Still holding on to that manuscript or doing rewrite after rewrite? Here are six more suggestions to help you finish that book
In the first article on this topic, How to Overcome Your Procrastination and Finish Writing Your Book, I shared seven ways to move your manuscript along to completion. In this second post, you will find yet more tips and ideas to help you get your new book finished, whether it’s your first or your tenth.
1. Treat every book as a separate project without comparing it to previous books or worrying about future ones.
They used to say in the book publishing world that it’s harder to get a second book published than a first one. That’s because when you publish your first book–even if you self-publish–you’re a “first-time author.” No expectations. Nothing to compare that book to. But once you’ve published one book, now you’ve got your experiences related to your first book – or your previous works – to motivate you or discourage you when it comes to finishing up this current manuscript.
Stop doing that! Forget about those comparisons! Every book that you write does and should stand on its own, even if it’s part of a series. Don’t let the comparisons that others might make about you and your various books slow you down or even stop you in your tracks from finishing this new book. Don’t be defeated by what happened with your first book, if its reception did not live up to your expectations. Or, conversely, don’t be scared by the pressure on you to repeat the huge success of the first book, if it did, indeed, make a huge hit.
Treat every book that you write like a self-contained project. It’s like being the parents to more than one child. When asked, “Who’s your favorite child?” hopefully that parent will answer, “Both,” or “Each one.”
2. No one cares as much as you do about when or even if you finish this book.
Yes, absolutely no one else cares as much about you finishing this book as you do. Well, maybe your romantic partner or family would love to hear that you’re done, so they can spend more time with you. But, kidding aside, it is you who will benefit the most from completing this book. It’s your reputation at stake with this book. It’s your career as a book author that will be impacted by completing, and publishing, this book.
To you, this manuscript that you’re unable to finish could be the next big step in your career. It could help you to get a promotion at work or, if you are an academic, to get you tenure at the university where you teach.
This new book could fulfill a lifelong commitment to yourself to “write a book,” or it could be a way to share your unique story with your family and friends, if it’s a memoir.
By finishing this manuscript, it will of course be a way to free up all the time and energy you’ve been putting into this particular book project.
You need to generate the internal pressure to keep going and finish your book. That is the best drive toward finishing that you can have. Finishing up a book is somewhat like running a race. I haven’t run a marathon, I admit, but I did run shorter races in middle school. Ready, set, go, write, finish!
Don’t give up your dream of finishing this manuscript and publishing it. You can do it!
3. “I don’t have time to write”
Fortunately, I already explored solutions to this typical reason for not finishing writing a book in a previous article, Making the Time to Write. Read that article for some solid tips if that’s the particular reason you’re not completing this book that’s sitting on your desk or as a file in your computer. You do have the time to write or, if you think you don’t, read that article for some tips on how to make or find the hours you need to complete this book.
4. Allow for delays.
Yes, I am suggesting that sometimes you have to put that book aside and return to it hours, days, months, and, in rare instances, even years down the road. The big challenge is knowing when those delays are in the service of your book and not just procrastination because of your reluctance to finish. Here’s the tricky part. You can’t force passion and, even with creative nonfiction, passion will help your writing to sing and soar and not be mundane and boring. So if you have to take a few hours off to walk the dog, recharge your batteries by getting together with friends, or reconnect with your romantic partner, it just might help your writing. But get back to the manuscript and finish!
5. Don’t allow for delays.
On the other hand, sometimes you have to make the very difficult decision that you have to avoid a delay because it just might sink your project when you’re close to finishing. That’s what happened to me when I was literally in the home stretch with my book, When Friendship Hurts. I had bought airline tickets, and reserved a hotel room, to attend BookExpo, the annual gathering of the booksellers, authors, and publishers in the book industry in the U.S. which was being held in Chicago that year. I was really looking forward to the trip. It was going to be my reward for finishing my book. But, alas, I just knew I wasn’t finished yet. But I was on a writing roll and, those of you who have written a book, or are writing a book, know what that means. It’s what I call being “in the zone” and it’s a wonderful time when you truly are about to finish a book that has taken one or more years to write. I had a strong gut feeling that, if I avoided that out-of-town trip, and losing my momentum, I could finish that manuscript over the next couple of days.
So I made the very difficult decision to cancel my trip, including losing out on the nonrefundable airfare from New York. But I knew that was the right decision and the rest, as they say, is history. That book went on to excellent reviews, TV interviews on Good Morning America, and other major shows, going into seven printings – it’s still selling after more than a decade and a more recent e-book with a new introduction – and getting translated into 29 languages.
So you have to be the judge of whether or not you will allow for delays. If your friends and family understand how huge the challenge is of finishing a book, they will probably understand if you can’t see them temporarily because of the point you’re at in writing (and finishing up) your book.
6. If you don’t have a deadline imposed by someone else, create one for yourself.
Deadlines are actually useful rather than something to be dreaded. It helps you to focus and have a goal. Of course you need to create a deadline that is realistic and possible. Too far in the future and it can lead to procrastination. Too soon and it can stress you out or even lead you to finish before you take the necessary time that you need to do the job that your book requires. With a long writing project like a book, especially if this is your first book, figuring out a deadline for completing it that is realistic may take some trial and error. You might also need to have interim deadlines. Instead of one master deadline – “I will finish my manuscript in nine months” –create deadlines for each chapter. This fits in with a key time management principle: divide complex tasks into smaller units. So a book with twenty chapters, you will have at least twenty deadlines, with one distinct target time frame per chapter. You can even apply the previous tip of giving yourself a reward – not as big a reward as for finishing the entire book, but still a clear incentive – for completing each chapter.
So good luck finishing your manuscript! Whether it’s your first book, your second, or your forty-second, finishing a book takes commitment, courage, and dedication. I am reminded of that adage, “No guts, no glory.” Those wise words are definitely true when applied to the monumental task of finishing a book.
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