It’s what you keep telling yourself.
More than anything else in your life, you can’t wait to type two little words:
You want to finally say you’ve published.
The next time someone asks you how it’s going, you can say, “it’s done, thanks. It’s out there. I’m working on a new project.”
It seems like everyone’s publishing books these days. Thanks to Kindle, Kobo, and Smashwords, it’s not only possible, it’s inexpensive. All you need is a finished product.
Sounds easy enough.
But you’re stuck, aren’t you?
Your work in progress is driving you nuts.
You’re beginning to lose hope.
And while you’re at it, you might as well admit that you’re losing confidence.
Each day you wake up with the same nagging thoughts:
- I should be finished by now.
- Why can’t I focus?
- Where did all my inspired ideas go?
- Maybe I’m not cut out for this writing thing.
- Maybe I should quit and get a real job.
Before you do something drastic, like giving up on yourself, understand you’re not alone. You’re in good company. Every worthy writer navigated this stage. You’ve hit a wall, but it doesn’t have to be permanent.
Rather than waiting for inspiration, you can take control.
You need some help, a few proven strategies to get you to the finish line. Otherwise, you’re gonna’ wallow in this unproductive state, feeling increasingly miserable.
So, are you ready to add your latest title to the world of published works?
I thought so.
Let’s take a look at 11 ways to finally finish your book.
Pause for a Reality Check
First, you need to assess your current position.
Ask yourself what’s missing, broken, or confusing.
Pinpoint the reason/s for your current block. Often, we stall our own progress when we stop believing in the work.
We may have veered off course or fallen short of our original goal.
Practice Radical Honesty
At what point did you lose faith or interest in your work in progress? Are you stuck on a specific scene, or have you grown disinterested in the work as a whole? Why?
Write down everything that comes to mind.
Stuck writing your book? What parts make you cringe?
What parts might embarrass you to share? Make your list, and consider it.
Are you being underconfident, perfectionistic, or truthful? Circle items to revise, remove, or expand.Stuck writing your book? What parts make you cringe? What parts might embarrass you to share? Make your list, and consider it. Are you being underconfident, perfectionistic, or truthful? Circle items to revise, remove, or expand... Click To Tweet
Create an Outline or Map
Now that you’ve assessed and recorded your trouble spots, it’s time to construct a new outline or map. It’s often impossible to finish without knowing where you’re going.
Outline the remaining features. Decide what needs to happen to reach the final page. Decide what the reader must know to follow the narrative.
If you’re struggling with your outline, help is available.
Check out the following inexpensive books on novel structure and outlining:
If you’re stuck in the middle, consider James Scott Bell’s Write Your Novel From the Middle.
Begin Chunking Your Writing Project
Now that you have your outline, it’s time for chunking: breaking the work into smaller, bite -sized pieces.
There’s nothing more intimidating than taking a big-picture view of your writing project.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed when focusing on the entire piece, so break the remaining work into daily sections.
After realizing you only need to write a scene or two per day, the work begins to flow.
Create Smart Goals
It’s important to understand that chunking, by itself, is not enough.
You’re missing an all- important step: you need to clarify your goals.
Everyone talks about smart goals, but few follow the process. Take your chunks from the previous step, and turn them into smart goals.
In other words, you’ll need to be specific about your daily word count. You’ll need to start tracking your results.
Additionally, make sure the word count matches the time you have available.
Work with an attainable word count. Setting impossible or unrealistic goals will only lead to frustration and/or failure.
Finally, assign a deadline for each meaningful stage of progress.
Meaningful = meaningful for you.
What motivates you more–hourly, daily, or weekly checkpoints?
Create a Checklist. Now.
Establish a Reward System
Remember studying B.F Skinner and Operant Conditioning in Psychology class?
I’ll never forget the day my psych professor admitted that most life experiences worked on this model (consciously or unconsciously):
- Positive reinforcement (rewards for meeting your writing goals) increases the desired behavior.
- Negative reinforcement (punishment) helps curb the undesirable behavior (ignoring your writing goals).
I’d be willing to bet you don’t reward yourself on a regular basis, so set this up in advance.
Add this to your checklist now; it’s important.
For each meaningful chunk of progress, reward yourself with a treat, a special activity, a fulfilling purchase. Come up with a perfect, highly-personal means for splurging on yourself.
And, if you fail to meet an important deadline, try donating money to a cause you hate. You’ll find yourself back on track the following day.
Pay Attention to Feedback
Schedule a weekly checkpoint to assess your progress. Keep it simple. This could be Friday at 5 PM or Sunday morning before breakfast—whenever you can schedule some quiet time for reflection. You’ll need about twenty minutes.
Look at your checklist, and evaluate your progress. What’s working? What’s not working?
How might you tweak your system for greater performance?
In most cases, you’ll find steady progress. If you’re not making adequate progress, find out what’s holding you back.
Pay attention to word counts. Were your goals from step 4 reasonable and achievable? Or, did you go overboard, setting impossible standards?
Establish Hard and Soft Deadlines
Begin with your hard deadline. This is when you get to type The End.
To meet this goal, set a soft deadline (or 2) a few days before the deadline. Shoot for this goal, and you’ll have a few days leeway to resolve any lingering issues.
Schedule Your Edit
You’ve finished your book; however, you’re not actually done yet.
You’ll need to schedule a self-edit or hire a professional editor. Make sure your work doesn’t sit around too long before editing. Include this in your schedule and checklist.
During this crucial time, finalize your book cover art and back page materials.
Publish Your Book!
Don’t let your work join the ranks of countless novels sitting on hard drives around the world. I’d bet the numbers are staggering…
You’re not finished with your book until you publish it. Releasing it into the world completes the process, freeing you up to begin again.
Announce Your Book to the World
After publishing, tell the world about your book.
Publish images and snippets on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. Instead of waiting for your book to go viral, read a few books on marketing. Learn the basics, and begin applying them.
While you’re at it, check out the following free book marketing resources online:
Cheers to finishing your book!
Now, it’s your turn.
What’s your standby strategy for finishing your work in progress?
Tell us about it in the comments section below.