The Life-Changing Magic of Finishing Your Book

A comment popped up recently and, after replying, I found it was still rattling around in my mind. I know it’s something that many of us struggle with, so I thought I would discuss it here:

Hi I am a new and yes very worried writer, so am thrilled to have found your podcasts. I have started several novels, but never finished them, I’m hoping that I will get inspiration and hints and tips to finish one. Looking forward to listening to the other podcasts. Debs

First off, a big thank you to Debs for listening and leaving such a great comment.

Reading this took me right back to where I was stuck for a very long time… Throughout my teens and twenties, I dreamed of writing fiction: I thought about writing, I talked about writing and I read endless advice books and blogs about writing. I was looking for the secret. The magic ingredient that would enable me to write a book.

I started stories. I would write an opening paragraph or scene and just run out of steam. Occasionally, I would manage a few chapters, but I never knew what came next so I stopped. Until the next character or opening line or bit of dialogue would pop into my head and I’d write it down, only to get stuck again.

Behind all of this stopping was fear. I was scared that I couldn’t do it and so I never forced myself past the initial spark of an idea.

Also, I was making a crucial mistake: I thought that feeling stuck meant that the initial idea was no good.

What I didn’t realise was that feeling stuck as a writer is completely and utterly normal: It’s part of the gig! 

That having ‘no idea what happens next’ doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep on trying. That, essentially, writing a book is hard graft, not divine inspiration.

Also, I hadn’t realised that nested inside my surface fears (of writing rubbish and not having enough ideas to fill a book) were deeper worries about finishing. If I finished, I would have to take the next step and actually show it to somebody else – argh!

Ultimately, I was terrified that if I did finish a book and it sucked, then I would have confirmation that I was a terrible writer and would never be an author.

It felt safer to dream of ‘being a writer on day’ rather than risk exposing my lack of ideas and talent through actually trying.

So, just in case you are where I used to be (or you are Debs – hi Debs!) I’m going to reveal to you the big secret about writing novels.

The reason you are finding it hard to finish your novel is because it is SUPER HARD TO DO.

But, here is the big secret… All you have to do is slog through this first one.

It doesn’t have to be good.

There is one rule: If you get to the end, you have succeeded.

If it sucks (and, fair warning, it probably will) that doesn’t matter. Every single author you have ever loved sucked when they started writing. Just think of it as a necessary stage.

And here is the best part – the magic lies in the act of finishing. Once you have finished that first book, I promise it will transform your writing life.

You might choose not to finish projects in the future, but you will carry with you the knowledge that you ARE capable of finishing them and that makes all the difference in the world.

So, having explained why I think finishing your book is so gosh-darned important, here are a few tips to help you get from beginning to end (or middle to end):

  • Don’t focus on the writing. Focus on the act of doing the work, not the writing you are producing.
  • Make finishing your book (no matter what) your one and only goal.
  • Break the goal into manageable steps and add a deadline.

Happily enough, there is a group writing challenge starting next week which will help you with all of these tips. It’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and it starts on 1st November. You can sign up (free) here.

Or, you can set your own version of the challenge… Remember – the only thing that matters is getting to the finish line, not how you run the race.

Also, if you prefer your cheer-leading in book-form and liked this post, why not try my guide? It’s packed with tips and advice to help you start (and finish!) your book:

Stop Worrying; Start Writing: How To Overcome Fear, Self-Doubt and Procrastination.

AMAZON UK

AMAZON US

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iBOOKS

 

 

 

 

Thanks for reading!

Are you struggling to finish your book or have you got a tip you want to pass on?

Got a subject you would like covered or a question for the podcast?

Join in the comments or email me anytime!

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How To Build A Writing Habit The Easy Way

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So you want to start writing regularly? Or you want to increase your current productivity and write more every week/month/year… I’m going to reveal the secret in this post. Or, more accurately, I’ve already revealed the secret by using the word ‘habit’.

Yep, that’s right – you’ve got to make writing a habit so that it happens almost automatically.

Then you can sit back and watch your word counts rise. Okay, maybe not just ‘sit back’, but you will be amazed at how much you get done with what feels like very little effort.

Think about the stuff that you do every single day; watching television while you eat your breakfast, brushing your teeth, clearing the dishes after dinner, putting on your shoes before leaving the house… You don’t have to think about these tasks and you never (or hardly ever) miss them out. However ingrained and natural these behaviours feel, you weren’t born doing them. Somewhere along the way, you developed the habit and now they are a part of your life.

You might be thinking that brushing your teeth doesn’t take very long and writing a novel does, but you are going to build your writing habit by starting small.

Even tiny actions, repeated regularly over time, can make a big impact.

Plus, once you establish a habit it’s easier to tweak it (to, say, increase the amount of time you spend writing).

ID-100323590It’s this last principle we’re going to use to get started. Think of an existing habit you have and adjust it. For example, when you brush your teeth, use that time to think about your writing. If you don’t have a story in mind, use the time to brainstorm ideas. If you’re completely stuck, just use the time to reflect on your new creative habit. The focus should be on positivity; you are giving yourself permission to day dream, not trying to accomplish anything concrete or scary.

After a week or so, you are going to add a new habit and this one will actually involve writing. Pick a clearly-defined task that is easy to complete, and pick a time that is both easy to remember and suits your current schedule. The aim is to minimise every possible block to achieving the task and, once you’ve done it, to reward yourself. I like to use stickers for this, but it’s your choice!

For example, you might decide to write for ten minutes every day (or every week day). That’s a small, clearly-defined task.

You might choose to add it to your evening routine, say after dinner (before you get up to wash the dishes) or first thing in the morning before you get out of bed.

Next, you prepare for success. If your writing session is scheduled for first thing in the morning, put your notebook and pen (or laptop) next to your bed the night before.

Repeat the habit for a few weeks until it feels very natural and easy. If you miss a session, don’t beat yourself up about it, just do the next one.

One final note: Even if you’re finding your goal very easy to manage, don’t be tempted to increase or change it too quickly. If you raise the bar too fast, you’re more likely to miss sessions and get discouraged. Allow yourself to ‘win’ at the task easily and regularly and you’ll soon have an instinctual writing habit in place.

What do you think? Do you already have a regular writing habit and, if not, will you try this approach? I really hope it helps!

 

[Toothpaste image credit: by aitbodyphoto courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net]

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Episode #07 The Worried Writer: Clodagh Murphy ‘There’s a reason I write fiction…’


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In this episode I talk to author of romantic comedy, Clodagh Murphy, about her writing process, journey to publication and struggles with self-doubt.

Clodagh Murphy has published several romantic comedies including Girl In A Spin, Frisky Business, and Some Girls Do. The Irish Independent called Clodagh ‘An exceptionally talented (and hilarious) Irish writer’.


Find out more about Clodagh’s work at www.clodaghmurphy.com or follow her on Twitter @ClodaghMMurphy

 

Recommended by Clodagh:


The 7 Habits of the Prolific by Hillary Rettig. (Clodagh and I both love this book!).

Freedom software for internet-free work time

Alphasmart – another great way to avoid the internet while writing. Plus, it only lets you see a couple of lines of text at a time which helps you to just plough ahead and not get derailed by reading back over your work.

 

 

Also recommended:

Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast

The Joined Up Writing podcast. Wayne and Leah were kind enough to recommend The Worried Writer and to invite me onto their show as a guest. Check out my interview here: Banish Self Doubt – interview with Sarah Painter – Joined Up Writing #30.

 

I reveal the title of my next book – podcast exclusive! – and give a writing update.

Also, I answer a listener question from @Maxi_Scribbler on Twitter:

Any chance of a chat on the podcast about finding an agent whether before publication or after and how you found yours?

Thanks so much for the question, Maxi!

If you have a writing (or publishing) question that you’d like me to tackle in a future episode, please get in touch via email or Twitter.

I’ll answer it on the show and credit you (unless, of course, you ask to remain anonymous).

Please spread the word and, if you can spare the time, leave a rating for the show on iTunes. I truly appreciate your support.

Thank you for listening!

 

 

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