The following article is an excerpt from our 2018 Author's Guide to Successful Publishing, now available as a free download. Enjoy!
5 Top Tips for Finishing Your Book
Completing a manuscript is one of the most exhilarating moments in a writer’s life, and getting to that moment is also one of the greatest challenges. To help make sure you cross that finish line and have a working manuscript, here are our five top tips:
1. Plan Ahead
Finishing a book is a challenge for anyone, but having a structure in place is a great way to improve your chances of reaching your goal. Some people like to map out every detail of their plot or argument before writing; others prefer working with a rough outline. Either approach can help keep you going in the right direction as you craft your sentences, paragraphs, and chapters. Having an outline in place doesn’t mean you can’t make changes and improvements to the structure as you go along. Revise your outline as needed and know that having an idea of the direction you’re headed is the best way to make sure you reach The End.
2. Create a Habit
Many writers begin their books in a blaze of inspiration, writing hundreds or even thousands of words in a single sitting. The problem, of course, is that we get tired. And distracted. And there’s email. And the cat needs to go to the vet. And we just plain run out of time and energy. In writing, momentum is key. The most powerful way to make quick and effective progress on your manuscript is to write a little every day. Even just 200 words each day would make a 50,000 word manuscript in less than eight months. Best of all, once you get into the habit of writing every day, it gets easier and easier to generate new ideas and improve your skills. Most importantly, keep in mind that you’re not aiming for perfection — you’re aiming for production. A terrible sentence is better than no sentence at all, because you can’t edit a blank page.
3. Form a Team
For all the joy of writing, the truth is that every writer struggles, every manuscript has its problems, and every writer can benefit from the help of others. A writing group and enlisting a team of “beta” readers for feedback is one of the best ways to get perspective on your work. A team can help you spot things you’ve missed and also help generate ideas to make your work stronger.
4. Plan for Success
Regardless of how you publish your book, the job of being a writer requires more than just writing. Every writer is the chief spokesperson for their book and, as such, is essential to the book’s success. For better or worse, people want to hear from the author — how the book was written, where the idea came from, additional information, and so on. It’s never too early to think about how you’re going to market your book. Who is your audience? Why will your book be special to them? What can you do to help your book stand out against competing titles? Answering these questions as early as possible can go a long way toward supporting your book’s ultimate success. Remember, every writer is also an “authorpreneur”.
5. Know When to Stop
Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that your job as a writer is not to make the perfect manuscript. Your job is to make the best manuscript that you can on your own. Once you have your best manuscript, it’s time to work with professionals who will help bring your writing to its full potential before publication. As Oscar Wilde told his editors, “I’ll leave you to tidy up the woulds and shoulds, wills and shalls, thats and whichs, etc.” That said, editors can do much, much more than correct spelling and grammar.
With the right strategy and gameplan in place, you'll finish that manuscript in no time. Push forward and you might just surprise yourself - you've got this!