How to Finally Write that Book this Summer Even if You Haven’t Written a Word
By Annalisa Parent
Many would-be authors get overwhelmed by the size of a book-length project. Many of us find ourselves with additional free time on our hands this summer with fewer barbecues, farmers markets or fairs. How can you use this time to finally write your book?
Here are some of my top tips from my writing coach archives.
Write down your end goal.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ve heard this one a million times. But, look, if you don’t know what you want to accomplish, you’ll never get it done. As Lewis Carroll famously wrote “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”
Know what you want to accomplish. If you’re like most writers, when you start to untangle this “what I want” knot, you’ll find it’s far more complicated than you first thought.
For example, maybe your dream isn’t just a book, it’s a series, and movie rights, and a worldwide book tour. Those are all great ideas, but one step at a time. If you can hone in on the first step toward your dream, then you can break it down into actual action steps, moving it from nebulous dream to achievable goal.
Choose a deadline.
Choose a day that you are going to have this project done. This step cannot be overlooked, however, while deadlines are a huge motivator, here’s a pro tip: Post your deadline out on social media. Tell your friends, your parents, and especially someone who intimidates you just a little bit. Let these people hold you accountable and keep you motivated.
Once you set that deadline for yourself, you’re going to work backwards from that date to create your work plan. How much writing do you have to do each day to reach your goal, and how can you carve out the time to make it happen?
Remember that Creativity is Wonky.
Despite the best laid plans of mice and men (Thank you, Steinbeck and Burns) to write 5,000 words a day or a chapter an hour, creativity is not always a linear process.
You may want to finish that chapter today, but your book–and your brain– have other ideas. When our characters (or ideas) misbehave, they’re often right. You may feel like you want the piece to take a certain shape or go in a certain direction. The brain is sending us a caution flag, though. When your creativity takes the lead, following it always bears fruit. Really. I promise.
Now, the piece you create today may not make the final cut for your book, but the information you garnered from the experience of following your creativity will always bring a benefit to the piece as a whole.
Find your best writer and be that writer
All kinds of would-be mentors want to tell you that you have to do it this way or that way in order to be a real writer. There are some rules, especially if you want to traditionally publish. That said, in the creative phase the most important consideration is finding your creative flow.
Write with a pencil or a tablet. Write outdoors or in your bed. Use an outline, or allow the natural flow of ideas. None of this fluff matters; here’s what does: Find the place where you can be at your creative best to get that draft out of you.
After all, you can’t publish until you have a book. And you can’t have a book until you get it done.
The biggest key to success I have seen in writers who finish and publish well is that they find and embrace the writer they are, so they can write book after book with creative ease.
Show up every day like it’s your job.
My writing mentor, Julia Alvarez, wasn’t the first one to say it, but she was the first one to say it to me: Being a writer is 90% applying butt to chair.
Write at the beach. Write in a hammock. Write on your lunch break. Whatever you do, make writing a habit, and you’ll see the results.
You don’t get a dream body by going to the gym once, or even once a week. The same is true of writing a book. Show up. Do the work. Even when it stings.
Remember that writing is art, and art takes time.
Many writers get lost in the rabbit hole: Why is it taking me so long to finish my manuscript? This trap turns into self doubt. “I must not be a good writer.” “I’m never going to get it done.” Believe me, I’ve heard it all, and I’ve seen self-doubt and fear stymy project after project.
What if you reframe this fear? What if instead you say “Writing is art and art takes time.”
Consider the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo. It took four and a half years for him to complete that masterpiece, which–frankly, if you’ve seen the level of detail–you know it’s astonishing he completed it so quickly.
The Washington Monument took thirty years to construct; thirty full years.
Let’s think about more writing-related references.
It took Victor Hugo twelve years to write Les Miserables and Harper Lee spent two and a half years writing To Kill a Mockingbird.
Writing is art, and art takes time. Completing your manuscript is not going to happen overnight, not because there’s something wrong with you, but because you are an artist. Allow yourself to get into creative flow, and creativity will reward you with a cornucopia of ideas and finished pages.
Promise. I’ve watched it with my own eyes hundreds of times.
Working with the creative process and the brain’s natural function means you must be really honest with yourself about how much you can get done. It’s very admirable and ambitious if you say you’re going to get everything done today, but you also might be setting yourself up for failure. When you set yourself up for failure, you’ll feel yucky about yourself. You don’t want to come back to the project feeling like you failed. So, make reasonable goals for yourself and pace your project in a reasonable way.
Follow these steps above and you will notice how much lighter it feels to write and finish your project.
Annalisa Parent is a writing coach who has helped hundreds of authors to finish and publish well. She used neuroscientific principles to guide the writing process through her programs in the Writing Gym. To find out more, and to download her free e-book The Six Steps to Go from Struggling Writer to Published Author, visit www.datewiththemuse.com.