The Unsatisfying End of Mandalorian – And What It Did Well Before

Spoiler Aelert


What Mandalorian Has done well

Before I point out the frustrating blunders that the last episode hit us with, let me begin with some praise.

Mandalorian is perhaps the best new thing that has happened for Star Wars and perhaps even Disney. I am not sure I am not the only individual who will claim that I became a subscriber to Disney+ solely for the Mandalorian–but having infinite access to Marvel and Star Wars in my free time certainly helps as well.

But why has this show been such a hit? I have some theories.

The Faceless hero

Mandalorian accepted an outright challenge writing in that our protagonist follows a creed that prohibits him from showing his face. This was not a rule that any of us were really expecting given our prior exposure to Mandalorians like Jango and Bo Katan who had no qualms of showing their face. This felt like a new but welcome piece of added universe building. Why was it welcome though?

Because the challenge merited it.

There’s no shortage of heroes and villains who have had to communicate their emotions through little medium, such as eyes or body language. I remember being quite impressed with Tom Hardy’s performance of Bane, who communicated a seething and pretentious villain with little more than his eyebrows and posture. This challenge is not a unique one, but it’s exciting to see how actors, directors, and writers seek to communicate character depth and emotion without usage of facial expressions.

Our protagonist, Mandalorian, is albeit a rather stoic character who would otherwise without a helmet still come across as rather cold–and I think that’s why we love him too. Still, I vividly remember the scene of him flying off from dropping off Grogu (Baby Yoda) and the feeling of hesitation that was communicated without any words and without any expression.

Lastly, the path taken in this show of having the anonymity of the Mandalorian being so sacred brings some big payoffs when our hero DOES show his face. We see vulnerability against his prejudice for droids, seeing the higher path of accepting help from our Good Samaritan Nurse Droid in order to fulfill his duty to protect others. Even more astounding was seeing him break his code in front of someone who mocks his code (Bill Burr’s character) when he lifts his helmet out of love and concern for rescuing Grogu.

All the characters

But all credit should not be given to just our protagonist. Each and every character feels…full. There’s no proper way to describe it, but with each character we have a succinct feeling for them, a sense of what they are about, what they are like, and what we can expect from them. While there might be a temptation to say such archetypal characters could present as predictable or one-dimensional, I’ll argue that the predictability makes their deviation from their predictability all the more rewarding and the succing nature of each character memorable.

Quil and Cara are examples of simple but fun additions. Both are salty veterans, both offering aid to the galaxy’s finest warrior: the Mandalorian. Yet their talents and view of the war are opposed and rather simple; Quil pragmatically served the Empire with his intellect for his freedom, Cara is a freedom fighter and a brawler who is motivated by hatred for what the Empire had done to her planet. When they meet, we are rewarded with incredible foils: two salty veterans, on different sides, with different talents, but with a similar cause.

To close on this note, we see the IG droid. A friend once told me IG droids were supposed to be formidable and intimidating death machines, yet what we see from Episode 5 is kind of a stock bounty hunter that cosmetically doesn’t even appear all that terrifying. But when the IG droid goes gunslinging, we are wowed and giddy with what he is capable of doing. What makes this character even more affable is his simplicity: he has simple programming, to kill, to get the job done, and to never be taken hostage. This cold killer is lacks a great deal of depth because it is so simple, and yet when we see it reprogrammed, retaught by Quil, and sacrifice itself roundabout to its programming, it feels absolutely complete, without having need for any deep backstory or deeper motives.

A Celebration of fatherhood

I recently became a father, so this one is a bit personal.

I know there’s been a bit of a complaint of our male figures not being sensitive enough, but I think Mandalorian does not roll over to this complaint. Instead, it addresses a deeper need we all have: to witness a loving father.

The Mandalorian throughout is stoic, laconic, and an archetypal male in his flat voice and cowboy demeanor, so the concern we have for the male figure keeps its form. While keeping its form, it slowly introduces the sensitive, but not by highlighting a feature, but by highlighting a role: father.

The Mandalorian changes his materialistic worldview of getting paid and having the best armor for the sake of rescuing and caring for this affable child who is fatherless. Instead of cloistering him in some compartment at the bottom of his ship and ignoring his peevish, childish quirks, he learns to embrace them, handing Grogu the metal ball from his ship, and letting him sit in his lap.

What’s interesting about the resurrection of this figure of the father is that it is hallmark to Star Wars. Fatherhood was a them in every trilogy of Star Wars. In the original series we see an estranged father through Vader and Luke. From the prequels we see an absent father in Anakin’s history supplanted by adopted fathers such as Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and even Sidious. In the most recent trilogy, we explore an adopted fatherhood with the fatherless Rey and a twisted fatherhood with Sidious and Rey. Mandalorian, as a kind of sci-fi western, didn’t need to explore this theme and could have perhaps been just as successful without the theme of fatherhood. And yet it boldly attempts to resurrect and harken back to this theme, and grants us our typical masculine figure who addresses our desire for seeing sensitivity through his role of father.

The Universe

It’s been said before, but it deserves repeating: Mandalorian deepens the sea of the Star Wars Universe rather than just branching off into a shallow stream loosely connected to the franchise. We see similar alien races, similar planets, technology, and hallmarks to each of the trilogies that grants us that blessed feeling of nostalgia; for me, it came in spades as it reintroduced Bobba Fett. Comparitively, the last trilogy of Star Wars movies felt like the latter, a kind of river flowing out from the great sea of Star Wars, going in whatever direction was the path of least resistance until it pooled and puddled into a dirty lake. Sure, the last trilogy tried to echo, like George Lucas’ “poem”, the original trilogy, but the execution of this still felt forced and alien (pardon the puns).

Further, the original Star Wars followed a format that knew worked: the Hero’s Journey. Star Wars, when it came out, felt like it belonged, like it was the natural sci-fi movie to the adventure stories we crave and for the heroes we so love. Mandalorian didn’t necessarily follow Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, but it borrows off of the hallmarks and motifs of a genre we already know and love: Spaghetti Western. Although many hardcore sci-fi fans might argue that Firefly carved out for itself the title as the first sci-fi western, Mandalorian does it in a way that doesn’t feel as though it copies from an already successful franchise, but seeks to be its own entity while still being unabashedly part of this genre.

These are just a shortlist of Mandalorian’s successes that I can personally see, and I’m sure there are many more talking points as to why this series has attracted such great attention. As much as I’d like to continue to highlight what is successful about this story, I feel as though the last episode of this show lends itself to some important pitfalls that we writers need to look out for.

Why Episode Chapter 16 of Mandalorian didn’t deliver

The First underlying problem – No New hope

I will begin my critique by confessing that I, and perhaps many others, are making some assumptions about the end of Mandalorian Season 2. It seems as though the chapter of Mando and Grogu is finished, and we have every reason to believe a new book unfolds as we literally see Bobba take Jabba’s throne with the cryptic “The Book of Bobba Fett” opening. This is problematic, but I should begin by praising one thing this series seems to intend to do well on: don’t milk a series.

We have every reason to believe that Mando and Grogu are going their seperate ways in such a heart-breaking finalle. Mando has taken his helmet off, and Grogu goes off with Luke as the completion of Mando’s quest to reunite him with his kind. We knew this was the goal from Season 1, and it is mission accomplished. As hard as it was to see that parting, it reassures me that Disney is not going to unabashedly limp a series along until it gets old or sickly, but will seek to constantly infuse new life with new creative material.

That being said, seeing Grogu leave with Luke is perhaps my first problem. There was nothing spectacular about Luke’s arrival in the last episode, as the first sign of the X-Wing and the green saber were clear tells of who our rescuer was…but I digress, and this is not my first complaint. My real complaint comes from foreknowledge of episode 8, knowing of Kylo Ren’s execution of Luke’s padawans. I confess I am inferring that all Luke’s disciples are killed by Kylo and that we could all just as easily assume Grogu makes it out alive just as miraculously as Bobba makes it out alive of the sarlac pit. That being said, it’s a grim foreshadowing, so that departure with Luke didn’t make that parting silver lined at all or brighter…it made it only more hollow and despondent. For such a bitter good-bye, please Disney, give us some hope.

Plot holes

This was perhaps the most problematic phenomena in the last episode of Season 2. As mentioned above, we don’t have a lot to go off of that Mando’s plot arch will go anywhere else. He has his armor, he delivered the child, and the very last scene features Bobba, not Mando; I’m not complaining about such a grim and delicious scene of Bobba reclaiming Jabba’s palace, but it gives absolutely no closure to the plot arch we had been following. I have every reason to believe that Mando will become a cameo to whatever spin offs we see come down the pipe, that the new “Mandalorian” will in fact be Bobba, and that everything we began with Mando will fall into the background.

And there’s a lot that has fallen into the background…

To begin, Mando’s history. We see flashes of his family being attacked by the seperatist droids–an incredibly well filmed flashback that makes the droids seem so much more haunting than their comical previous installments. These flashbacks made me want to know Mando more, to see his progression into the Mandalorian creed. So what promise do we have of going back into his past if he is not the center of attention? And if Grogu is not his infant side-kick who affords him moments of vulnerability, how will we access that rich past? Perhaps it is doable still if somehow Mando returns for a Season 3 without Grogu, but knowing this was dropped in Season 2 felt like a hollow tease.

Perhaps more important of a plot hole was the darksaber. There was a lot of hype for this since the end of season 1, and perhaps the height of Chapter 16 was that tension between Mando and Bo Katan. I was convinced to see a content between the two warriors right then and there, and instead we are given absolutely no closure as to the possession of the darksaber by the end of the episode. Perhaps it would have been too much to wrap all up in the last episode, but lets face it, season 2 had its share of “fill in” episodes such as frog lady which could have extended the finale instead of throwing in a wayword quest.

On top of the darksaber is the status of Gideon. Is it problematic to the Mandalorians that he is left alive as we are given the impression when he is taken in? Is he arrested by Cara or just executed? The final clash of Gideon and Mando was lackluster at best, and his futile stunt with the blaster in the end only made him seem even more feeble than the warlord we were delivered in season 1. So what of him? Not even a word from Cara of his arrest, or of execution orders from Bo Katan? Again, a dissonant thread left unwoven into the greater plot.

And then there’s the clones. Now, perhaps the clones that Gideon attempted to make via Grogu will show up in one of the new spin-offs, though I think I felt most excited by this plot arch in season 2 and hoped that our heroes’ journey would revolve around the investigation and destruction of this project. And yet all we hear are allusions to the project from Gideon, that he has Grogu’s blood and that the process has begun. But then the subject is dropped, and then we are left to consider the most frustrating question: what’s most important? Is it the clones? Is it the darkblade? Is it Grogu?

And then there’s the potential of the dark side within Grogu. Ahsoka opened up for us another possibility for an interesting plot arch, involving Grogu’s exploration of his powers and his potentiality of having the dark side within him. I believe the scene featuring Grogu tossing around the stormtroopers like rag dolls and then also seeing him force choke Cara from season 1 were teases of this possible plot arch. This tension easily could have made all of season 2, and would have had an incredible unfolding given Grogu follows a morally ambiguous character whose only moral compass is in an archaic creed that he finds himself wavering in. Again, great potential for plot wasted or left empty by the end, leaving us feeling unsatisfied and perhaps even fatigued to wait for whatever comes out by 2021.

The God machine

There’s a device in literature often used when the plot kind of backs itself into the corner: Deus ex machina.

I think the first time I was bothered by its occurrence was in the frog lady episode, wherein the Rebel fighters find Mando and help him kill the spiders attacking their ship. Now, the rebels in that particular episode weren’t as frustrating of a ploy of “the god machine” because at least we know the rebels exist in this galaxy and we were already introduced to them in the beginning of this episode. However, their opportune arrival and then casual leaving doesn’t leave us with a sense that Mando or the Rebels have grown in their relationship or learned anything, but rather feels like a kind of slight reminder that the Rebels are the good guys. Combine this frustration with their short appearance with Cara later on which, again, culminates into nothing.

But the “god machine” really felt as it took place in this episode in two different ways: the darktroopers, and Luke.

The darktroopers, albeit not too nuanced and actually appearing as quite sinister, lose their luster after they are expelled from the imperial cruiser and then come back when we all remember: they are droids, with jetbacks, and need not breathe. Their return to the cruiser to create some tension for our heroes feels like a vain ploy, a panicked invention of the writers saying, “oh wait, we need one more big setback, especially to reintroduce an old hero!” Perhaps instead Mando could have detonated said dark troopers and then we could give some space for Gideon to pull one more over all our heads through his tactical genius so that perhaps we could fear and despise him properly again. Instead, the darktroopers return for the sake of Luke’s arrival.

The clashing of these two “god machines” is self-defeating. Luke’s arrival needed to be grand, and so the dark troopers return to make us all feel that the battle isn’t really won, and then this problem we see is solved by this deified force that slaughters the droids without any issue. It’s a wholly unimpressive scene which I believe comes from one writing themselves into a corner. Despite not feeling any hope seeing Luke recruit Grogu, we needed Grogu to be reunited with his kind, and so Luke had to arrive. But his arrival needed to coincide with all the other plot points that have been ongoing throughout the series: the darksaber, the clones, Gideon, Bo Katan, etc.

Perhaps the intention was to evoke a kind of nostalgia of seeing our old hero return, after the galactic civil war had ended. Still, the feeling of nostalgia was not captured in this episode as I found Luke’s arrival as not only overly simplified, but also upstaging of our true heroes: Mando, Grogu, Cara, and even Bo Katan.

Give us the child

An unfortunate part of Season 2 was having Grogu absent for much of the second half. I realize that the plot perhaps had to go this route and that season 2 might have felt like “nothing can go wrong” without his capture, but there was a definite risk and loss in having his capture take place in Chapter 14. Just when we see Mando and Grogu’s relationship really blossom in Chapter 13, then we are given an episode of Grogu meditating for most of it–albeit, we are reintroduced to Bobba in a fantastic way–have almost no exposure to him in Chapter 15, and then really only a good heaping of it in Chapter 16.

First off, this is precious time to develop emotional build and pay-off for Mando and Grogu’s final parting. Keeping the two characters away and showing very little of Grogu in the process doesn’t reinforce the endearing feelings that we received in Chapter 13 when we see Mando inspire Grogu to use his powers. Instead, I felt atrophe for their connection, and then a kind of unfairness knowing the two would not see each other again–and not so much an emotional unfairness that serves to make the audience feel a certain way, but more so a literary mistake that didn’t follow through on what it attempted to deliver.

Lastly, Grogu is part of the reason why we love Mandolorian. Sure, the series is a fun spaghetti western in space with an awesome cast, but Grogu was the center of our memes for such a time. Season 1 did something incredible in not only being bold enough to return to an epoch of puppet use in cinema, but to perfect it, creating a character that feels so real and that could steal all our hearts so easily. It’s a mystery how Grogu became so beloved so quickly, so then when we see so little of him for the final episodes of Season 2 it feels like we’ve missed half the show, the other protagonist we know, love, and care about.

In conclusion

There are plenty of other series that deserve perhaps this amount of heat or more. But because Mandalorian has been such a genius, well-intentioned, and heart-capturing piece of art, I believe that the conclusion of this series/season deserves some criticism.

I am willing to accept that some of my critique is perhaps off-base or inaccurate, but what might be useful for every author reading is to consider the emotional reactions we seek from our audience.

Mandalorian created incredible characters that we cared about, rooted for, cried for. We ought to take a page from their book as we look to create/forge our own characters.

Mandalorian evokes feelings with subtle details, and we too should explore how some of these details and movements can be exploited in our own work.

And finally, we should keep a leery eye out for a quick and easy finish that is tempting to use for the sake of closing our own stories, and keep mining for avenues to take in our literature so that what we write/create feels whole, contained, and not empty or incomplete by the ending.

And with that…”I have spoken”.

9 Writing Mistakes to Avoid So Your Book Doesn’t Take 9 Years to Publish

I began writing my first book in October of 2011, and now my publishment goal is December of 2020 (as I revisit this post, I’m looking actually at my first book being published in October 2021 INSTEAD! 10 YEARS!).

Did you come here for encouragement that you can knock out your book in just a few years? Don’t get too discouraged by my example. I’d like to encourage that dream of yours, and I’d like to give you some insight of what were the hiccups in my writing process that took this a long 9 years to get to the finish line of publishment.

I’ll be real with you, there were some big life events that put hiccups in the writing process, and there’s no way to account for all these. Still, I feel that the factors that have pushed my first book back into nine years of labor fell more me as a writer rather than me having a life.

As I think of the factors that got in the way of my writing, I think I could perhaps break the nine reasons into 3 categories which might be helpful: Energy, Craft, and Momentum. Writing is something we should want to do, something we are passionate about, and all that comes from our creative energy or fuel. Craft is our practice of getting better at writing, and although the best way to get better is to practice, proper planning can help us so that our limitations in our writing craft doesn’t get in the way of our writing process. Lastly is momentum, because if writing takes a fuel to kick it into motion, than we better hope to have something that can keep the wheels turning lest we hit a pothole. Thinking in these categories might help you identify what’s getting in the way of your writing process, what’s slowing down your progress towards publication, and while I’m sure there are more than 9 factors that get in the way of our writing, consider these categories as you see your book taking some time to being put to the press.

So, without further ado, allow me to encourage you in your dream of publishment and take heed of these nine factors that got in the way of me finishing and publishing my first book.

1. Vision

Vision is what promotes a great work environment. Having worked for a board of taskmasters whose only mission/vision statement was “we’re in this, all-together” to a state-wide organization that promoted, “to improve the well-being of those we serve by providing highest quality care and service”, I can attest that any entity–whether an individual or a corporation–excels when they have “their eye on the prize”.

We want to make sure we know what our book is about, specifically what aim we are looking to accomplish. For some time I’ve been an action movie junkie, enjoying a good flick because it promises a thrilling plot and flashy action and beautiful cinematography or graphics, but provides little in substance when speaking about theme or motif. This reflected in some of my earliest books growing up, writing up action-packed plots and fantastical characters in a cookie-cutter “good conquers evil” motif without really having any central “why” to it.

I confess, my first book began as such. I’d seen one Halloween a preacher standing on a soap box, decrying a crowd of costumed celebrants for putting on a mask and celebrating Halloween. I thought to myself, “that’d make a good opening to a book” without really putting much thought into what my intention with such a plot would be.

What helped me with my first book was wondering what the impact I wanted on my readers, or more specifically how I wanted my audience to change in reading the book. The “change” I reference here is not so much a total shift in ideas or lifestyle, but rather a change in thinking about a certain subject, of breaking some assumptions, of spurring some self-reflection on the topic of identity.

Before sitting down and writing that juicy prologue, consider at least one intended impact your book will have on the audience. Other impacts may sprout up as you write and some unintended impacts may also happen. But having a central “why” to your work is profitable not only in the writing business, but in every business.

Take a page from Nietzsche, that he who has a proper why, can bear any how. Consider your Why, your Theme, Your Impact. This is the first bit of fuel of energy we can use in our writing.

2. Readers

It is in my nature to have very few but very intimate relationships as opposed to many relationships that don’t have quite as much depth. Such is the problem I face with my readers in the writing and editing process.

I have a very strong reader who has not only offered me tips on writing style, but also feedback on character dynamics, critique as to how the plot does and does not serve my theme, and overall someone who has been an invested critic in the best sense of the word “critic”. My book and writing has grown so much from this one loyal reader, editor, and friend who I speak to weekly.

But my regret is not seeking out more of them. It’s easy to get protective of one’s own writing, but having few readers/editors on this journey with you from the start gives you more to catch up on as you start putting plans in to publish. I’ve had to scurry around to find readers who can offer multiple perspectives on not only the plot of the book but also my writing style.

I highly recommend having that one close critic you can lean on from the start, but somewhere in this journey–preferably earlier rather than later–start looking for other readers and editors who are happy to join you on your book’s journey towards its final draft.

You’ll find that having someone who is eagerly looking forward to your next chapter spurs you to keep writing, continues to fuel that creative energy knowing that you already have a “fan base” and people who are invested in your story and its progression. Fuel that tank and find those connections. Of course, use discernment when picking your audience, making sure you are selecting an audience you can trust and an audience that will groove with your genre, and make sure you have a few in your circle who are writers themselves.

3. Boredom & Distractions

Over my lifetime, this has been the greatest killer of my creative energy and of my “works in progress” that have never seen their end. Some of you writers out there may be like me, plagued with the gift of having too many ideas. As you are writing, or editing, you may find yourself tinkering on the side, working on the skeleton or a teaser chapter for another project that you promise you’ll only start once your current piece is at its final draft.

Do not trust such thoughts unless you are sure you are ready to can your book.

I’ve lost months to working on unrelated projects, beginnings of new novels that now have been put on the shelf.

The attraction of this fleeting spirit is that it’s a promise we make to ourselves that we will return to our beloved project once we’ve rejuvenated from a break, like a misguided teenage couple that says, “lets see other people for a while”.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be so harsh on this note as breaks sometimes do provide the much needed energy to return to one’s work with rejuvenation, new ideas, and a fresh perspective. Just be careful that it doesn’t become a repeating cycle of canning half-finished books.

I’ll close on that note that discipline is needed in the writing and editing process. Obviously writer’s fatigue sets in and stunts our ability to go back to the manuscript. In the same way that a new project might seem rejuvenating, we also might tell ourselves that taking a break to get caught up on our favorite Netflix series, to log some more hours into our favorite video game, or going down a YouTube rabbit hole might provide the necessary relief along with some new ideas. All things in moderation, but beware that this quickly becomes an excuse to leave a project when we feel the energy leaving from us in the writing process.

4. Plot

What honestly took up a lot of time in the beginning of my book was plotting, and I say this knowing that there are many schools of thought when it comes to plotting a book.

I’ll begin by saying the first rendition of my story was just a snapshot of character introductions, a haphazard montage of some eccentric heroes and villains, without any real direction as to how exactly they would all converge. Well, once I narrowed down from those characters a kind of plot forward, I came to find that I was spitting out chapters sequentially, writing in chapters for universe building, but not actually ever addressing the plot until far too late into the story.

My editor/friend one day on the phone said, “Don’t you think it’s about time we find out what the heroes are after and what this story is about?”

Now, I know that writing without a clear plot sometimes works for authors. I believe Steven King advocated for this route. If it works for you, you an probably skip this section.

Still, I caution anyone beginning a new project to at the very least to have a clear beginning, end, and idea of important “stops along the road”. For this process I highly recommend using either bullets in a word document or going free-hand with a plot arch. As you plot, keep in mind the “utility” of each chapter and what theme or emotion that will be at the spotlight, lest you find that some of your chapters are there to fill in space or to merely link up two points in your hero’s navigation of their quest.

If you really struggle with plotting out a story and feel that using a plot arch might help you provide a bit of a skeleton, I highly recommend looking into Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey”. It’s a 12-point skeleton that lots of ancient and modern stories follow. Some follow this arch tightly, others loosely, which I think is helpful if you know what kind of story and characters you want but aren’t quite sure about the progression of the trials they are to encounter.

As you perfect your writing craft you’ll find plotting theories that work best for you, but knowing that skeleton early on helps keep the finish line always in your sight, and helps you have a kind of measurement of how long your book might take to write.

5. Character Development

So many of my revisions came down to me being unhappy with my characters. Maybe I didn’t like how they looked. Maybe I though they were too dry. Maybe I just didn’t like their name. But I will freely admit that a big part of my problem in writing is that I enjoy working with many characters instead of being confined to few.

I highly recommend making character “profiles” somewhere, wherein you at least write down or think about a few key points: what’s their backstory, what are two or three defining features about them that you can especially use towards enriching the narrative, what they want, and what they offer to the story/plot. Even if you throw in a two-bit antagonist who literally just needs to stand in the way of the hero for one chapter, consider those points as it will have an impact on your narrative.

A problem I suffered in character creation/development was having “gimmicky” characters that felt like flashy fill ins to add to the universe, but didn’t actually contribute to the plot. I ended up going through so many revisions just to breathe a bit of life into these sorts of characters and to contemplate what real impact they would have on the story. It’s to be expected that characters will continue to grow as you continue to write and edit, but the more thought you can put into each character’s backstory and their impact on other characters the better position you’ll be in before doing dozens of rewrites.

Another problem some of you might share in with me is the temptation to write out a full rendering of your characters’ appearances. Save yourself the trouble. Despite how badly we want our readers to know EXACTLY what our favorite hero or villain looks like, adding too many details will only get in the way of discerning actual details that will be remembered or that will mean something throughout the story. Limit yourself to three key features, make sure to have one or two of them pop up in the narrative or the action to keep bringing that character to life, and let your readers fill in the rest.

6. Writing Style

One of my biggest regrets is not spending more time on my writing style before beginning my book. Going through old chapters to clean up to clean up run on sentences, passive voice, and a smattering of other syntax hiccups is not only time consuming, but also disheartening. In the editing process I’d often just highlight paragraphs and tell my future self “remove and rewrite all over again” because some sentences and paragraphs were just unsalvagable.

If you’re going through your manuscript for the first time and shaking your head and saying, “why on earth did I write that” or ” do I really write like that” don’t get too bent out of shape. When we start a project or are racing to get to the finish we will often ignore syntax for the sake of finishing the project.

To this end, I have two suggestions of how to improve your writing so as to reduce your time editing for syntax. The first suggestion is to make sure to be reading something as you are writing, specifically a book that fits the tone and audience that you are writing. Learning the narrative pattern of other published authors gives us a kind of alignment in our writing, because chances are that published author probably studied another successful author before they published their first work. The second piece of advice–which runs somewhat contrary to point #3 of getting distracted–is try writing small projects on the side that can sit on their own. Writing is an exercise and a skill that we need to grow in. We can use our novel to help hone that skill, though it may come at the cost of doing a lot more editing in the end. Work on a short story, nothing too ambitious, and have someone read it for readability instead of content.

I also encourage investing some time in listening/reading from other authors who offer advice–no this isn’t a self plug. I’ve spent hours watching youtube tutorials on the “dos and donts” of novel writing, dialog, plotting, publishing, etc. By listening to accomplished authors and editors on any myriad of writing topics will help you spot out your own blindspots in writing so that when you get to the finish line you don’t double your work after you find that one ill-attended blindspot.

And make sure to ask your readers what’s their opinion on your writing style. Do they find your sentences/paragraphs too lengthy or confusing? Is your vocab too lofty or misused? Do you write more thoughts and universe building instead of scenery or emotion? Do you write too much scenery or emotion? Get a second opinion, compare your style to your favorite authors that fit into your genre, and save yourself some time from doing serious facelifts at the very end.

7. Goal Setting

The last three topics are that of momentum, and setting goals is such a huge help in not just getting your book finished but also in keeping that writing discipline going strong. Not all of us can be career writers where deadlines are set for us, so being your own manager and staying self-motivated is important for us who are doing this on the side.

Setting goals such as “I’m going to finish this chapter in x days/weeks” or “I’m going to finish revising this buy the month of…” has helped me light a candle under my butt so that my writing time doesn’t suffer. When we’ve taken a break from our book or are finding it hard to open up the laptop and go back to the manuscript, having a looming deadline serves as a great motivator.

It goes without saying to make these goals reasonable and so that other parts of your life won’t suffer for your writing ambition. But also make sure that you have micro and macro goals, ideals of when large parts of your book might get finished, and small reasonable goals for the day or week of what you’d like to see accomplished.

8. Editing Fatigue

I swear it’s a real thing. We all have an inner critic that either kills our momentum as we are writing something new because we are afraid its not our best work, or that nagging compulsion to go back and totally revise an old chapter so that it fits with the new direction/character/whatever we have beset ourselves on.

I find that going back and editing chapters during the first draft process to rarely be of help. Still, I confess that I participate in this vice, that sometimes I can’t help but feel compelled to write an entirely new chapter so that I’m confident about my new direction for my book going forward.

Although I’ve mentioned above how not doing all you can in your writing craft of perfecting your plot, characters, and writing style at the start will cost time in the end, one must be careful that the constant editing doesn’t completely squash one’s motivation to write and to go forward with their first draft.

The truth is, when you get to your 2nd+ draft, you will be doing entire transplants of sentences, paragraphs, and chapters, so letting our anxiety of whether or not our chapter “was good enough” stop you in completing your first draft is really only to our detriment.

9. Writer’s Block

The best for last. Or rather the worst.

Much like true suffering, writer’s blocks are sometimes inexplicable. Sometimes we are merely at a loss for words. Sometimes we see the scene ahead of us and see it as an impossible thing to pen out. Sometimes our characters are just not working out the scene or dialog we intended and so we just leave the keyboard and chose not to return for some time.

Writer’s block is paralyzing, and it kills our momentum.

But what do we do about it?

A temporary break from the keyboard, I find, sometimes DOES alleviate the problem. Sometimes staring at the screen and knowing how much more I have to say is a crippling thing that requires a break. Sometimes I cannot write or finish a scene because I don’t know what’s supposed to happen next. Take a shower, take a walk, sit in silence, pray, mow the lawn, but do something to get away to do some thinking. I think subconsciously the bright screen of my computer is often pressuring me to write, and this is where the paralysis comes, and that somehow when I don’t have to focus on looking at something, when there isn’t that impatient screen looking back at me, I find my relief.

Or just write. And write it bad. Get the bad draft out of the way so that you can get to the good stuff. I say this as someone who has done entire rewrites of chapters and feels liberated after the 2nd and 3rd rewrite. Even if you are on your 3rd or 4th draft, if you can’t get over that writer’s block through a healthy break, then just plow right through and see what your reader might have to offer, or wait and see what might strike you for inspiration later.


This is by no means an exhaustive list of issues you may encounter in your writing, editing, and publishment of your magnum opus. But I write all this knowing the frustration of telling interested readers, “oh yeah, it’s been about 9 years of work I had to put into it…” I admit there’s some pride in knowing how much labor has gone into my first book, but I also look at that time as being years lost of working on something else as well.

Don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself in the same category as me or if you find yourself struggling in any of those 9 areas. You can get your book published. But it starts right now. So close this tab and get back to your manuscript!

And if you have any other obstacles that have gotten in the way of your book or would like to share how long its taken for you to get your book published, leave a comment below!