Writing a Book: How to Stick to It and Finish

When I started writing I used to spend a lot of time alone at my desk trying to figure out what to do. What could I write about? Where to start? I was ready to work. So why didn't I get a single line out?

Staying in front of the screen without asking or receiving help can mean spending weeks going in circles. And when finding the exit seems impossible, you're most likely to quit. Doing so would be nonsense and a real shame.

In this article I aim to prevent you from giving up. I am going to review the most common obstacles when writing a fiction book and the resources to overcome them. These are the key points:

  • How to start writing your book.
  • How to stick to it.
  • How to finish.

But before I begin, my best advice: read. Writing is a skill and as such we have to develop it. What will help us the most in this regard, almost without realizing it, is reading a lot.

5 Obstacles when Writing a Book and how to Overcome Them 

1. Blank Page Syndrome

This is what you have before you at the beginning. A blank page, an empty screen, a pad to fill.

"Can I do this?," you may ask yourself.

You must first work on the proper mindset for writing. If you made a commitment to write a book, you're not going to give up.

Focus on responsibility and take over small tasks. Here are some practical proposals when inspiration fails to strike:

  • Write down your goals and make plans to accomplish them.
  • Keep a writer journal. Put your daily routine into words.
  • If you can remember a recent dream, describe it, in present tense and with a journalistic style.

In other words: when stuck, just write something.

2. The Inner Critic

Writing a fiction book is all about motivation and self-confidence. You must trust yourself.

We should experience the internal critic as a resource to recognize where we've gone wrong and what we need to do to correct things and, in this case, accomplish the overall goal of ending the book. But too often the inner critic goes way overboard, and we just have to break free from it.

Your creativity goes first. And you are here to get the work done. Before wallowing in shame and self-pity, focus in these two things:

  • Do research. Read more material related to the book and take additional notes.
  • See your book as a first draft. Abandon perfection, move forward and just let the writing flow.

3. Concerns on What Others Will Think about Your Writing

The other side of the coin of point 2 is the uncertainty about the future public reception of the book.

There are clear reasons why you shouldn't care what others think. Your life is yours and no one else knows what's best for you. Similarly, make sure to pay attention just to that person who has thoughtfully read your writings and is a connoisseur; who knows what she or he is talking about.

Let's consider some practical actions:

  • Show someone the first version of the book, or some chapters, and ask for feedback.
  • Find a buddy. According to NaNoWriMo website, you're three times more likely to finish a novel with a buddy. You can give a try to National Novel Writing Month.
  • Find the words you need to hear: get help and inspiration from established authors. All of them have to deal with criticism. For instance, think of what Shannon L. Alder has to say about this: "One of the greatest regrets in life is being what others would want you to be, rather than being yourself."

4. Missed Targets

Setting goals is an effective motivational tool, but your goals must be effective themselves. Don't tell yourself "I want to be a better writer". Don't jump right into setting large objectives, but rather try measurable, attainable basic goals:

  • Writing a single page every day.
  • Establishing time-bound targets. If you have a full-time job, find a moment for yourself: wake up earlier in the morning, or sit in bed with your laptop at night.

Avoid bad habits by adding some extra fun to the process. For example, you can use a writing app. I already reviewed one in a previous post. There is a wide range of book writing apps and you'll easily find the one that suits you best. They will help you think quickly and stay organized, and by using them you'll get focus, swift progress, and motivation.

5. Finishing Seems Impossible

At any stage of the writing process you may be tempted to give up. It's normal, you have the right to it. Actually, it's what happens to many memorable characters in the middle of their stories: they are in contradiction between their need to appear strong to solve their conflict and their actual weakness.

My quick tips:

  • Break the book in a series of small, attainable goals. Organize your time according to them. Half a chapter a day. 300 words per hour. You name it.
  • In front of any obstacle, believe that you will finish the novel. Tomorrow will bring a new chance.
  • Before giving up, think of yourself in the future, wishing you’d just stuck with writing a little longer.
  • Visualize your finished book.

So, you may be tempted by it, but don't give up. Try again. To put it like Mary Anne Radmacher, “Courage doesn't always roar, sometimes it's the quiet voice at the end of the day whispering 'I will try again tomorrow'.”

You can read my related articles: Writing a Novel Using a Free Productivity App, and 5 Ways to Handle Criticism as a Writer. 

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