Finish the Book

August 16, 2011 by  
Filed under Craft

A Procrastinator’s Guide to Getting to THE END and Hitting Send

Some people have no trouble writing books. Words flow and contracts arrive almost as frequently as 747s land at LAX. Life is good and so are the royalty checks. Is this your idea of the writing life? Guess what? That’s fiction. Writing is work. Sometimes hard work. Not for the faint of heart or those prone to dropping projects before they’re done.

Strike a nerve? Good. Because you’re not alone. I tried to find statistics on how many books are abandoned before they’re complete, but couldn’t get close to a good estimate. Know why? People with good intentions who figure they’ll finish that book someday so it’s not exactly abandoned. Add in the ones who just can’t quite turn the book loose after edit #3212 and you get the idea.

It is a widely accepted fact that a book cannot be published unless it is released from the confines of the computer. So, how does an author finish a book and let it go? Easier said than done, right?

Maybe not.

  1. Know what you have. Print out the manuscript and do a complete read-through in hard copy. Aloud. Yes. Read your manuscript to yourself. I know. You’ll look like an idiot. Who cares? You’re getting your book finished, and that’s what’s important.
  2. Know what you have to do. Whether you’re writing or editing, I want you to stop right now and decide exactly what needs doing. And write it down. Yes, like a goal. A real goal. Because once you’ve identified what you have to do, you must then figure out exactly how you’re going to do it.
  3. Know how to reach your goal. Need to finish the book? Okay, let’s look at that. What’s your word count goal? How many words can you comfortably write in a day? Or, maybe you need to look at a weekly goal. Underestimate the amount of hours in a week that you can devote to writing. That way you’ll be ahead if you do better than what you’ve projected.
  4. Know when to stop. Yes, that’s right. There are authors out there who do not know when to stop working on their completed manuscript. Yes, editing is important. Yes, we want to have the best possible manuscript to present to editors or agents. But how are these publishing professionals going to usher your book into print if you don’t release it into their hands? Ask yourself: Why can’t I let this go? Is the Lord telling me to wait or am I in defiance of what He wants? Yes, defiance. Because writers, if you’ve been charged with the job of writing for the Lord then you’ve got to be gut-honest and ask yourself if you’re standing in the way of what God wants to use you to do. If you are, you’ll know it. And if you are, you’re walking in disobedience. Just sayin…
  5. Know what to do next. Yes, next. You’re finished with the book. You’ve done the work of editing, and now you’re placing your manuscript in the hands of an editor or agent. Great! That’s awesome! Now what? Are there other manuscripts languishing in a file somewhere that need attention? Knock the dust off the next one and start the process all over again. Or maybe you’ve got another idea begging to be given some attention. Go for it! Write! That’s what you do next.
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