How many times have you set out, set on finishing a book? Only to disappoint yourself within the first month, lose momentum, and put the book on the back burner, again? You're basically afraid of committing to the project again, and I completely understand. But you're here, right now, for a reason, and I believe the reason is that you have an unfulfilled calling: finishing.that.book. How can you do that?
Set some big picture milestones.
Timelines might freak you out. That’s fine. But if you’re serious about finishing a book, you need some goals, so keep it broad and flexible by setting a few big picture milestones. Let me walk you through an example. Let’s say it’s September and you’ve written 20 pages of a rough draft (roughly 5,000 words).
You’re hoping to write a book that’s long enough to print and has a good spine on it. We’ll ballpark a goal of 25,000 words. You work full-time and have other family/friend/volunteer obligations, so you only have about 3 hours a week to spend on your book. No problem. You can absolutely finish a book, with only 3 hours of free time a week.
September and October, you’ll be in first draft mode. Your goal will be to write 3 hours a week, every week. That’ll add up to 24 hours of writing. At 1,000 words per hour (a typical average), you’ll easily add those 20,000 words, maybe even more. Your goal is to finish writing your first draft this month, or to at least get 90% of your thoughts down on paper.
November, you’ll be in revision mode. You’ll be looking at the structure of your book (see this post on creating a reverse outline) and moving through each chapter, revising and editing as you go. Your goal is to finish revising your first draft this month.
December, you’ll send your manuscript to an editor. Research editors (see this post on finding a perfect editor for your book), contact a good fit, and send your draft to the editor. Relax while your book is being edited.
January, you’ll do a second round of revisions, based on your editor’s feedback.
February, you’ll figure out your publishing options and create a possible launch plan.
March, you’ll publish and launch your book.
This is a super relaxed timeline that’ll keep you feeling like you’re making progress toward your end goal: a published book. If you go faster, then bonus points!
The great thing about creating these month-based milestones is that it gives you enough structure to feel that, “Okay, this is doable,” but the deadlines are not so specific that their anxiety-inducing.
Then, hold yourself accountable to your weekly goals and milestones.
This does not have to be a big, fancy deal. Your accountability system could be a piece of paper that has the month, your goal for that month, and space for you to write down the time you spent working toward that goal of finishing a book.
But, since I know you face serious resistance, I created the most simple accountability system you can imagine. It’s not even a spreadsheet (because I know that might freak you out). It’s literally a one-page document that you can download or print and fill in, as it fits your goals.
Yes, finishing a book really is that simple. So, the question is, are you going to do it?
Look, you know this as well as I do: the most difficult things in life are not actually complicated, but they require facing your fears and then taking consistent, persistent action.
Why haven’t you finished your book, yet? Be honest.
If you’ve been thinking about starting or finishing a book for longer than three months. (I allow for three months of incubation/procrastination because, hey, we’re human), then I’m going to challenge you, right here, right now.
Submit a comment below, and sketch out the big milestones for your book. Give me which months you’ll be writing your first draft, revising, sending to an editor, publishing, and launching. Just months, keep it broad.
Seriously, comment below. I’ll gladly help you figure whether your timeline is reasonable for your life and circumstances.