How to Stay Motivated to Finish Writing your Book

Motivation

In the previous blog post, we talked about ideas on how to come up with a bulletproof idea for a book. For this article, I wanted to discuss a topic that nearly every author goes through, at one point or another: How to stay motivated to finish writing your book.

At this point, I’ll assume you already have the idea for your book, and you have written a page or two, or possibly even a chapter. You are fired up with motivation to write and can clearly imagine the story you are writing. You can’t seem to write fast enough to get the words out of your mind onto a writing platform. Then you put the computer down for the night, go to work the next day, and then you find yourself with the biggest issue, you have no desire or motivation to finish what you started.

In order to combat that natural tendency, here are five tips to keep the motivation fire burning, so you can go from an idea, to a published work of art.

1. Take a Break

Stay Motivated to Finish Writing
Image by Simon Migaj

A few months ago, I had writer’s block, where nothing seemed to be coming to me. In fact, I sat down, and forced about 2,000 words into my book, then went back and realized what I wrote wasn’t where I wanted the story to go. So, I did what any writer absolutely hates doing, I deleted the 2,000 words and set my computer down.

Setting the computer down and taking a break is completely natural. In fact, many would argue that it’s healthy. A study by Rick Nauert Ph.D. found that taking breaks actually improves your ability to focus. The following list can be a starting point on how you can take a break.

  1. Be active, go to the gym, go for a run, play a game of basketball
  2. Snacking, eating, or simply getting a bowl of cereal
  3. Reading, this can help you gain a sense of focus
  4. Change of scenery, go to the library, a park, or on a train

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2. Getting Things Done

In a popular time management book by David Allen called Getting Things Done, he mentions that you should pull the projects and tasks out of your mind by externally recording them, then breaking them down into actionable tasks. This is a great time management strategy when you are busy at work.

How can this be applied to writing a book? Simple, you could first write a storyline. For my book, The Dream Catcher, I started out writing a highly detailed story plot, not anticipating it to actually be included in the book. Writing this down did one core thing for me, it eased my worry that I would forget the idea.

Another dilemma I faced when writing was the distraction and constant need to capture new ideas that came to me for the book. These ideas often will pop into my head at inconvenient times, such as in the middle of writing a paragraph or chapter. During these moments, I often wondered whether it was better to finish the paragraph and risk losing the ideas in my head? Or, should I stop for a minute to write down my ideas, and interrupt my writing streak? A solution that helped during these moments of inspiration was to pause and write down these ideas in a simple bullet point list below the paragraph where I was writing. Immediately, after I jotted these ideas down I could go back to where I left off and continue writing. Not only does this help preserve some of the ideas I had, but it also creates actionable tasks that I can do for the next time I sit down and write.

3. Tell Others or Tell Yourself?

Image by Timothée Pons

In a research study done in 2009 by Peter M. Gollwitzer, Paschal Sheeran, Verena Michalski, and Andrea E. Seifert, it was found that publically announcing your goals actually made you less likely to achieve them. They concluded that announcing your goals give you a premature sense of completeness, which could lower your motivation to complete your book.

Occasionally, I like to go back through my work, not to admire it, but rather, show myself how far I’ve come. As a software developer, I decided to do something rather difficult, develop a programming language called Condor. Over halfway through this development process, I became unmotivated. About a month later, I went back and looked through how far I had gone, then I realized that I had done much more work than I had expected. This was motivation enough for me to complete the project.

Since you have the option to tell others or tell yourself about your goals and dreams, I would recommend to keep reminding yourself of these dreams and goals that you set. Occasionally, go back through your work and remember how much effort you put into it.

4. Write with Purpose

Writing with a purpose in mind is one of the easiest ways to stay motivated. Quite often you hear stories about business entrepreneurs starting a company because they had nothing. Perhaps the reason why their business became successful is they didn’t want to live in their current situation anymore. Likewise, I also hear about authors who wrote for the same motivation.

The following is a small list of motives for writing:

  1. Publishing is on my bucket list
  2. To build my resume
  3. For an extra source of income
  4. I want to get good content out into the world
  5. I want to learn how to successfully market my own book

5. Set Deadlines or Timelines

Setting deadlines for your project is a great way to keep yourself motivated and make sure your goal gets accomplished. Even if that date isn’t hit, it’s still good to strive and work towards a target date. One of the struggles I faced when I was setting the deadline for my book was I didn’t really know how long the task would take, so figuring out a timeline was a task in itself.

How can I project when I will finish writing my book?

One of the most effective ways I found to measure this was to track how much I wrote for a week. During this period, I recorded how many words were written and how long I wrote during each writing block. Then I analyzed how frequent the writing blocks were.

At the end of the week, I evaluated and analyzed the frequency and quantity of writing. Below is an example of how this can be applied.

Week DayHours WrittenWords Written
Monday11,200
Tuesday21,800
Wednesday.5400
Thursday11,000
Friday.5500
Total54,900

What are the average words per day that you wrote during the week? Simple, total hours wrote divided by total words written. In this examples case, we wrote about 980 words a day. From this, you can then set a goal of writing about 1,000 words a day. For an 80,000 word novel, it would be about 80 days to write or 16 five-day work weeks.

Conclusion

Staying motivated to complete your work is difficult. For many authors, it might even take years to complete their work. Following these tips listed above are approaches you can take to stay motivated. If you have any other approaches you would take, list them below in the comments.

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