One of the most common questions I get asked on social media is “how do I get my book finished?” and it’s a good question because there are times when I’m writing a first draft and I think the end will never come – like a magic porridge pot the words keep coming but that final scene never arrives! So I thought I’d cover a few key points that might help you get a little bit closer to “The End”.
But first let me say that finishing a first draft is a massive achievement, and if you’ve already got there give yourself a pat on the back, make yourself a huge cup of tea and have a little rest. We’ll deal with second drafts another time.
If you’ve not got there yet don’t beat yourself up about it. Life is tough and filled with distractions and it might help you to know that the first draft of my debut novel took me three years to write. The most important piece of advice I can give you is to just keep on and I promise you, you will get there. But here are a few tips to get you there a little bit quicker than I managed!
- Time – When you’re writing that first draft of your first book you’re probably working full-time, looking after kids, up to your ears in external commitments and, right now, dealing with a global pandemic. You might also be keeping your writing a secret so it’s not always possible to get out of commitment by saying “Oh I have a book to finish” (once you go public this becomes the best excuse for getting out of hideous social events though ha ha!). All of that is completely normal but if you really want to finish your book you need to look at where you can carve out time in your day to write. You might have to cut down on how much you read for pleasure for a while, or how much TV you watch. You definitely want to come off social media and put your phone in another room when you’re writing. Take a look at your habits too – are you a morning person? Could you get up a little bit earlier to write? When I was writing The Tearoom on the Bay I was on a really tight schedule and I gave up my lunch hour for two months to get it finished. We all have 168 hours in every week – where can you free up a little bit of time?
- Word count – I’m not a big fan of forcing yourself to write every day or hit a huge word count before lunch. Not every day is the same so you’re inevitably setting yourself up for disappointment. That said if you need to get a first draft done and dusted then setting yourself a low daily word count really helps. When I was trying to get my first book finished I was working full time and running a business so I set myself a goal of 300 words 5 days a week. Those 300 words build up quite quickly once you’re consistent and you’ll probably find you end up writing a lot more than 300 some days.
- Be aware of all the things that aren’t actually writing but are – What do I mean by this? Not everything you do to get a first draft finished will be sitting in front of your laptop. There’ll be daydreaming, writing character CVs to really get to know your characters, going on plot walks, thinking about your book constantly. All of it is relevant and necessary.
- Write the final scene – when I’m struggling to get my words in or struggling to finish I skip to the end and write that final scene that has been in my head all along. Once it’s down on paper/screen I find that it’s easier to get there because you can see the finishing line.
- Mentoring – (shameless self-promotion). If you’re struggling to finish, sometimes all it takes is a second pair of eyes. I don’t just mentor new writers who have finished a first draft, I can help you get to “The End” as well. Take a look here and drop me a message! (Other mentors are available).