Procrastination… Life… so many things get in the way of actually finishing that book that you’ve been writing for what? Years? Ages? What can you do to get around whatever blocks are your path and finally just finish writing a book?
1. Be honest about why you haven’t finished writing your book. Write down your excuses for not writing, then read them back to yourself. If a friend gave you these excuses what solutions would you offer? Do you really have no time in your day? List everything you do that is “extra” – watching TV, playing on the Internet, staring into space. Get a timer if necessary and keep track of how much time you really spend on such things. Chances are you do have time. You are just choosing to spend that time in some other way. Is that the best choice?
2. Learn to write in small increments. Maybe you don’t have an hour every day to write, but do you have 15 minutes? Take the 15 minutes your three-year-old spends playing with his plastic animals to write, then another while he is talking to his imaginary friend. You can finish writing a book this way. That’s how I wrote my first four.
3. Get an Alphasmart, laptop or something else you can and will take with you to write with while out of the house. I like my Alphasmart for this because it is light and a lot cheaper than my laptop. (So I don’t worry about it getting damaged at the pool or softball.) It also has the added benefit of working fine in bright light—unlike a laptop screen which can be hard to read.
4. Get an Alphasmart (part 2). An Alphasmart has a very small screen. You can key backwards to see what you have written, but it isn’t all that easy. Because of this, an Alphasmart encourages you to just write. I highly recommend getting one, especially for times where you are behind and really need to up your word count. Look for them used on eBay.
5. Say no to research while you are writing. Set aside a certain amount of time upfront (if you must) to research and limit yourself to that until the book is done. It is okay to write “lookup (name topic)” rather than opening up Google and getting lost on the Web. You may even wind up cutting that scene in the end, don’t waste days researching when you should be writing.
6. Use a timer. Do you use “writing time” to check email or post on Facebook? That is a huge barrier to your goal to finish writing a book. Don’t let yourself cheat. Get a timer (either a kitchen type timer or one on your computer) and don’t stop writing until it goes off. Or don’t set the alarm and just challenge yourself to write as long as you can.
7. Keep track of your words. Many writing programs do this for you, but I like to either list my daily counts in a spreadsheet or post my ongoing word count on a whiteboard in my office where I can see it, or on my blog for the world to see. It keeps you honest and works to motivate you. (To help you finish writing a book and rack up words more quickly, consider a technique such as freewriting.)
8. Preplan. Plotting is a left brain activity. If you get the plot worked out before you start writing the book, you will free your right brain to just write. If you can’t force yourself to completely preplan your book, do as much as you can.
9. Prewrite. Write a very short first draft that is just you telling the story. I do this frequently with a synopsis. You can prewrite (tell) as many scenes as you like—this can save you the pressure of “writing” the book. You move right from telling to revising.
10. Set a routine. Set a time each day that you will write—no having an extra cup of coffee or taking advantage of that online sale that just landed in your inbox. You are writing!
11. Write down your goals and post them where you can see them. Do you want to make a certain amount of money? Win an award? Get fan mail? Whatever motivates you to write this book—write it down and post it. Then look at them often!
12. Join a group that will help hold you accountable. You aren’t alone in your procrastination. Find a group of other writers and agree to post your word counts or time written to each other daily. Use peer pressure to your benefit.
Lori Devoti is the author of paranormal romance, urban fantasy and young adult fiction. Under the name Rae Davies, she writes the USA Today Bestselling Dusty Deals Mystery series. Check our her books at www.LoriDevoti.com and RaeDavies.com. Looking for help with your writing? Lori also does developmental editing and critiques for other authors and publishers. See our Editorial Services page for contact information and pricing. Or check out Lori’s classes at the Continuing Studies Department of the University of Wisconsin.