Have you ever struggled to finish writing a series of articles, stories, or even a book?
Perhaps they're stuck in the bottom of a drawer in your office.
Or maybe it’s lost on your hard-drive.
Or perhaps it’s sitting in a notebook in your attic.
I’m talking about the stubborn writing project you gave up on because it was too hard to work it out.
Almost every writer gives up on a writing project at some point.
I’m no exception.
I stuffed dozens of short stories in the back of my drawer and gave up on publishing them.
And I let second and third drafts of a book rot in my computer.
Giving up on a writing project is a mistake, and it’s one new writers must avoid.
If you want to become a writer, finishing what you started is one of the best habits you can cultivate.
- Why You Must Finish Writing
- 1. Keep a Strict Writing Schedule
- 2. Outline Your Writing Projects
- 3. Write Your First Draft Quickly
- 4. Combat Writer's Block
- 5. Edit Your Drafts
- 6. Work With An Editor on Revising
- 7. Abandon Perfectionism
- What to Do When You Finish Your Writing Project
- How to Finish Writing: FAQs
Why You Must Finish Writing
Get to the end of your writing project, and you’ll get:
1. Your hands dirty: Studying the work habits and creative strategies of writers like Ernest Hemingway and John Caples is fun, but writing isn’t a spectator sport. <— Tweet this
You’ll learn more of this craft by wading in up to your neck.
2. To bleed: Great writers bleed onto the page and leave a part of themselves behind.
This is living, and the following day, these writers do it all over again.
3. The opportunity to make mistakes: If you ship your work and it’s badly received, you can use this feedback to become a better writer.
If you don’t ship, you won’t get feedback, and you’ll never get a chance to improve.
4. Smarter: Finishing a piece trains your brain to make new connections and come up with better ideas for your next writing project.
5. Answers to the questions that keep writers up at night: Are you a non-fiction writer, a copywriter, a story-teller or a genre fiction writer?
Finishing your work will help you answer these questions because you’ll know more of what you enjoy and what you’re good at.
6. Over the blindspots in your practice: Do you have trouble writing strong introductions? What can you do to write better headlines?
How can you deepen your research?
Treasures the difficult moments; they are the foundations of your writing practice.
7 Faster!: You’re an athlete, and writing is a race. It may be a sprint, a ten-mile event, or a marathon. Whatever the length of your work, get through it, and you’ll finish the next one faster.
8. The confidence that comes with finishing: When your article appears in print, your short story in a magazine, or your blog post on a popular site, you’ll feel lighter than you have in months.
Then, when you sit down to write again, you’ll be hungry for more success.
9. A free education: If you guest post for a popular website, you’ll have the chance to talk to another editor who can help you improve your work and (if the relationship goes well) provide you with opportunities for future work.
This is the kind of feedback people pay money for.
10. Paid: Professional writers turn up, they do the work. They move on, and they get paid. You deserve to get paid too.
Take heart from Neil Gaiman who said:
“Whatever it takes to finish things, finish. You will learn more from a glorious failure than you ever will from something you never finished.” — Neil Gaiman
1. Keep a Strict Writing Schedule
A doctor doesn't operate when he or she feels like it. Similarly, good writers don't sit down to work only when they feel inspired.
Figure out a set time for writing each day, ideally in the same place. You could, for example, get up an hour earlier each morning and write in the spare room in your house or apartment or at the kitchen table.
Alternatively, you could try writing in a coffee shop or local library before or after work. I also recommend booking this time in your personal calendar.
Well, if you protect your writing time from day-to-day life, it'll become much easier to tackle that novel, book, or writing project. Also, a writing schedule will eventually transform into a daily writing habit that becomes harder and harder to break.
2. Outline Your Writing Projects
A lot of fiction writers and authors of popular best-sellers are pantsters. They like to sit down and see where the blank page takes them. That's a fine approach if you're experienced and self-disciplined, and it's one Stephen King follows.
However, if you're a new writer or working on your first book, consider spending thirty minutes outlining it in advance. This describes the approach of a plotter.
You could use index cards, bullet points, or a mind map. If your first draft differs from the outline that's ok. The outline has still served its purpose: to help you start writing!
When you've finished writing more projects, decide if you're a plotter or pantser.
3. Write Your First Draft Quickly
The hardest part of any writing project is the first draft. If you haven't written much before, filling the blank page or screen with words and stories is an intimidating prospect.
Great writers know that the only job of the first draft is to exist. So, get the words out of your hand and onto the page as quickly as you can. Don't stop to edit yourself or fix mistakes and other issues.
When in doubt, keep writing!
4. Combat Writer's Block
Writer's block basically describes not having enough ideas to write about. Sometimes ideas will come when you sit down to write. On other occasions, curbing your inputs will help. Social media notifications are a major distraction!
If procrastination persists, consider what distractions you can remove from your room or turn off. Using a writing prompt can also help you write a difficult first draft faster too.
A few years ago, I took part in NaNoWriMo as I wanted to write my first novel. It's a good competition for anyone who worries about writer's block.
Basically, participants must write a book in a month. You don't actually have to finish the book; the purpose of the competition is to teach writers how to create quickly and under a deadline.
I didn't quite finish my novel in a month, but I produced a novella that I self-published the following year.
5. Edit Your Drafts
Writing the first draft is often the hardest part of a creative project. Self-editing is usually easier and more fun. I've put together this self-editing checklist that will help.
Separating writing and editing into two different activities that you perform at different times will help you to finish writing a book or other type of writing project.
You could, for example, write the first draft of an article or short story in the morning, and edit that first draft in the afternoon. If you're blogging, you could write posts in the morning and lay them out in the afternoon
For bigger writing projects, like a novel, it's a good idea to write all of the first draft before trying to self-edit your manuscript.
6. Work With An Editor on Revising
Most successful writing projects are the product of more than one person. Although your byline may sit on top of the blog post or on the book cover, remember that the best writers work with editors closely.
You can hire an editor and get help with the revising process using services like Reedsy. Don't skip this step if you're self-publishing a book. An editor will help you finish writing a better book, and their feedback will teach you more about the craft.
Using a good grammar checker can also help.
7. Abandon Perfectionism
If a blog post is holding you up, accept it’s not going to be perfect and commit to press publish by a certain date.
If you’re struggling with an article, contact your editor, ask them to review your work, and provide editorial direction.
If you’ve been tinkering with a short story for months, find a writing competition, and then use their deadline as your deadline.
If your book is taking longer than you’d like to write, stop researching the book and focus on writing it.
You can also:
- Stop watching television (or get rid of it)
- Document your word count and how much time you spend writing in a journal and use this information to identify what’s holding you up
- Disconnect from the internet while you write
- Hold yourself accountable by making a public commitment to friends, colleagues, and readers to ship your work
- Write the end of whatever you’re writing and then work backwards
The trick to finishing stubborn writing projects is to work a little on them every day.
These small wins will help you gain momentum and make small but determined progress towards the finish line.
What to Do When You Finish Your Writing Project
First, congratulate yourself.
It’s important to mark these types of wins, however small.
Next, after a few days or even weeks, review how your work was received and identify what held you up.
Then, make a plan for avoiding these kinds of mistakes in the future.
Even if the final version of your writing isn’t as good as you hoped or if it hits the wrong note with readers, don’t worry.
You will have grown more as a writer than if you had abandoned your work because it was too damn hard.
Finally, start something new. Start the next great thing.
Now go out there and finish something. Your future readers are waiting.
How to Finish Writing: FAQs
What is a writing project?
A writing project is more involved than a single article or story and takes longer. Example include a series of blog posts, freelance articles or even a book. A writing project usually has a defined start and end date and is often taken on for money.
What to do when you finish writing a book?
First, congratulate yourself. Writing a book is hard work. Next, hire an editor who can help with the revision process. And show your book to some early readers. When you've acted on their feedback, prepare a plan for self-publishing your book or looking for an agent.
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