I have been saying since the beginning of this podcast 3 1/2 years ago that I believe YOU can write a book and change the world. Today I talk about how to finish your book.
The three most important things you need are time to write, the mindset to get started and keep going, and the structure for the kind of book you want to write. I share a lot of suggestions and tips in all three areas to encourage YOU to write and finish your book. Happy writing!
If you’ve been listening for awhile, you know that I’ve been working with writers to finish their book and get it out into the world. Whether you want to go the traditional route and publish with a publishing house or take the entrepreneurial route and learn how to publish it yourself, if you have a burning idea inside, I think it’s important to get it out.
I absolutely believe YOU can write a book, and I absolutely believe books change the world. What if you and I could change the world for the better?
I’m a writer so I know how it feels to have an idea or a story tumbling around inside! For me, if I don’t write, I start feeling like I’m withering away inside. I feel much better when I write my ideas down. I feel a sense of satisfaction just by getting things down on paper.
But the incredible and intense sense of accomplishment I feel when I finish a book – there’s nothing like it for me. And I want to help other people feel that too!
That’s just the inward-facing side of why I believe finishing your book is important. The part that affects you.
There’s also the effect of your book on other people. Maybe you’ll teach someone how to do something you are good at. Maybe you’ll convince people to make a change to improve their health or the health of the planet. Maybe you’ll help someone to have a few hours of relaxation and enjoyment after a long, hard day.
ALL of these reasons are great reasons for finishing your book, whether you’re more interested in your own satisfaction or more excited about how it will affect others. All good reasons!
Now, if you have lots of ideas, and it’s fun to let them tumble around when you’re just standing in line or sitting in traffic, and they’re NOT pushing and shoving to get out – no problem. I love daydreaming, and not every idea is making me uncomfortable until I write it down. My goodness, I’d be writing something every waking hour! Haha!
So maybe you like the idea of writing a book, of holding a book in your hand with your name on it. But when you start thinking about the hours involved, the time it takes to learn and grow so that your writing is good enough for people to want to give you money for it…maybe that doesn’t sound so fun.
That’s perfectly fine! Writing for the joy of it is definitely a good reason! What you decide to do with the book afterward is a separate choice.
So whether you’re thinking about writing just for yourself, or to leave a family legacy, or to promote your work or business, or to have a career – no matter what your end goal – there is one thing you have to do.
In order to have a book of any length, you have to finish writing it! Haha! Right?
So what will it take for you to finish your book?
I’ve found there are three main things required no matter what you’re writing, fiction or nonfiction, no matter the length.
Time, mindset, and structure.
You need the time to sit down and write until you come to The End.
You need to believe that this endeavor is worth taking time away from other things.
And you need to have an idea of what you’re trying to create. A romance novel will have a different structure from an epic fantasy. A how-to-fix-your-motorcycle guide will be set up differently than a ministry book for growing a church.
Time, mindset, and structure are all intertwined. If you don’t have a good structure for your book, it’s going to take a lot longer to write it. If you don’t set aside time to write and you let other things get in the way, you’re going to get discouraged and start to believe you’ll never finish.
I really do want you to finish your book, either for yourself or your readers or both. Let’s start with time. If we made a list of everything we would love to do or need to do, there would always be more than we can possibly accomplish. I’ve taught a time management class for writers for over a decade, and once I did a slide show for a writers conference showing a breakdown of the number of hours in a week and what might be taking up that time. Someone pointed out I’d done the math wrong, cramming more than 168 hours into the week! My subconscious at work! Haha!
So we need to think about what we must do – sleep, eat, exercise, work, buy groceries, do laundry – and how we can rearrange our week to carve out 15 or 30 or 60 minutes a day, or an hour or two a week. First thing in the morning, last thing before bed, at lunch, while your dog is eating before you have to take him for a walk. There are times you can grab a few minutes. You just have to look for them and take them. Even standing in line at the store, you could tap out a paragraph or two on your phone.
Or what can we pay or barter to be done for us? Maybe one of the kids wants a pair of sneakers that you feel are ridiculously priced. But what if your child did all the cooking or laundry for a month or two to earn the sneakers, and you made sure you used every moment of those hours only for writing? (This won’t work as well, of course, if you hover instead of write. Is it worth it for the laundry to be good enough, though not up to your standards, in order for you to have several hours to write?)
Or maybe you can hire someone to clean your house? Order in groceries and/or hot meals? Or instead of getting upset that your partner wants to golf or play video games or go shopping, and you don’t want to, make a deal for a certain amount of time that you write while they do the thing they really want to do. Then you both get what you want!
You need to figure out the story you need to tell yourself in order to believe that this endeavor is worth taking time away from other things.
Do you normally spend several hours a week binge watching favorite TV shows with your friends or family? I do! What if you took two of those hours and suggested they watch a show you don’t want to see while you write?
Changing your habits isn’t easy, but it can be worth it for the right reward. If after a month you are missing all the things you used to do with your time, give yourself permission to stop writing. It’s okay if it’s not important enough to you at this point in your life. Don’t let yourself feel guilty. Life is about choices, and we’ll be happier if we can make our choices and then choose to be happy with them, or at least at peace.
If, however, you find that your soul seems to be singing more, now that you’ve got more writing time, hurray! Keep it up!
So why do I think mindset is so important to a writer? Isn’t that just a trendy topic for now? Absolutely not. When you decided writing was more important to you than watching TV (I’m not knocking TV – I love ingesting stories in any form!), or it was worth having improperly folded laundry, or worth paying to have someone else clean your house, your decision affected your behavior. But you could very easily reject your decision and go back to hanging out with your friends in perfectly ironed shirts.
Our mindset is not only the story we tell ourselves – I’ll never be able to do this; how in the world will I write a whole novel; I could do this if someone helped me – but our mindset is also in charge of the story we tell our loved ones. We’re either saying, writing is important to me, please support me in this journey, or we’re saying, I know I say I want to write a book someday but all these other things are more important to me today.
And let me be clear – there is no value judgement here!
When my mom was in the hospital, I didn’t want to do anything but enjoy our last weeks together. When my husband was in a motorcycle accident, I was overwhelmed with my sudden role as full-time caregiver.
But when I don’t have a crisis to deal with, I choose to push my mind to create a story that says – writing is important to me, and I will watch a little less TV, see my friends a little less, barter with John to do a few more household chores, so that I can write more. Because if I didn’t have that mindset, I would say yes every time something fun came up!
Mindset is also important in terms of focusing on the positive over the negative. Think about how you feel when I say these two sentences.
I should write after dinner.
I get to write after dinner.
Can you feel it? Did you hear how I even used a different tone of voice?
This is the power of mindset. We can help ourselves find energy even when we’re tired if we work to keep our focus more upbeat.
Another thing about mindset, there is an individual nature to it. When it comes to the carrot and the stick, I’m usually a carrot person. That’s why gamification works for me. I like seeing the little stickers on my calendar that said I wrote today! I’ll definitely find a way to get my words in if it means I get to go to the movies with my friends. (You know, someday when I can go to the movies with my friends.)
But some of my writer friends are better with “I can’t do X unless I get my words in.” Or “I can’t take a lunch break until I hit X number of words.”
For me and the way my mind works, that’s too much on the negative side of thinking. It doesn’t work for me. I may quite easily write through my lunch hour if I’m on a roll. I’ve done it a lot in the past. But if I told myself I couldn’t have a lunch break until I reached a certain word count, my mind would balk. So you need to know how your mind works.
That’s just a short explanation of how time is an important part of finishing your book, and how mindset is an important part of finishing your book. There’s also structure, which can be a much bigger topic because each of you might be writing something completely different.
A couple of short examples – for my romantic comedies, I know I need to fully know and present both the heroine character and the hero character because they’ll both get about equal time on the page. I know there are some tropes I will likely use – reunited is the trope for Love at the Fluff and Fold – and there are certain things that will happen, like finally getting together and then later breaking up before coming back together forever with marriage on their minds.
But for my superhero books, while I have several point of view characters, the main character is my heroine Tori. And the main plot points will be about good guys fighting bad guys with one main problem and several smaller problems throughout the book.
My chick lit books are all first person told from the heroine’s point of view, and they are partly about life and partly about love.
Within fiction, these all have different structures, but they are far more similar when you compare them to nonfiction.
In my encouragement for writers book, I spent a lot of time planning the outline, rearranging the order of what I wanted to say. Then I wrote the first chapter a few different ways to come up with how I wanted to encourage writers in each of these topics. Once all of that was clear, I wrote the rest of the chapters.
However, this book is quite different in structure from, say, a how-to guide for motorcycle maintenance. In a book like that, each chapter will be stand-alone because people are going to turn straight to the bit they need help on. Plus, the writing will be a lot more step-by-step instructions, probably even including diagrams.
Hopefully, I’ve given you some things to think about. What area or areas do you need to work on? Where do you need help? And where in the world would you even find good help?
Thankfully, there are a lot of ways to find what you need! There are hundreds of books and articles on the web in each of those three areas – time, mindset, and structure – just for writers, in addition of thousands more for the general market. And don’t forget about all the podcasts available to you! (I’m so glad you’re listening to mine! Thanks for sharing your time with me!)
You could find another writer or group of writers who write something similar so you have a critique partner or critique group. (If you’re new to the lingo, you might hear someone talk about their crit partner – shorthand for critique.) Or maybe join a writers group at a local library or community center. Due to the pandemic, there are more groups online, which is great if you don’t live near one.
You can learn a ton at writers conferences, retreats, cruises, and one-day workshops! Again, sooo many are online, at least for now.
Or you can hire a professional. If you decide to wait until after you finish your first draft, you might be looking at hiring a developmental editor who will give you notes about how to make the book better. Or you might want to hire a book coach before you get too far into the writing to give you some feedback so you don’t get lost, and help you create a structure.
All of these possibilities have pros and cons. All require a different amount of time and money and commitment. I’ve done all of them and gotten different kinds of help along the way. I encourage you to think about what is going to help you most right now to write now and finish your book.
If you like me and my personality, reach out and we’ll get on a 30-minute Zoom call to see if we’d be a good match for one-on-one coaching. You can reach me at kitty at kittybucholtz.com or send me a message on Facebook Messenger or Twitter, I’m Kitty Bucholtz on both. Or go to the Contact page on WriteNowWorkshop.com
I have a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing with specialty classes in editing both fiction and nonfiction. In addition to the eight fiction titles of my own, I’ve directly helped five other authors get their books finished and in print. Plus, I’ve been teaching writing classes for over 20 years with hundreds of students.
I love writing and I love teaching and I would love to help you finish your book!
Please think about whether finishing your book this year is a priority for you. If it is, ask yourself what you’re going to do to make it happen. Then go do it!
I know you can a write a book! And maybe that book will change the world, one reader at a time.