Tips for Committing to Getting Your Book Done
By Lauren Carr
Whether intimately familiar with what goes into writing a book or not, people are impressed with anyone who has completed the task of writing a whole book. There are thousands, if not millions, of people who have sat down to a keyboard to start writing a book, but never finished it.
The first hurdle that most encounter is what I call the Forty-Page Block. It’s not always page forty. Sometimes it’s page twenty-five or page one hundred. Whichever page number it is, at some point there’s a block that separates the authors from the wannabes.
At this hurdle, many writers will simply throw in the towel and walk away without looking back.
Others will try to get around the block in this book by starting a second book. Inspired by ideas from Book One, Book Two may even be a sequel to its unfinished predecessor. Then, the writer will be hit with another inspiration too good to ignore and abandon that project to start another and then another. I once met a writer who had over a dozen unfinished manuscripts.
The Forty-Page Block stems from loss of interest in the project after getting so far into the manuscript. Maybe the writer has a short attention span. Maybe the project isn’t worth the paperless word doc it’s written on. Whatever the reason, when the book ceases to be new and fresh, the writer doesn’t want to work on it anymore.
The authors who have one, two, or more books under their belts continue writing even when it’s not fun. There comes a time in every book when its author becomes miserable and wonders if it’s really as good as she had thought when she first started it.
At this point, every author who has ever finished writing a book makes a commitment to finish it. I personally have more than one completed manuscript tucked away in my mother’s basement that I intend to never show anyone. They may be bad, but I had made the commitment to seeing them to the end.
Even if your finished book ends up being trash, you’ll be a better writer for having finished it. Any time spent writing is time well spent. Like an athlete, you sharpen your literary skills. You learn what techniques work and what don’t. Then, you can take what you learned while writing this book on to the next one.
Here are a few more tips to help you make it easier to commit to finishing your book:
#1 – Find Your Writing Zone
Figure out when you do your best writing. That’s your writing zone. You know you’re in the zone when you can crank out pages. When I’m in the zone, I can easily write a whole section or two in a chapter. When I’m out of the zone, I’m easily distracted and lucky to write a single page. Find your zone and use that time. Then, you’re on your way to more productive writing.
#2 – When in the Zone, ONLY Write
This is hard. When an e-mail comes in, curiosity makes you have to check it. Get in the habit of only writing during it’s your designated writing time.
#3 – Focus – Focus - Stay Focused
Despite your best efforts, you’ll get dragged out of the writing zone—often. (Dogs need to go out. Dogs need to come back in.) Here are some defense tactics:
- Shut down your email. Get in the habit of ignoring them until later.
- Turn off your phones or refuse to answer. I leave my phone in the other room.
- Shut down the Internet if you have to. I know more than one writer who designates their writing to computers that have no internet connection set up. This keeps them from being tempted to slip over to social media or check their email.
- Shut the door if your office has one/Go Off-Duty from the Rest of Your Life. Ask your husband to take over for the family for a while. At one point, I hired a babysitter to come into the house to care for my family on Saturday afternoons while I wrote. If you can’t do that, tell your family that you’re off duty during your writing time.
- Use music, if it will help you into the zone. Not only does this help you focus, it also drowns out background noise. Classical music actually stimulates creative brainwaves. Do whatever will work for you. You may have to experiment. I have found that certain music will inspire me for certain characters.
#4 – Tips to Maximize Your Writing
- Write free flow. This means just get the words down and worry about how they sound later. Don’t worry about spelling and grammar, you just write. (This especially applies to writing your first draft.)
Even if you know that the pages you’re writing will end up falling victim to the delete button, keep on writing. You’ll be surprised how much of it will be useful. During the creative process, that garbage may take you on a path to golden material that you otherwise would not have found if you had stopped writing.
- Set easy to accomplish writing tasks. Setting unrealistic goals, like writing the whole book in one week, will only leave you feeling frustrated when it doesn’t happen. Make a goal of writing one page while in your writing zone, or some other easy objective: 500 words is a good goal. Join websites where writers inspire each other to meet the challenge.
#5 – Be Kind by Rewarding Yourself for Getting’ ‘er Done
When you meet your goals, reward yourself. Watch a movie from Amazon Prime, a new song from iTunes, a manicure, or a nice long soak in the tub. Give yourself an incentive to write and you’ll write more.
But first, you need to make that all important commitment.