Do you have a partially-completed novel or nonfiction book cluttering up your hard drive? When I’m coaching writers, they’ve usually got a book or two that they’ll finish “one day.”
Don’t feel bad, it’s common. With 280,000 novelists signed up for NaNoWriMo this month (good for you, if you’re one of them), thousands of uncompleted novels will never see the light of day.
I’m guilty of starting more books than I finish too. I tend to start a new book whenever I get an idea. Then a client needs help, or something else happens, and I don’t get back to writing that book. Procrastination wins again.
Over the years, I’ve learned some fast and dirty ways deal with this habit. Here they are.
1. Carve out what works, and then publish
This is as fast and dirty as it gets. It works a treat on both nonfiction, and fiction. If you’re writing a novel, your book becomes the first in a series. (Be sure to warn readers that they’re buying a serial, or part-work, otherwise you’ll get lots of nastiness in the reviews, and rightly so.)
Let’s say you’ve completed 40 to 70 per cent of your book. You lost inspiration. You’re sick of the sight of it. You hide it in an Archive folder, and shudder whenever you think about it.
Stop shuddering. It’s time to rescue the beast. All you have to do is find a section of material which is publishable as-is. Ebooks can short, so if you have 150 pages, you should be able to publish at least 120 pages as a single ebook, or a couple of ebooks.
Big tip: DO NOT READ the entire document. It’s fatal. You’ll end up procrastinating again.
Read the headings.
For nonfiction, just carve out the section which is publishable, write a short intro and conclusion, and publish. All done.
Fiction tends to be more work, because you’re rejiggering the novel, the character and plot arcs will need work – you’ll need to write new scenes, OR remove a subplot, OR (my favorite) remove a character.
2. Finish it: make it shorter than you planned
With this method, you look at what you have, and work out how you can finish it quickly.
You’re not carving much away. With nonfiction, publish what you have. You may be surprised that when you look at the material with a “finish it, no matter what” mindset, the material works as-is. Remove any chapters you haven’t completed. You may need to add a few paragraphs to the introduction and write a short concluding chapter.
With fiction, the easiest option is turn the book into a novella, or a couple of short stories. Alternatively, write the rest of the material as quickly as you can, and publish.
3. Blog it: use the material to sell something else
Sometimes, neither #1 nor #2 will work. Or maybe they would work, but you don’t want to spend any time on the material. That’s OK. You can use the material to sell something else.
Create a blog for the material, or offer it as a free download to promote your business, or other books.
4. Major surgery: outline, rewrite and complete
If it’s been a year or two, you may find that when you read the material again, you know exactly how to fix it. Or, you feel that this project is worthwhile – the book deserves to be published, no matter what it takes. This is wonderful, because you’ve regained your inspiration.
Start by outlining what you have. Then rewrite, and write fresh material.
Tip: ONE revision only, otherwise you’ll procrastinate again. Do the revision, get a beta reader to read it, and publish it as an ebook.
See how it goes. The book may surprise you.
Try these four methods of finishing a book. They’re easy (well, except for #4,) and they work.
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