Mark Teppo is the author of more than a dozen novels, ranging across a number of genres. He lives in the Pacific Northwest, where he shuffles books around on shelves in an endless effort to find more space.

He's also the publisher of Underland Press, an independent press that focuses on the strange and weird in crime, horror, and fantastic fiction, where he is curating the Underland Tarot, a series of anthologies that will encompass the Major Arcana of the Tarot.

You may find him online at

Finish Your Novel! by Mark Teppo

Sure, you've got a really awesome outline, a notebook full of character sketches, and your work space is overflowing with "research" materials, but that blank page is still staring at you. Getting ready to write a book is one thing, but actually putting all the words down on the page—in the right order, more or less—can be even harder than coming up with a clever idea or two. Especially when you might have a full-time job already or a family that wants to see you at least once a month or more. How do these writers do it? How do they find the time and the persistence to actually finish a book?

Finish Your Novel! is the guidebook for getting all that work done. Here are tips to get from Plot Point A to B to R without getting too distracted along the way, as well as methods to find a rhythm and make it yours. Plus charts and boxes and stuff that will round out a full call to action. A call that will help you finish that novel!



  • "I had intended to read it in sections as I had time, but once I started reading it I couldn't put it down until I had finished the whole book! The experience was less like "reading" a book and more like having a conversation with the author – a funny, irreverent, engaging – and ultimately confidence building conversation. At the end of this literary conversation, I was inspired that I could actually finish the book I had been struggling with for years. He really de-mystified the process of writing and distilled it down to some simple rules such as make time " to put your but in the chair" and "give yourself permission to make s…. up".

    – Goodreads Review
  • "Teppo's engaging voice is both informative and amusing; this guide lacks the polemics and invectives common to some species of writing guides—those plodding, obvious collections of exercises without any useful direction. Teppo keeps his guide relevant by packing it with relatable analyses and down-to-Earth suggestions to help writers at any level."

    – Darin Bradley, author of Totem



Writing is hard.

Let's just say that up front, because it's a large part of why we're all here. There's an old saying that "authors" are people who "like to have written," and "writers" are people who "are writing." Writing is, like any other profession, a job that you only get better at by doing. Some have innate talent, which gives them a jump on the rest of us, but mostly, it's dull, dreary work of getting your butt in the chair and yanking words out of your brain.

Every November, there's a national frenzy called NaNoWriMo, which is a lovely group excuse to put aside everything else and go write. Lovely for the thirty days that is November, but what happens on the first of December? Or the eighth of May? Or any other day of the year? There's all kind of life stuff going on, isn't there? Stuff that gives you an excuse not to write, because—let's be honest with ourselves here—writing probably isn't your main revenue stream. Writing is something you yearn to do—something that speaks to a quivering bit of your soul. Something that you tell yourself you have to do or you'll go bonkers.

If that is what writing is for you, then you are not alone with your frustration and panic. Writing takes time, and time is a commodity that always seems to be in deficit.

What is that John Creasy says in Tony Scott's Man on Fire? "I wish . . . I wish you had more time."

Fortunately, none of us are facing Victor Fuentes's fate, but still, the wish remains.

I get that writing is hard. I really do. There's never enough time. There's never enough quiet head space to do what you need to do in order to write your book. And it's going to be like this for years while you do your time in these nasty trenches of the early days on the road to publication. Someday, the sky will open and angels will descend, bearing the magical certificate that says you have permission from the Universe to give that soul-sucking day job the middle finger and stay home and write full time. And it will be a glorious day, amen. But even then, you'll discover a whole new realm of time-suckers, attention-stealers, and writing obstacles that will keep you from your writing time. Leveling up doesn't make things easier, per se; it just means the obstacles and stressors are different.

This is true of any job, really. You go from working the fryer to microwaving burgers to pushing buttons on the shake machine, and each one of those jobs seems cooler and easier from the other side of the kitchen, but when you get there, you discover they've got their own quirks, which makes that job suck. Even when you get away from the back of the kitchen, there's the whole 'talking to people' thing about working working the front counter. It never gets easier.

This is supposed to be a pep talk, by the way. A quick-chat intro meant to rev you up. Let's get ready to take on the challenge of finishing that book, right? We're going to solve every problem and launch ourselves into the stratosphere.

The honest secret is that writing is work, and you have to treat it as such. You have to show up—every day—and put in your hours. If there is no time in the day to put in "hours," then you have to put in minutes. Ten. Fifteen. Twenty. Thirty. Whatever you can get. You have to start somewhere, and you have to keep doing it.

I've been putting off writing the first part of this book for months, citing the myriad of more important things that are on my plate. I'll get to it tomorrow has been my daily refrain, and when tomorrow arrives, I say it again. And if you do that too often, I'll get to it tomorrow becomes the rule. It becomes your mantra. Your guiding principle. Your default answer.

I'll get to it tomorrow.

I don't want that carved on my tombstone, frankly. Nor do I want I wish I had spent more time writing there either. I'll make you a deal. Right here and now. Let's put aside all the excuses and call ourselves "writers." And then we'll follow through and do the work.

If you are a) you're stuck, or b) you can't fathom how to find the time to write, or c) you enjoy watching a middle-aged man perform cheap circus tricks and make balloon animals, then this book is for you. Though, that whole thing about making balloon animals is more metaphor than actual tradecraft. Sorry.

What are we going to do here? Well, we're going to do some talking about writing, and then we're going do some plotting—the world domination kind—and then we'll talk about making structure and keeping motivated.

We'll spend some time talking about the early stages of writing: organizing your thoughts, building an outline, getting the right beverage (hot or cold), making sure your favorite chair conforms properly to your butt, and finding time to write.

And we'll answer the burning questions of all time: How does that outline turn into thousands of words of sparkly prose? How do we get our characters to behave long enough for the story to sweep them away? How do we make a functional plot? How do we make sure we know what we're doing as we write this book?

And once we know these answers, we're going to take your cocktail-napkin scrawl of an idea, blend it up with all those stacks of loose paper filled with illegible "plotting" notes, and burn on through to the last page of your manuscript where you get to type the words "THE END."

Then it will be time to celebrate with a strong cocktail and a bout of running naked down the street, screaming, "I am an AUTHOR."

Er, or not. How you celebrate is really up to you.