How to Keep Focus and Finish Writing Your Book

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Sonya Parker has made a name for herself as a relationship writer. She knows what she’s talking about when it comes to life and writing. She says, “When driving life’s road, keep your foot on the gas, don’t drive in reverse, and don’t let speed bumps slow you down.”

If you want to be a successful writer, listen to her.

I have worked with writers as an editor and mentor for over three decades. One thing I can tell you for sure is that most writers are classic excuse-makers. Rather than sit and write as they know they know they must do, they come up with every excuse under the sun for not writing. They think their excuses are exotic and creative, but to an experienced writing coach they all sound the same: “The dog ate my homework.”

I agree with Canadian writer Roy Bennett. He said, “Maturity is when you stop complaining and making excuses in your life; you realize everything that happens in life is a result of the previous choice you’ve made and start making new choices to change your life.”

How can you keep focus and finish writing the book you started? I advise the aspiring writers I coach to:

1. Be Accountable

There is a small voice in your head that tells you that you want to be a writer. It keeps reminding you that you have a story to tell by means of a novel, or that you have the ability and desire to help others learn through nonfiction writing.

If that voice is true, you cannot ignore it. You must write. You have no choice. You must be accountable to that inner voice. The sad thing, as many writing gurus have said, is that most people would like to “have written.” They really don’t want “to write” because writing is a demanding task.

The key to finishing the book you started writing is single-mindedness. You can see your idea through to fruition if you have diligence and focus. You need to make a decision at the start of your project to not give up when you are faced with difficult challenges. If you’re not prepared to honor your decision later and are able to think of a dozen wonderful reasons not to so, then you will probably not complete writing your book.

Most new writers do not recognize the simple truth that accountability starts with keeping your butt in your chair and writing one word after another. That’s how books get written. There is no other way.

2. Avoid Distractions

There’s a great old movie called, “How the West was Won” (1962). In one part of the saga, James Stewart plays a trapper heading down the Mississippi towards New Orleans to sell his pelts. In the middle of nowhere, he sees a sign hanging off the entrance to a cave that says, “Come see the varmint.”

He guides his canoe to the river’s edge and climbs up to the cave entrance. Inside, he discovers a primitive saloon complete with a bar, a dance hall girl and several men playing poker. The dance hall girl takes him to the back of the cave and he looks into the pit where the varmint resides. As you might imagine, someone comes up from behind and knocks Stewart into the hole. Meanwhile, others are stealing his pelts from his canoe.

Writers are subject to the same temptations as the James Stewart character. They see a sign that says, “Come see the varmint,” and they immediately lose focus and go see the varmint, whatever it may be in their case. But focus is everything.

Today, the varmint isn’t usually a growling animal in a hole. It’s more commonly Facebook or Twitter, or an email or telephone call. The slightest distraction is a provocation to abandon focus. The result is always disastrous. When they get distracted, writers lose an enormous amount of time and do not reach their writing goals.

Distraction destroys motivation. You have a writing goal in mind, but when you allow yourself to go see the varmint, you sabotage yourself. Distraction is the enemy of all writers.

3. Set Realistic Goals

It’s ideal if you have a daily word count goal and gain satisfaction from reaching it each day. For example, many writers are familiar with the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) event held each November. Over half-a-million people worldwide sign up to write a 50,000 word novel between November 1 and 30. A huge percentage of these people succeed.

How are they able to accomplish this? They set a goal of writing 1,667 words each day. By sticking to their goal, they are able to reach 50,000 words by the end of the month.

Even if you only type 30 words per minute, you can complete that word count in an hour. Yes, it assumes that you know what you intend to say, and you can’t know that unless you have a road map. That road map is known as an outline to writers, and it is essential to have one if you are going to reach your writing goals.

There are writers who try to finish a book without an outline. They are called “pansters” because they write by the seat of their pants. They hope that inspiration will come to them when they need it. It’s nearly impossible to reach writing goals using this method.

If you’re serious about completing the eBook you start writing, you must be accountable, avoid distractions, and set realistic goals.  That is the path to writing success. Everything worthwhile in life requires discipline. Writing is no different.

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