There are few things worse than having a half-done book sitting on your hard drive that never gets published. Time is short. People are waiting for your book. So stop screwing around with your manuscript, and get it done already!
This is the best time management tool you have when it comes to writing your book. Your brain is wired to answer questions. When your outline is full of questions, instead of statements, the writing comes easier.
How? Break it up into little chunks of writing time. Even if you only spend ten minutes answering one question on your outline, that’s progress you can be proud of. If you need some accountability and encouragement, I’ve set up a daily check-in group on Facebook where you can post your daily writing goals and then come back to let everyone know how successful you were in meeting them. People who’ve been stalled for years are actually finishing by having accountability partners.
Don’t go back and edit your book to death. In fact, you may not want to re-read anything you’ve written until it’s finished. It’s a first draft. It’s supposed to be a mess! You’ll fix everything in the editing stage. Just keep moving forward until you get it done.
It might even suck. That’s okay. Keep writing. If it’s not written down, you can’t fix it. When you give yourself permission to not be perfect the first time, life gets easier. And here’s the thing with books–they’re never perfect. You can spend 10 years writing, and then still find things to change. Perfection is a form of procrastination.
Maybe you wake up thirty minutes early and write. Maybe you write on your lunch break or evening commute on the train or bus. Pick a time when you’re alert and able to think clearly. Write at the same time every day.
I know this contradicts what you just read, but some people just need to write when the words come. If the words come for you at different times of the day, that’s fine, as long as you’re writing every day. Try both ways (a set time each day, and different times) to figure out which works best for you. And remember, you only have to answer one question at a time. Ten minutes of progress is still progress.
Move quickly, even if that means skipping over some research you need to do or using placeholder text now and then. It’s too easy to start researching something online and then fall down a rabbit hole of distraction. Three hours later, you still don’t have the answer you started looking for. I’ll often write myself notes to go look something up later. I always put the notes in between brackets <<like this>>. That way, I can just do a global search in my word processing program to find them all and fill them in when I have time.
There’s a sort of magical energy surrounding the creation of something that has never existed before. When you talk about it too much, the magic can dissipate. There will be plenty of time for telling people about it later. Right now, focus all your energy into that first draft. If people ask you about it, just tell them it’s a secret for now.
A commitment means you’re going to do what you say you’ll do, no matter what. There’s no turning back. There’s no Plan B. If you say you’re going to write for an hour, or even just 30 minutes, do it! Make your commitments easy to keep at first. Tell yourself you just need to answer one question on the outline, which might only take ten minutes. Once it’s done, you’ve kept your commitment. Then, if you feel like continuing to write, do so. If you don’t, it’s okay. You’ve done what you said you’d do.
Think about this. If you have one hundred questions on your outline, and you stick to your commitment to respond to one question a day, you’ll be done with your draft in just 100 days. That might seem like a long time to you right now, and that’s okay. It’s better to work with a commitment you can keep than to set yourself up for failure with a goal that’s too lofty or unrealistic.
Habits, by definition, are unconscious. They are actions we take without even thinking. We don’t plan to go to Starbucks at 3:15 in the afternoon every day. Maybe we did at first, but now it just happens automatically. We don’t even have to look at the clock to know it’s time.
Wouldn’t it be nice if writing your book could become a habit you just do, day in and day out, without thinking about it? It is possible; people do it all the time. The easiest way to create a new habit is to hook it onto the end of an already existing habit, like linking flowers in a daisy chain.
If you’d like to create a morning writing habit, pick a habitual action you already have—like say, making a pot of coffee— and just open up your writing program as soon as you hit the button on the coffeemaker. Or, if you take your dog for a walk first thing every morning, maybe you turn on your computer right after you hang up his leash and take off your coat. Find a physical action, a trigger, which starts the next habit.
Another trick to creating a new habit is to set a ludicrously low threshold for success. Set yourself up to win every single day, and your habit will be reinforced by the positive feedback. What’s a ludicrously low threshold? How about opening your computer, and writing only until the coffee is ready. Then you can stop, if you want to. Or writing just 50 new words on the manuscript. Or only writing for six minutes. Set the bar so low that your brain can’t logically come up with a reason not to follow through. Most of the time, you’ll probably write longer than you set as a minimum.
The goal is to create a habit that gets you started. Once you’re working, keep on going as long as you can. Also, celebrate when you succeed. Take a moment to say, “Yes! I did it! I wrote 50 new words!” There is power in repeated small successes. And before long, you’ll be able to stretch your sessions out longer and longer. The success level should always be easily achievable.
There’s some study out there that says 90% of people believe they have a book in them. But only a tiny fraction of them actually write and publish that book. I want you to be a finisher! Pick a few of these strategies that work for you, and keep moving forward.