Finishing School (Paperback)

The Happy Ending to That Writing Project You Can't Seem to Get Done

By Cary Tennis, Danelle Morton

TarcherPerigee, 9780399184703, 272pp.

Publication Date: January 10, 2017

List Price: 16.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


All too many people start a writing project with grand ambitions but reach a crisis of completion. Finishing School helps writers reignite the passion that started them on the project in the first place and work steadily to get it done.

Untold millions of writing projects—begun with hope and a little bit of hubris—lie abandoned in desk drawers, in dated files on computer desktops, and in the far reaches of the mind. Too often, writers get tangled in self-abuse—their self-doubt, shame, yearning for perfection, and even arrogance get in the way. In Finishing School, Cary Tennis and Danelle Morton help writers overcome these emotional blocks and break down daunting projects into manageable pieces.
      Tennis first convened a Finishing School so that writers could help one another stay on track and complete their work. Since they weren’t actually critiquing one another’s writing, there was no jockeying for the title of best writer or the usual writing group politics; there was only a shared commitment to progress. Without guilt, blame, and outside critique, students were more productive than they imagined possible. Through this program, they were able to complete novels that they’d been struggling with for almost two decades, finish screenplays drafts, and revive interest in long-neglected PhD theses. In this book, the authors share this proven and easily replicable technique, as well as their own writing success stories.

About the Author

Cary Tennis wrote the advice column "Since You Asked," which appeared on for twelve years. As an advice columnist, he never missed a deadline, but in his literary writing, he found himself stalled. Through the Finishing School method that he created, he completed his novel and now helps others through theirs in his writing workshops and international retreats. 

Danelle Morton
 is a journalist and the coauthor of fifteen books. Morton has worked for The New York Times, was an associate bureau chief for People, and has been a foreign correspondent. She was a finalist for the PEN/USA Literary Nonfiction Award and the ASME magazine award in the public interest category. She has received investigative journalism grants from The Nation Institute and the George Polk Foundation.

Praise For Finishing School: The Happy Ending to That Writing Project You Can't Seem to Get Done

"The authors of Finishing School, a unique and genuinely helpful guide to actually completing that magnum opus drawing dust on your cluttered desk, help you remember why it is you wanted to write your book and understand the long and challenging work of sustaining a project through pesky blocks, the loss of energy and enthusiasm, the omnipresent fear of not getting it right, and crippling deadline pressure. Tennis and Morton are writers; they feel our pain. More importantly they get the pleasure of creation and know how to instill it in those who have lost their way. This book helped me."
George Hodgman, New York Times bestselling author of Bettyville

"I love Cary Tennis's mind, and heart, and work."
—Anne Lamott, New York Times bestselling author of Bird by Bird

“A must for every writer and artist of any kind, Finishing School belongs on the bookshelf right next to Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Stephen King’s On Writing. I can't wait to tell every writer I know to buy it.”
—Cole Kazdin, four-time Emmy-winning television news producer, writer, and performer

"Cary Tennis and Danelle Morton accomplish something remarkable in Finishing School—an actually useful book for writers (or anyone) about how to complete a project and not let their doubts, fears, or anything else interfere with successful completion of an article, a novel, or a dramatic play. And they do it in simple, easy steps that make sense and will resonate with anyone who writes."
—David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times bestselling author of The Making of Donald Trump

"Finishing School is the ideal book for writers who are great at starting things but not so great at completing them. Cary Tennis and Danelle Morton know the reasons a piece of writing, begun with such enthusiasm, can languish on a shelf for years. With wisdom and compassion, they’ll inspire you to cross the finish line."
—Sy Safransky, editor and publisher of The Sun

“Practical and specific, Finishing School guides the writer who needs structure. It is for the writer who has abandoned a dream part-way through. ‘You did not keep your promise to your story,’ the authors say. ‘The project becomes your adversary. . . .The answer is Finishing School.’  For a great many writers, it will be so.”
Pat Schneider, author of Writing Alone and With Others and founder of Amherst Writers & Artists

"With warmth, humor, and a really personal touch, Tennis and Morton show you how to neutralize the emotional barriers that impede writing—including fear, doubt, and shame—and provide a great plan for the actual writing and finishing of your book. Even if you've read plenty of other creativity books, you'll find lots of great insights here."
—Hillary Rettig, author of The 7 Secrets of the Prolific

“This book insightfully pinpoints the importance of time budgeting and management, and of setting reasonable expectations for completion. . . . its advice and methodology will be useful for countless writers and would-be writers, and for people wanting to complete unfinished projects of any kind.”
Publishers Weekly

"Countless writers have dream projects they just can’t seem to get finished or even off the ground, a problem that Tennis and Morton tackle with a combination of sensitivity and practicality. . . . Straightforward and realistic, Finishing School offers a viable option for anyone longing to complete a writing project."