Thursday, June 23, 2016

Ways to finish a book

I recently enjoyed Rick's post "Great ways NOT to write a book" and thought I'd be a glass-is-half-full kind of guy and take the other side. Most of the writers I know who are publishing annually or semi-annually also have full-time jobs, making writing, essentially, the most demanding and time-consuming hobby imaginable.

"How do you do it?" is a question writers with day jobs get often. The "do it" part of the question refers to finishing a book each year while balancing the job that pays the bills and, for many of us, balancing family life.

Here are some tips: 

Write when everyone else is asleep. This is my best advice. I have a wife and three daughters, ages 18, 15, and 7, so their sleep habits are VERY different. The teens sleep from midnight to 10:30 a.m.; the second-grader sleeps (if at all) from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Throw in a dorm of teenagers (during the school year), and you can see what I'm up against. Four to 6 a.m. is prime time. Dead silent. And there is no such thing as writer's block at that time of day. Take it from me, if you drag yourself out of bed that early you will damn well write something.

Find a loud quiet place. Yes, loud can be quiet. Procrastination is best done at home. Think about it, you rarely put things off at work. So get out of your normal routine, and find a bustling coffee shop or a mall (or airport), and plop yourself down in the middle of the action. With all that going on around you, you'll find solace in your laptop screen.

Don't shoot for time, go for a page count. I usually write 90 minutes to two hours a day. But I'm a tweaker. I can tweak a paragraph for 90 minutes, if I allow myself. So when I need to finish a book, I go for page count: two or three pages a day. I tweak a lot, but I do it AFTER I've gotten my two pages.

As my late father used to say, Smart people don't have all the answers, they just know where to find them. I certainly don't have all the answers. I'd love to hear some tips on finishing a book from my Type M colleagues and our readers.


Judy Penz Sheluk, author said...

I too am a tweaker, but I now try for a chapter a day (I tend to write short chapters). If it's going to be a long chapter, I'll give myself permission to get to the halfway point before I start tweaking. But I've been known to spend an hour taking a comma out, only to put it back in...

Anne Canadeo said...

I so agree with the advice to write late at night when everyone else is sleeping. There is a sense that the entire world is sleeping and a lot of static and unconscious inhibition - wind drag-- melts away. I can sit at my desk all day and produce only a few pages but zoom along in the late night hours. Regarding page count goals, I also think that is sound advice. However I have found that even when I am meeting my page counts, I am sometimes not moving forward in the outline. So I have changed my goals from page counts to completing outline pages or sections, or at least being aware of progress on both fronts. Also, a helpful motto: "Don't think, just write." The more you write, the faster it will go. Trust your subconscious. It's all in there.

John Corrigan said...

Love it. Both of these. I'm procrastinating right now to read these. Not going to get my three pages today! Thanks for reading.