“You have to finish things — that’s what you learn from, you learn by finishing things.”

― Neil Gaiman

Today I published the final book in my first trilogy The Ballad of SorrowsIt is strange to look back on my journey to get here and I couldn’t help but remember the best advice I ever received. Finish things. It’s been so long now that I am not sure which YouTube video I watched, wither it was an interview or a speech or something else entirely. But I do remember that Neil Gaiman gave the wonderful advice to finish things. I felt both called out and inspired by the words. 

To give you some context, I have always wanted to be a writer. Ever since I was six years old, I have been dreaming up stories and have been trying to write them down. As a kid, I never made it past a few pages. When I was fifteen I started writing a story which during my time in High School turned into the first book I ever tried to write. I never finished it. When I was living in Mexico, I wrote down ideas and outlines for stories determined to write them when I returned home to Utah. In October of 2016, I started writing a new book and in April 2017 I finished the first draft. It was terrible. Not the ideas or the characters but the execution. So I set this book aside and for the next two years I started book after book and didn’t finish any of them. Frustrated, I began to grow discouraged when I watched a video that told me to FINISH things.

Determined to finish something, I used NaNoWriMo in 2018 to help me finish a story I had started while writing my first book in 2016. It took everything I had, but the daily accountability of NaNoWriMo helped dramatically. That November I finished my second book. While my writing had improved, it still wasn’t good. At that time, I wasn’t yet familiar with a good process of revision for my work and the thought of starting over was daunting. Once more, I set aside a book, and looked towards the next project I would finish.

Looking at all the unfinished story ideas I had spent years working on, there was one among them that I thought was small enough in scope that I could finish and finish well. This book, then titled Ravens Cross, was going to be the novel I finished and published. So in 2019, I set out to write my third completed novel. When I finished that draft in July of 2019, I knew it still needed work. However, for the first time I felt like I had something that could be publishable. With a finished draft, I learned how to revise and rewrite, improving the story and characters along the way. It took almost two more years before I finished a draft and published it. You can review this blog post to learn a bit more about my self publishing journey. 

A lot has happened since then. I have not only finished and published a book, but I have finished a trilogy. I realize now that I would not be here if I hadn’t sat down and forced myself to finish the things I start. As a writer, I have focused on finishing each project I start and this has helped me write more consistently and push through those difficult sections that seem to bog writers down.

For fun, I went back and looked at the dates on all of my documents so I can list when each part of my books were finished. Here is a breakdown of the timeline for writing each book in The Ballad of Sorrows:

  • Ravens Cross: Original Incomplete Draft – 10/24/17
  • Child of Fire*: First Full Draft Finished – 7/18/2019
  • Child of Fire: Book Published – 5/7/2021
  • Child of Rot: First Full Draft Finished – 9/5/2022
  • Child of Rot: Published – 6/15/2023
  • Child of Havoc: First Full Draft Finished – 8/28/2023
  • Child of Havoc: Published – 4/30/24

*This draft was originally titled The Pyromancer. 

It took me more than 6 years to finish this story. It still doesn’t get old to finish things. I am proud of how far I have come and I am still looking forward to the new stories I will tell. I have learned so much on this journey and I am grateful for all those who helped me along the way.  Most of all, I am excited to take what I have learned and continue to finish things and share them with others. 

Written by : Austin Colton

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