Quit While You’re Ahead


The Heart and Craft of Writing


Lesson Info

Quit While You’re Ahead

I want to, while we have our time together kind of buzz ahead to some more practical tricks that I've learned to kinda keep me at it. Quitting while you're ahead. I learned this from the Why YA author Blake Nelson. My MO, when I'm sitting down to write is I'm just gonna write until it's all out of me. I'm just gonna sit down and beat myself with a stick until all this stuff comes out. I have this sort of like, I wrote for four hours today. Tomorrow I'm gonna write for five hours. It's a sort of like self-battering work ethic, that I can get some weird pride out of, so I was really shocked when my friend was like, "Oh, when I'm writing, I'm writing a story where these kids "are gonna go into the high school, "and then there's going to be a fire, "I write right up to when they're walking "into the high school, and then "when I know there's gonna be a fire, I quit. "I go back tomorrow, and I write the fire." I'm like, "But you already, I just feel like "as long as you know what is happeni...

ng next, "don't you keep writing?" He's like, "No, you leave yourself something great "to ease into, you quit while you're ahead, "and it's so much more gentle." When I started doing that, it really is. To me, it felt very counter-intuitive, but it made me really look at the ways that some of my writing practices are a little bit abusive to myself. I think that a lot of writers can have those sort of, again, it's the myth of that writer. I'm so passionate about my craft, I'm gonna let it kill me. You know what I mean? You don't have to write like that. It doesn't make you a better writer, doesn't make your work better, so I really recommend trying that out. If you know where you're going, get almost there, and then leave yourself a little present for when you come back. It makes a lot easier to come back when you kind of let it all out. I'm working on a book right now where I've done that a lot. I'm like, I gotta get them to this place, and now I don't know what's gonna happen. I'll figure that out next time. Guess what, it's gonna take me double time to get back 'cause I don't know what they're gonna do next, and I'm intimidated, I'm scared, I'm filled with dread, but if I know that they're gonna take a bus to New Orleans, and I just get them on the bus, when I come back, I can get them to New Orleans, and I'm excited about it. I've been thinking about it. I think that this is something that scientists have proved. When we have these kind of problems that we're trying to figure out, our brain is working on them, subconsciously, even when we are not consciously at it. I think that you can use that to your advantage a little bit when you know like, "I know they're gonna go to New Orleans. "I'm not quite sure what's happening after that." Your gears are turning, and when you sit back down, you get them to New Orleans, and then you're a little bit more fresh, you haven't beaten yourself up, you can make things happen for them. I really recommend that, and I also recommend being nice to yourself as your practice, in general. Like, do you have a writing practice that sorta beats you up a little bit? Like, question that, it doesn't have to be that.

Class Description

If you’ve embarked on the process of writing your first book, there’s a good chance that you’re struggling a bit. Books are big, unwieldy creatures, and even the bravest of among us can feel overwhelmed by the thought of filling all those hundreds of blank pages with intelligent, effervescent words.

Award-winning author, editor and teacher Michelle Tea offers this class to help you believe in your abilities as a writer, stick to your goal and push through that first draft. She’ll outline some of the key tricks to writing a great book and inspire you to produce the vibrant, sparkling and unique work that’s inside your head and waiting to come out.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Be specific and avoid vagueness.
  • Bring your five senses to your writing by including sound, light, scent, texture and taste in every scene.
  • Find your pacing: write slow, write strong.
  • Show, don’t tell.
  • Build your unique voice and create a shelf of voices you wish your voice to be in conversation with.
  • Keep your editing brain away from your creative brain.



What a wonderful class! Michelle is knowledgeable, authentic, generous and open-hearted with her experience and advice. She offers a genuine sense of validation and practical tips for new writers. I especially liked her thoughts on how to carve out a space for your writing.