‘I’ve started so I’ll finish.’
Not so with books.
While 89% of people would like to write a book, just 1% go on to publish. Lack of motivation and loss of confidence in the quality of your writing are the two most common reasons for not finishing your book, but a gap in knowledge about how to plan, structure and write are also factors. We write every day in some form or another, so we think it is something we should know how to do.
But writing a book is hard. Here are 6 tips to finish that damn thing in a month. Some will work for you and others may not, but they are all things to try.
1.Narrow down your idea
Are you trying to write too broadly about your subject? Lack of focus is one of the main reasons books fail, as authors swim around in too much information. Try refining your topic to the next level down. Writing about digital marketing? Try Digital Marketing for Social Media Haters instead. Your book will not only become more commercial, it will be a lot easier to write.
2.Write your chapter titles
If your document has no chapter titles or just ‘Chapter 1’ as the heading, try writing down exactly what each chapter is about. Use plain English to describe the one point your reader needs to take away. Giving your chapters focus could clarify your structure enough to finish the book. And here’s a top tip: when writing chapter titles, either make them blindingly obvious (‘How to use Instagram’) or intriguing (‘Don’t forget to make your bed’). Don’t land in between (‘Maximising Pictorial Social Media Channels’).
3.End each chapter when it’s finished
Some writers struggle to finish their book because they can’t… finish.
To stop the waffle, writer Gary Provost recommends looking at the last sentence of your chapter and asking yourself, ‘What does the reader lose if I delete it?’ If the answer is nothing, cross it out. Do the same with the next-to-last sentence. And so on. Don’t be the dinner guest who stands at the door taking half an hour to say goodbye.
4.Set yourself a word count
When you started your book, did you set yourself a word count? It’s amazing how many writers begin without a target. To finish your book in a month, see how much you’ve already written and extrapolate a total word count for the book. Divide this by the days in the month and write that number of words each day. Good words, bad words, it doesn’t matter – they just need to exist.
5.Write out the steps
When planning a book chapter, I encourage my authors to draw a set of stairs on a piece of paper. On the bottom step, write the very first thing your reader needs to know. On the next step, write the second thing they need to know. Carry on until your final point is the top step. That’s the end of your chapter. It’s deceptively simple, but do it before you start a chapter and you will halve the time it takes you to write.
6.Stop reading what you’ve written
Editing as you go along is the writer’s curse. The reason most writers stop is because they lose confidence, and they lose confidence because they read back what they wrote a week ago and think it’s awful. It is awful. But you must ignore it and keep going. Awful things can be made brilliant at a later date, but you can’t edit a blank page.
If you would like support to finish your book, get in touch and I’d be happy to show you how.