Publish or Perish

August’s issue of Inside Columbia put out a call for hopeful authors to participate in a 9-month Publish or Perish challenge. By now participants should have a good amount of words to start working with. August’s product is one of two things: a solid footing, where a cohesive book is forming, or a variety, in which some unique part stands out to build upon.

At most, writers have eagerly tackled a word count. Perhaps there is even a concluded first draft. First drafts are not final products. Marlene Lee, Columbia resident, is author of five published works, including “The Absent Woman” and “No Certain Home.” “I revise over and over and over again,” says Lee. “For me, it’s the most important part of writing.”

At the very least, a plethora of diverse ideas are on the page and it is time to form something cohesive. Some part has the potential to become amazing.

“Don’t be skeptical about your own ability and the worthiness of your ambition,” Lee says.

At any point in this journey it is acceptable to start back at the beginning, but it will become increasingly difficult to reach the end goal with each delay. It is more productive to review and move forward.

Fiction writers should watch for an emerging clear story. Are there characters, setting and a plot? One of those will be stronger and come more easily. Weaker areas can grow and develop, even as the stronger areas continue to shine.

Non-fiction works benefit from clarity of topic. Critical facts require accurate sources. Just as with fiction, non-fiction varies in style — from creative to textbook informative. Each style will suit a different goal. Knowing the goal matters.

It is unlikely that many have completed a full text, so writers should continue writing through September. However, while complete abandon was acceptable in August, it is time to ensure that words have a healthy degree of focus.

Word count is a good guideline for a draft completion target. Novels tend to average around 90,000 words. Genre matters here, so it is a good idea to Google “word count” and a specific genre for target word count ranges. There are always valid exceptions, but shooting for the norm will lend a work market appeal. Upcoming months of quality editing will reduce content, so it is wise to adjust accordingly for the first draft.

September is also a good time for content-based considerations. Now is the time to research, without getting lost in it. Return August’s writing book(s) to the Daniel Boone Regional Library and pick up something related to your topic. Talk to someone you know about your book and be open to suggestions.

Be especially bold. Look up some of the open writing communities in town and head to a meeting. The Columbia Writers Guild ( is a vibrant and diverse community. Lori Younker, former president of the Columbia Writers Guild and author of “Mongolian Interior: An Expatriate Experience,” says, “The Columbia Writers Guild is growing in its mission to ‘nurture writers.’ They do an amazing job of bringing speakers and events to Columbia for the benefit of writers at all levels of expertise.”

Perhaps even register for the 3rd Annual ShowMe Writers Masterclass ( This two-day event is on Oct. 28 and 29, 2017, and has tracks for creative non-fiction, fiction and playwriting/screenwriting.

Attend one of the many book talks in town. Meet the Author is a free monthly event at the Boone County Historical Museums and includes an opening act, SMALL (Students Making Art from Language for Listeners) talk. Details can be found at The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute hosts a monthly Saturday Morning Book Talk, which costs $3. Details can be found at Orr Street’s Hearing Voices/Seeing Visions is beginning its fall schedule ( The University of Missouri, the Daniel Boone Regional Library and Barnes and Noble also offer periodic writer and reader events.

For the month of September, Publish or Perish participants should keep writing, but it is also time to step into the rich writing culture in Columbia.

“Don’t do it alone,” Younker says. “Get with others and find your writing circle. Search and seek until you have that small community that supports you through the process of experimentation, trial and error.”

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