support from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, The University of Texas at Austin, Boston College, Kansas State University, the Anderson Center for Disciplinary Studies, and GrubStreet. She was a finalist for the 2019 Tennessee Williams Fiction Prize, the 2019 Reynolds Price Award, the 2019 Far Horizons Fiction Award, the 2019 Disquiet International Literary Prize, and the 2019 Lit Fest Emerging Writer Fellowship. Colwill’s fiction is forthcoming in Granta and is anthologized in Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet (Press 53). She has served on the editorial team for Post Road magazine, The Conium Review,  Solstice Literary Magazine, and Pangyrus magazine. Colwill is a founding member of the  Back Porch Collective, a Boston-based group of writers. With members connected to Cuba, India, Albania, Atlanta, Bosnia, Miami, Jamaica, and the UK, they bonded over a common passion for global narratives and literature’s potential to create empathy and understanding across all geographical, political, and cultural borders. Hailing from Yorkshire, in the north of England, Colwill is determined to introduce the word “sozzard” to the American vernacular. For a full list of publications, projects, and services, please visit

See other articles by Colwill Brown
by Colwill Brown

Rate this!

Current rating: 5