Books are funny things. Writing one seemed like such a good idea at the time. It kept you awake at night, causing you to reach for that pen and paper in the small hours because you’d thought of a great opener for chapter 2.
But then reality set in. That can’t-keep-your-hands-off-each-other passion turned to the drudgery of a 30-year marriage. The ideas faded, the boredom set in. Then you did what all writers do but never should — you read back what you’d written. Those first three chapters you thought were a work of genius turned out to be nothing better than a piece of GCSE coursework. You cried. You wondered whether you should find an editor.
Then you did what all writers do at some point in their lives — you stopped. ‘I’m writing a book’ became ‘I tried to write a book once’, and that’s it, the magic had gone.
You are not alone. Just 1% of people have published a book, although 89% would like to write one. Writing a book is hard, so here are 6 tips to finish that damn thing in a month. Some will work for you and others will not, but they are all things to try.
Are you trying to write too broadly about your subject? Lack of focus is one of the main reasons books fail. Try refining your topic to the next level down. Writing about digital marketing? Try ‘Digital Marketing for Social Media Haters’ instead.
If your document has obscure chapter titles or just ‘Chapter 1’ as the heading, try writing down exactly what each chapter is about. Use plain English and, while you’re at it, write down the one point in each chapter that 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’).
Some writers struggle to finish their book because they can’t… finish.
To stop the waffle, 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, delete it. 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.
When you started your book, did you set yourself a word count? It’s amazing how many writers start without a target. To finish your book in a month, see how much you’ve 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 — just write them.
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 up the steps. Your final point is the top step, and 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.
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 isawful. But you must ignore it and keep going. Awful things can be made brilliant at a later date.
Writing a book is no one-night stand. It is a long marriage, with ups and downs and many moments where you want to throw in the towel. If you would like support to finish your book, get in touch and I will be happy to help (a spot of marriage counselling, if you will).