Finish the Story -->

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

Finish the Story

The opening lines of a story are often the best. When I’m writing, be it something short or novel length, before the idea is fully formed or an outline has been written, it is usually the first few lines that materialize; the story then follows.

Found dead at home…

I love her. I can’t help it. She’s a junkie…

The Earth cracked and nobody knew. The weight and progress of humanity had done its damage…
Finish the story.

When reading a book and I approach the end, I tend to slow down. The ending is bittersweet. I want to prolong the story. Regardless, I still finish the book.

When I’m writing, it’s the same way. To be honest, I’m better at starting stories than finishing them. The process of research and writing and revising is so rich to me that I often want to remain steeped in it for as long as possible. Much of the time, an ending never comes.

On December 20 I was approached by a YA publisher to submit one of my stories for consideration. He had heard of the broad strokes and liked it. I asked if I could have some time to tie up the loose ends. January 12 was the deadline. What I did not tell him was that loose ends meant I needed to start and finish the story.

Prior to our conversation, it was just an idea. Over the next 23 days, I wrote, took notes, jotted ideas, revised, and then submitted a YA novel of 53,300 words. I should hear back anytime between the next 2-24 months. The point is I finished the story.

I do not return books to the library before reading the last chapter. I do not leave movies before the credits start to run. There is no reason not to finish a story. It’s advice that students should hear. Rather than go one more quarter with an incomplete proposal or an undrafted chapter, finish something and submit it. That submitted draft may not be the best and it may need additional work; or, it may be done.

Dissertation Editor and Coordinator of Developmental Editing Tobias Ball holds a BA in Classical and Near Eastern Studies from the University of Minnesota, an MSt in Medieval and Renaissance Studies from Oxford University, and an MLIS from Dominican University. He enjoys writing fiction and poetry.


  1. I love your advice. im a young writer and sometimes its hard to finish a story that i start. its very easy for me to come up with the begging of a story, and or the title, but when it comes to writing the whole story out i just end up not being able to. Therefore i just stop writing the story completly. It doesnt make any sense why you woud leave a movie before the credits were showing so it doesnt make any sense why you should leave a story un-finished. Id love to talk to you about this more, if possible. My email is (

    1. Thanks for your comments, Tiye! At the Walden Writing Center, we focus on academic writing, but much of our tips, advice, and experience can apply to creative writing, too. Many of the Writing Center instructors and editors (like Tobias) are creative writers. Check out our other blog posts for more writing conversation!