Use these efficient writing methods to finally finish your book


Today, June 30th is the 181st day of the year, which means we are about to officially cross over into the second half of the year. Remember that resolution you set in January, that you would finally write and publish the book that’s been on the back burner for so long? Well, there’s still time, but now you’ve got to take some committed action.

I have six months to write a book. What do I do first?

Let me just give you the overview:

  • Free-write and organize a rough structure for the book (1 week)
  • Write the first draft, straight through, as quickly as possible (5 weeks for a 20,000 to 30,000-word book)
  • Revise the first draft (2 weeks)
  • Send to an editor (2 weeks)
  • Revise, based on editor’s comments (1 week)
  • Send to beta readers (2 weeks)
  • Cover design and formatting (while with beta readers)
  • Revise, based on beta readers’ comments (1 week)
  • Proofread (1 week)
  • Upload to Kindle and CreateSpace (1 day)
  • Fully focus on marketing your book (4 to 12 weeks)

So, including the launch of your book, you’ll want to plan for 19 to 27 weeks to pull this off, with a high-quality book. Luckily, we have exactly 27 weeks left in the year, so it’s completely possible!

How do I use my time to tap into efficient writing?

Efficient writing sessions is something I focus on heavily with one-on-one clients because if you get bogged down in the first draft, it’ll be really hard to keep moving through the revision and launch phases of the book. We track their writing sessions and dig through what parts of their environment, relationships, and mindset could be making some writing sessions more productive than others.

Your overall goals should be to write at least 5 hours and 5,000 words per week. If you’re writing a shorter book (20,000 to 30,000 words), you’ll aim to finish the first draft in 5 weeks. If you’re writing a longer book (50,000 to 60,000), you’ll aim to finish the first draft in 10 weeks. To make sure you stay on track, what are some ways to make sure that your writing sessions are effective and efficient?

1. Track your writing sessions. Every time you sit down to write, time how long you’re writing and (at the end) run a word count on what you’ve written that session. Record the time, the number of minutes you spent writing, and the number of words you wrote. After a week or so, you’ll start to notice some surprising trends about how much you think you’re writing.

Download the writing tracking sheet that I created here:

track writing progress

2. Use a timer for every writing session. I recommend writing for 25 minutes at a time. So, when you sit down to write, pull out a timer set it for 25 minutes, write like your life depends on it, and stop when the timer rings. Take a 5-minute break, and then come back for another writing session. When you’re finished, log your minutes and word count. ;)

3. Make sure you’re writing during a time that you won’t be disturbed for at least 25 minutes. Turn off your phone and notifications. Ask someone else to watch the kids. Aim to finish writing before your spouse comes home. Put a sign on the front door, telling people to leave packages and go away. Treat this writing time as truly special. If you can get 25 minutes of solid writing time in a day, you can make significant progress in your book.

4. If you find it difficult to get in the groove, do a quick 10-minute session of free-writing before you officially start writing your first draft. Free-write about the book in general, why it’s important, and why you want to finish it sooner, rather than later. Keep the free-writing broad. Then, once your fingers are warmed up, dive into the first draft. (I wrote an extensive post about free-writing here.)

5. Experiment with relaxation techniques to receive your anxiety around writing. So much of your “stuff” with writing is very likely pent up anxiety that has to do with others judging your writing or hating on your story or being dismissive of your philosophy. As much as I can tell you that those people are not reading your book (you’ll have lost their interest with the cover and title!), you will need to find ways to release those anxieties so that you can write more quickly. My favorites are EFT tapping and visualization.

Ultimately, your most important goal is to use your time for effective, efficient writing. It’s so easy (and common) to burn out during the first draft, but if you can make it through the first draft, the rest of the book is inevitable. Focus on maintaining your writing energy for those 5-10 weeks of the first draft, and you’ll reap the rewards at the end of this year, as you’re launching your book. It’s completely possible!

What do you think? Are you working on a book that you’d like to finish by the end of the year? What’s your biggest stumbling block?