Do you have a half of book in your brain, on your desk or on your hard-drive? You are one of many. It’s easy to start out with a project we are passionate about and lose that drive halfway through. However, if you are an author or you want to be one, sitting your butt in the chair and plowing through to the end of your project is of vital importance. And if you are a new author or starting a new genre, an agent and publisher will want the full manuscript completed before reading it-because they KNOW how hard it is to finish.
Recently, some of my friends at The Writer’s View offered the systems that they use to plug through and get a book done.
- I write the main character’s name on a paper and spider web ideas that could happen in that book. Plot points. Conflicts. Obstacles. Character growth. I write the good ideas on 3×5 cards and put them in a logical story order.
- Then I write 2-3 sentence chapter summaries. This becomes my writing outline. I hang it next to my desk so I can easily see it as I write. As I finish each chapter, I write the word count next to the chapter in the outline, keeping a running total for the book, and an average word count per chapter.
- Every Wed. I try to take at least one chapter to my critique group and I edit it that afternoon. I write Thurs. through Tues. taking weekends and evenings off to be with my family. When I sit down to write, I reread what I wrote the previous day and make any necessary changes. This gets me back into the story and reminds me where I’m going.
- When the book is finished, 2 or 3 people from my critique group read it from beginning to end to do a final edit, check it for consistency, and spot any loose ends I may have forgotten to tie up. I’d be dead in the water without them!
- My system for writing includes manila folders for each chapter. These consist of the title of the chapter and a single-paragraph description pasted from the outline.
- I think about the topic and begin to fill each folder with quotes, newspaper or magazine articles, and links to books or websites.
- When I begin writing, I have most of what I need.
For me, everything is about goals. Long-term. Short-term. Weekly. Daily. Coupled with the goals are DEADLINES.
- I form a mold for writing a book by working backwards. I set the drop-dead deadline first. Even if it is not a publisher’s deadline, but my own. I must have a deadline or the project goes on forever and never gets finished. And I share that with my writers group members so it’s not just in my head (and prone to stretching from one year into the next).
- When I have a deadline date for completion, I drop in the goals: finish the entire manuscript one month before deadline in order to have readers go through it and do final edits.
- Working backwards from there, I decide on goals for how many chapters to complete each week, one or two depending on how much time I have. I give myself two weeks leeway to allow for vacations, visits from family, or an unforeseen emergency. I mark the goals on the calendar and keep myself on track by becoming accountable to the members of my three groups.
- I write one chapter weekly on Saturday and then submit two chapters twice monthly to my online international critique group. I revise the chapters immediately based on input from my critique group.
- Sometimes, I go away for the weekend and write day and night. Two weeks ago, I took a week and a half of vacation leave from my job and wrote day and night to complete my second manuscript and update my book proposal.
- I have a big whiteboard specially reserved for this purpose. With the help of dry erase markers in different colors, first I list the chapters (including intro, foreword, and appendixes). After each chapter, I list out the components of that chapter.
- At the end of each line is a deadline date and an empty space for word count. Basically, it’s a big fat spreadsheet.
- The rest is simple. I mark each component completed, and keep a word count on the right side for each chapter. At the bottom is a running word count total for the whole book.
- Somehow seeing the book charted out like this is empowering and exciting, and I love watching the word count grow. Somehow this simple tool propels me forward.
- The best part? When I’m done, my husband and kids hold a silly ceremony including a photo of me with the whiteboard, after which we gleefully erase it!
I see some consistencies. Do you? Several belong to writer’s groups and that helps keep them accountable. Most set goals in some way, shape or form. Most have organized their thought process in some fashion to keep help them forge through to completion and they even track word counts. Good ideas, my friends. Thanks for sharing!