Productivity for Writers

How to Write a Book (and Actually Finish it!)

People always focus on the ‘how to write a book’ question, but what is actually more important, is how to, in fact, finish writing that book.

There is something like 75% of the population who say they would like to write a book. But of those only around 2% actually ever write their book and what is even more eye-opening is that of those 2% very few actually get to the end. If you are one of those committed few who has got to the end of your book – then congratulations! That is a huge achievement. Read no more and take a look at this instead for your next steps!

I am sure that you too have sat staring at a blank page, put an unfinished manuscript away in a draw or filed away on a hard drive for when you have more time to devote to it, or even when you have more inspiration or motivation. But writing a book as Stephen King says, is a job like everything else. It takes perseverance and commitment. You need to turn up every day and actually get it done. By turning up every day your creative muse will get the message and soon know to also start making an appearance.

‘An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.’ Newton’s First law of Motion.

It makes sense that if we have momentum we will keep going, it isn’t until we hit a block, such as a fear or a challenge that we start to falter. Learning to actually finish something and keep up momentum is a really important skill to develop.

Many things get in the way of actually finishing that book. You find yourself writing emails instead of your book, surfing the net instead of penning chapters, until eventually it gets put away and forgotten about. Here’s the way we always tell people to look at it – do you want to be a professional author, or do you want to be a professional web surfer? Do  you want to be a published writer or do you want to be a professional email answerer? I think we all know the answer.

So how do you actually get your book finished? Well, surprisingly, it’s all in the way you start it.

Start with a plan

Whether it is deadlines for publication, your book booked into Amazon Kindle with a firm publication date, or a launch event, or even sticking to a date you have told people about publicly, you need to pick an end-point to your plan and work backwards. Break your writing down into months, weeks and days and calculate how much you need to get through on a daily basis – or on a weekend writing binge, if that is your allocated writing time, in order to hit your deadline. Keep it realistic by testing how much you can write in any given time. It’s easier to calculate if you measure in stints of an hour at a time but remember, when you come to schedule your time slots in to your week, that may not be your optimal period of writing time.

Know how to finish your book

Sometimes, not being able to finish something can be for a different reason than we first anticipate. Do you actually know how to finish your book? A loss of momentum in your writing habits usually means a loss of momentum in the plot itself. If things feel heavy when you start to think about your book, or you can’t visualise an end, or how to get there, it is possible that you need to go back to your plan and get some clarity on the direction of your book and the ending. If that’s the case, we would definitely recommend chatting to one of our team about how you can go about this.

Keep up writing momentum with productive sessions

If you lose momentum it’s much harder to get through what you need to get through. See our article here for how to get more written in less time. Measure how long you can realistically stay focused and set yourself a timer for that specified time. Do not let yourself leave the chair until you have hit that time limit! Remember it may be harder to focus for longer periods of time as the day goes on, so take that into account when scheduling your time slots for writing. Your time is one of the most precious assets you have, so when you have scheduled it in, protect that creativity time slot like your life depends upon it!

Be conscious as to how you are spending your time and your creative energy – they are both finite resources and tend to disappear throughout the day more quickly than we realise.

Set realistic but bold goals

Don’t set the bar too high – there is nothing like continuously failing at a goal to make you lose momentum and motivation. That is not good for a writer’s soul nor is it good for your creativity. Whilst you want to be realistic with your goals – i.e. know when and how much you can write taking your lifestyle into account, make sure that the goals are a bit of a challenge to keep them interesting. No challenge means we aren’t pushing ourselves to move forward that little bit more every day and it is that forward momentum that will get you to where you want to be, faster.

Scrivener is a fantastic tool for setting targets, organising and keeping track of your writing. If you aren’t using Scrivener for writing we would strongly recommend it. You can download it here – it’s the ultimate in writing software and something we are avid fans of. Track your progress any way you can, recording your wins, no matter how big or small, is a really good motivation booster for that final push.

Pursue the end-game with your ‘why’ in mind

Start with a ‘WHY’ before you begin. Knowing your ‘why’ before you start writing means you will have more purposeful writing sessions. Getting to the end will hold more meaning for you and returning to your why when the going gets tough (and it will!) always makes it easier to keep going. Your ‘why’ should relate to your passion for writing and it is a passion for what we do (combined with a little grit and determination) that in most creative cases, keeps us going. Find your passion again and use it to push you forward.

Develop a successful author mindset from the outset

If you think like a writer, it’s more likely you are going to make it as a writer. If you’re not sure how to do that, or need help or tips on how to start thinking like an author, this handbook on developing an author mindset from Joanna Penn has it all. One of the barriers to developing an author mindset is a fear of failure. This is something that can really hold us back from some of our best creative work and in fact from just moving forward. Are you worried about what people may say or think? Do you feel like an imposter? Are you just plain embarrassed to get your work out there? If that’s the case, you are definitely not alone. This is one of the most common author mindset problems that a writer faces. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember why you are doing this. Visualise only the best-case scenario end-game and focus on that alone. Dispel all negative thoughts of what it is you think or assume people will be saying about you. If you do want a second opinion on your work to help you feel confident, make sure it is from someone unbiased, and then send your work out into the world knowing it’s what you want it to be.

Decide to finish

It sounds pretty straightforward, but deciding to actually finish something, writing it down as one of your yearly goals and making it a priority is key to getting finished. If you make a conscious decision to do something, you will find it much easier to sit down and actually get it done. Tell people about your decision to finish your book and keep yourself accountable. Read more of our accountability tips here.

Getting finished is never actually about having enough time, it’s about the way we approach something and consciously making that decision that this is going to be a priority. Make it a priority and give it some commitment, find your passion and your momentum and just keep going!

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