If you’ve been saying you’re going to write a book for years, you probably could write the book on how to never finish writing your book. But I’d like to save you the trouble and share with you two things. First, you’re not alone. And second, you can finish your book if you stop doing the things that are getting you stuck, and do something different.
It’s a common story. I hear it often enough: you had an idea, you got excited about it, and then years rolled by, and you never made much progress. I’m willing to bet that more people today have been “writing a book” for the past 10 years than the total number of books that have been published in the same period. But most of those books-in-progress will never be born.
One reason: the authors lack (or lost) momentum.
I cannot overemphasize how important momentum is when writing your book. If you see yourself here, you probably have struggled to generate or maintain momentum.
So, let’s have some fun and look at this from a contrarian point of view.
Here are my three best tips on how to ensure you never finish writing your book.
Tip #1: Dive in Headfirst
You get a bright idea and minutes later you’re typing Chapter One. You feel good at first. What a go getter! You’re on it! But then…a fog moves in. Your focus wanes. You have so many ideas, but you don’t know what to say first. You can’t tell what’s important. Suddenly, it dawns on you, you’re not even sure who this book is for. You can’t recall why you’re writing it…and you lose enthusiasm for your concept and the writing stops.
At this point you have two options:
- Get professional help and start over. (I mean like a writing coach, not a psychotherapist. Although, if it’s been too traumatic, you may need both.)
- Blame the idea, abandon the project and repeat the process all over again with your next bright idea, and your next, and your next…
I’ve seen wannabe authors struggle with this many times.
And if it’s happened to you, be comforted by the fact that it happened because no one told you that an idea isn’t enough of a jump off point to write a book. You need a clear, salable concept.
An Idea is Not a Concept
A book idea is just an idea. An undeveloped whim. An idea doesn’t become a concept until you validate it. You validate an idea by making sure it’s 1) Aligned with you and your goals/mission. 2) A match for your ideal reader/client. And 3) Unique in the marketplace.
Interestingly, our own process to help our clients come up with a clear, salable concept at my company was informed by watching clients lose momentum. I used to coach clients on developing their concept and outline in 6 or 8 one-hour calls over a period of as many weeks.
Now, we do all the concept work either in one VIP day. Or our 2-day small group bootcamp. The shorter timeframe helps our clients gain momentum, get excited about their project, and gives them a roadmap all the way to the end.
Tip #2: Take Too Long to Write the First Draft
You lose momentum if you jump in too quickly, but you also lose momentum if you take too long to write.
While you are writing your book, you are also living your life. As you live your life, you are learning, growing, and changing.
Time goes on, and your perspective and opinions change. It’s inevitable – and this is a good thing! We want to be constantly growing and changing. But constant growth can pose problems when writing a book over years.
A book is meant to capture a snapshot of your perspective at the time that you’re writing it. So, if your process drags on for years… you’ll find that your point of view changes, and the book no longer feels congruent with who you are.
When that happens, you go back and revise, and revise, and revise… you get the picture. You get stuck in an endless loop of editing because it takes you too long to get the initial draft down. And you never get far enough ahead to finish.
Aim to get a complete full rough draft of your book done quickly. On average, six months is a great target. To help you stay out of the weeds, remember that you will have plenty of opportunities to edit. You don’t have to get one chapter perfect to go on to the next. And you shouldn’t try to do so. Trust that the editing process will help you correct and overcome any error or omissions, or just plain lousy writing. But you can’t edit until you have content.
Tip #3: Don’t Carve Out Time
The people who are most likely to lose momentum are the ones who don’t carve out enough time in their day-to-day lives to write. Writing a book takes time, focus, and commitment, which means you must schedule time to do it. And show up.
Over 20-plus years, I’ve seen it lots of times with clients (this goes for coaching clients as well as ghostwriting clients). They just can’t find the time in their busy lives to devote to their book, and a project that should have taken 6 months turns into 12 months, which turns into 2 years…They usually get it done, because they have us nudging them. But it’s hard to nudge yourself if you keep missing your own writing appointments.
Make writing your book a priority. If you don’t, life will always get in the way, and you will find yourself in the 10-year, on-again-off-again, “when-will-I-stop-kidding-myself-and-write” relationship with your book.
Okay, those are the three main causes of losing momentum, which virtually guarantee you’ll never finish writing your book. Now, I will tell you the way to flip it.
Use the Law of Inertia
“An object at rest remains at rest, and an object in motion remains in motion at constant speed and in a straight line unless acted on by an unbalanced force.”
When you’re writing your book, a lot of things can get in the way. But keep moving no matter what. Keep showing up for your writing sessions. even if you only write down a few more words, do something every day to keep it going. If you need help, get help.
Whatever you do, don’t become an object at rest. Every time you allow the momentum to stop, it’s harder to get that momentum back.
The Bottom Line is This:
If you lose momentum, you may never finish writing your book. Do the things that generate momentum continuously and don’t stop until it’s done.