How to Finish Writing Your Book

The hardest part about writing and finishing a novel life is sitting still long enough to do it.

I have mentored hundreds of would-be authors and I discovered that most of them had good ideas, a reasonable idea about structure, and an imagination and vocabulary to complete the job.

However, the thing that shipwrecked their skills and good intentions was an inability to concentrate on their work.

They allowed distractions to keep them from realizing their writing goals.

Skill is one thing, concentration is another thing

You may be a wonderful writer, but it means nothing if you can’t keep your bum in the chair long enough to complete your work.

I’m going to share one of the most in some important secrets about writing. Knowing it is likely to transform your entire writing process.

The secret is this: You want to be distracted. Yes, it’s true! You must overcome that desire. If you’re not writing, it means you do not have to worry about the frustrating aspects of your plot or dialogue. It means you do not need to worry about critics, because there will be nothing for them to read. It means that you are buying into the myth that some external force, like a muse, will speak to you in the midst of your distraction. That way, you will not have to think up ideas from within. Distractions are a warm, fuzzy way to escape the hard work of writing.

Develop a strategy to deal with self-sabotage

I have discovered that food is the favorite distraction of many writers. Most don’t eat because they are hungry. They eat because they are confused or frustrated. Eating satisfies an oral fixation, raises blood sugar to give a false sense of well-being. Eating kills time. Writers, above all, think they need food to survive, but the reality is they need all those snacks to quell a mind in conflict about the writing project at hand.

Stop eating and keep writing. Schedule means and don’t give in your inner child when it cries for a cookie.

There are many other distractions that make writing and finishing a novel impossible for almost all would-be writers.

If you want to write to completion, you must turn off your cell phone and quit checking Facebook and other social media pages. You must stop yourself from getting sidetracked if you are doing legitimate Internet research.

That’s asking a lot of most people. They are addicted to these kinds of distractions. Many writers break their writing concentration on purpose because they need the instant gratification that laborious novel-writing does not provide. A writer can go to Facebook, for example, and get an immediate positive emotional jolt from seeing someone liked one of their comments.

Writers must cultivate a liking for long-term gratification instead of needing short-term gratification, which only serves to interrupt thought processes.

Some ideas to help you maintain concentration

I suggest writers overcome the problem of distracting Internet sites by blocking them. Use a Chrome browser extension like StayFocusd (Google it). You can block certain sites and/or set time limits on particular sites.

Also, I teach the students I mentor to adopt a, “Dr Pepper” policy for checking their email. Dr Pepper is a US soft drink, particularly popular in the American South, and for the last hundred years or so they have advertised that you should drink Dr Pepper at, “10, 2 and 4.” The idea is that those are the times during the day that energy levels begin to wane, and their sugary drink will invigorate you.

You will find that you will enhance your concentration, and get far more writing done, if you don’t check your email every time you get a hankering to do so. Give yourself something to look forward to by limiting email checking to 10 AM, 2 PM and 4 PM. You only think you need to check it more often, but it is unlikely that is true. You have trained yourself to check your email often because of the sense of gratification you get from doing it.

Some negotiable distractions

These kinds of distractions are generally nonnegotiable. There are other distractions that are debatable. The biggest one in my mind, is music. For many years I advised my writing students to eliminate all distractions like music, radio and television. Over time, I came to recognize that what was ideal for me was not ideal for others. I learned this by writing sessions at Starbucks. I found that I was very productive in an environment where there was soft music and low volume conversation in the background.

Today, I do not advise my students to block sounds that seem distracting. Instead, I advise them to do a 30 minute writing exercise in total silence, and then do another writing exercise where music or other background noise may seem intrusive. Then, it is just a matter of checking your word count and the quality of your writing to see what works best for you.

If your productivity is best without background sound, then eliminate that distraction. If your writing is better with certain kinds of music at a certain volume, then do that. But don’t leave this matter to your opinion. Don’t write with music just because it fills the sense of isolation you have as you write. Verify that music actually aids your productivity.

Focus on your work to complete it

You can finish your book if you keep placing one word after another, one sentence after another, one paragraph after another and one page after another without distractions. Any time you allow distractions to take you away from your writing, you sabotage yourself and you are less likely to finish your novel.

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