What Does It Take to Finish a Book?

Last month, Incubator instructors Michelle Hoover (The Quickening and Bottomland), and Alexandria 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?

About the Author

As Editor of GrubWrites, GrubStreet's popular blog, Colwill serves the Grub community a daily dose of literary goodness. Book lovers can find reviews, news, recommendations, and conversations with exciting new authors to stay up to speed on all things lit. Writers, GrubWrites is your go-to spot for expert craft talk, thoughtful discussions on how writing is learned and taught, and essential publishing and publicity advice. Colwill is also a GrubStreet instructor and consultant specializing in the novel.


Colwill is Writer-in-Residence at Wellspring House, and a recipient of the work-study scholarship for the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and the Henry Blackwell Essay Prize. She was named a finalist in the 2019 Tennessee Williams Fiction Contest, and  her creative work has appeared or is forthcoming in Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet (Press 53, fall 2018), Solstice Literary Magazine, The Conium Review, Poetry and Audience, and other places, and her essays have featured on Dead Darlings and elsewhere. She's served on the editorial team for Post Road magazine and The Conium Review and is currently Fiction Editor at Pangyrus magazine. A scholarship awardee for GrubStreet's Novel Incubator, after graduating from the program Colwill found representation for her first novel with literary agent Robert Guinsler of Sterling Lord Literistic. She was educated at Leeds University in England, where she received her BA hons in English Language and Literature (International), with stints at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Kansas State University’s Graduate Creative Writing Program, where she was awarded the Seaton Graduate Fellowship in Creative Writing. Most recently, Colwill completed a Master's degree in English Literature at Boston College, for which she was awarded a full scholarship. Hailing from Yorkshire, England, her life's mission is to introduce the word "sozzard" to the American vernacular. For a full list of publications, projects, and other services, including copy editing, please visit colwillbrown.com.

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by Colwill Brown

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