You’ve started, your wordcount is increasing – what do you have to do to make sure that you finish your book? Here are a few key points:
‘Action expresses priorities.’
We are all busy and have many competing priorities for our time. That’s not an excuse – it’s a fact. However, the only way you are going to get your book written is if it is a priority. If it’s one the last things on your to-do list then it will always be one of those things that gets left behind when you run out of time.
So, your book MUST move up your priority list. Not forever and not necessarily for huge chunks of time. If you’ve read any of my other blogs you will have come across my 10minute writing method – you can finish your book even if you only commit to 10minutes writing a day – but you MUST commit.
Ghandi is right – our actions show what we prioritise. If your book is not a priority you will not finish it. Therefore, if you WANT to finish it – it needs to be a priority.
Remember if you’ve started your book you’re miles ahead of millions of people who just talk about doing it. That’s a big achievement and its important you stick with it to be one of the very few who finish.
Maintaining momentum is key to getting there. It’s the small things we do everyday that make the biggest and most lasting differences to our lives.
Darren Hardy, author of ‘The Compound Effect’ says, ‘It’s the principle of reaping huge rewards from a series of small, smart choices. Success is earned in the moment to moment decisions that in themselves make no visible difference whatsoever, but the accumulated compounding effect is profound.’
Writing is the same. It is the writing you do every day that will get your book finished. Most of us don’t have the luxury to write in huge bursts, former Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, did for his book ‘Talking to my daughter about the economy’ sitting in a beautiful part of his country for nine days. That’s fantastic if you are blessed with such an option but its not a reality for most of us.
Here are some tips for maintaining your momentum:
‘What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat,’…. And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.’ Maya Angelou
If you are meeting all of your wordcount goals without writing every day, then you are one of the very few writers who can manage without writing every day. If you are like the 95% of the rest who are not meeting their writing goals – then you MUST write every day.
Stephen King says, ‘If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.’
If you don’t read enough you will find that you hit blocks and slumps in your writing.
We’ve all heard of the dreaded writer’s block. There can be quite a few causes but the good news is that you can, and will, move through it.
So – what is writer’s block? It’s that dreaded blank page on your computer staring accusingly at you for not having putting words on it.
Writer’s block can be caused by:
· Moving from right brain to left brain
· Not reading enough
· Being distracted
So, what can we do about it. Here are a few suggestions:
A lot of people think that they can’t write. They want to, but they’re convinced that they don’t have the skills or talent. Ironically writing isn’t really about talent – its about persistence. Successful people in almost all areas of life have one thing in common – they have stamina. Successful writers are no different.
If you can string a coherent sentence together then you are a competent writer. If you practice a lot, then you can be a good writer. Don’t take my word for it – its Stephen King’s opinion.
So, if it’s not about talent and it is about hard work then unless you’re not up for the graft there’s absolutely no reason to be afraid about writing. Fear should not be stopping you getting those words done.
The desire to write a ‘good’ book is enough to dry up any writer’s creative flow. The truth is that very few people want to read a ‘good’ book – most of us want to read a good story. I’ve known quite a few storytellers whose words would jump off the page and transport you to a different time and place. Then just as you were blissfully travelling through this unfamiliar world you’d get thrust out by the writer starting to write a ‘good’ book.
Not only is perfect the enemy of the good, you can spend your entire life writing the same chapters of your book, and I know people who are currently doing just that. They write, rewrite, edit and edit some more.
There’s no such thing as perfect and frankly its been a long time since I’ve seen any professionally published books without typos or other mistakes. So, no matter how many times your rewrite and obsessively edit – you will miss something. Make it good, damn good and then move on.
More than that perfect is not interesting. Perfect literary genius may be for the likes of the terribly well read but if you want real people to read your writing then make it good, make it interesting – tell them a good story.
If you are looking for perfection – give it up now – its not only not going to happen – its not a desirable outcome for a writer. If you consciously give up the desire for your writing to be perfect this will no longer prove a block.
Writing is one of the roles in life where our imperfections and flaws are beneficial to telling stories. The more experiences and life we have lived the more stories we have to tell.
Moving from right brain to left.
We spend most of our lives in our left brain. That’s our logical, rational side and we use it for work, school, even paying our bills, doing our shopping. We are well practiced at getting into that logical space.
We are much less practiced at getting into and staying in our right brain where our creativity comes from. Creative pursuits are often pushed aside in our efforts to get through study and school.
For most people getting out of the left brain into the right is difficult. Staying there and letting the creativity flow is even harder. This is one of the most common causes of writer’s block. Once you get into your writing don’t stop to edit, research or proofread – these are all left-brain activities. Stay in the right side of your brain and if you have an idea jot it down and leave it until you’ve finished writing.
Do not edit while you’re writing. You’ll be surprised how much of a difference this will make to your writer’s block.
Not many of us perform as well as we can in anything if we’re exhausted. Rather than pushing your brain and your body – stop and take a break. Get some sleep and come back to it.
Our heads these days are noisy, full of everything we are expected to store in those overworked cells. It can be particularly difficult to get into the creative side of our brain if we have a lot on our mind, or something is worrying or annoying us.
There is a sure-fire way to clear this out so that we can move on with our writing. Take a piece of paper and a pen and handwrite for 10-15 minutes. Don’t take your pen off the page – just write – whatever comes to mind. It is only for you to read so let yourself be free to say anything you think or feel, even bad language! You can say ‘Nicole told me to do this stupid thing, blah, blah, blah …’ if you want but do not take that pen from the paper. This stream of consciousness writing is powerful for clearing our minds.
Anything you’re worried about or that’s irritating you can be spilled on those pages. Once you’ve done it – you can keep it or not, but it will clear the space for you too get back into your writing.
I use this as a daily journaling process and find it incredibly helpful. Anything that clears our minds of the constant noise is positive. It can clarify why something has managed to get under your skin. Often part of a story will come out of this type of writing. Make sure that the results of this journaling are for your eyes only or you will subconsciously censor yourself and that will reduce the effectiveness of the process.
Most of us have experienced those nights where despite our best efforts we can’t sleep. Inevitably it’s the night before a day where we must be at our best. What we know is that the worst option is to lie in bed and get stressed about not being able to sleep. The stress makes it much less likely that we will get to sleep causing a negative cycle. The best advice is usually to get up and do something else and then try again later.
Writing isn’t different – if you’re starting to stress about not being able to write then it will be the same. Disconnect from it, leave it for a while, have a cuppa and read for a while. Then try again later.
For all of this – the very best way to prevent writer’s block is to get yourself into the habit of regular writing. Eventually you will it just as natural to be in the right side of your brain as it is your left. There is no replacement for writing every day.
First, what is the difference between writer’s block and a writer’s slump? Many use the terms interchangeably and that’s okay because they are very similar. For me the difference is writer’s block can happen any time in the writing process and can be temporary. Writer’s slump is that place in your book when you appear to hit a wall.
Chapter 12 is that place for me usually. I’ve powered through – written fast – which usually means a long and tortuous editing process at the end of the draft. The growing word length has motivated me and kept me at it. Then I hit around about chapter 12 and I hit a wall. That is normal in the creative process – although everyone experiences it differently. Ian Rankin has a slump in the same place in all of his books.
12 chapters is a huge achievement but it’s usually at this point that I realise just how much there is still to write.
Don’t get me wrong – I love writing, and I really enjoy the process of getting the words on paper. However, we all experience overwhelm and that seems to be the point at which I do.
So, what can we do about it?
Break your book down into bitesize pieces.
A book is a big job and looking at it in its entirety would overwhelm anyone. Most of us will never write anything else as long as our books, unless you spent years producing a PhD dissertation.
But our job is not to write that entire book TODAY – it’s our job to get today’s writing done. Then tomorrow it’s our job to finish tomorrow’s writing. That is how your book will get written. Don’t take on the whole book, just the bit you need to do today.
‘Make a habit of writing at least one page every day. Before you know it, you’ll have written a book.’ T. Gene Davis
Every book I’ve ever written – the ending has snuck up and surprised me. I didn’t see it coming and there’s a good chance that will happen to you as well.
Look for inspiration
Do something or go somewhere that inspires you. Every one of us something that lifts our spirit and makes us smile. It could be music, the sea, the countryside, a park, a giant piece of chocolate cake. Have some human interaction if that’s what gives you energy (and material) or spend some time in splendid isolation in a beautiful place.
Part of this is about shifting our ‘stuckness’, part is about a helpful exchange of oxygen or location and part of it is exposing ourselves to other potential material. Sometimes even half an hour will shift your slump.
There is not a single reason that you cannot finish your book.
Ray Bradbury says, ‘You fail only if you stop writing.’
‘This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, and that hard.’ Neil Gaiman
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