November is just a few weeks away, and most writers know what that means. It’s time to try and write a book in a month. Whether you join the (NaNoWriMo) crowd or some other writing “contest” or challenge, the goal is the same: complete a manuscript in 30 days. But what if you don’t ever finish the writing projects you start?
If that is you, then you likely have a well-worn mental audiobook retelling the story of how you don’t finish what you start—especially when it comes to writing projects. And that mental chatter, which goes on consciously and subconsciously, won’t help you write a book in November, let alone by any deadline you set.
So, how can you increase the likelihood of completing a book in 30 days? Ask yourself powerful questions.
I often ask the members of the Inspired Creator Community and the Nonfiction Writers’ University questions when I coach them. Their answers allow them come to new conclusions and insights that help them get the results they desire.
I developed the following 10 questions (along with the additional follow-up questions) specifically so you can “coach” yourself. Let your answers guide you to to new ways of being and thinking that help you start and finish your writing projects.
1. What would happen if you completed your old writing projects or a new one started in November?
Imagine that it’s December 1, and you’ve completed a writing project. You went from page one to “The End.” What then? Notice how you would feel, what you would do, and how you or your life might change. Pay attention to whether you like or dislike the impact created by finishing your writing project.
Also, notice how you (or someone else) would benefit from your project getting done and out into the world. For instance, a benefit might be that you make a difference in readers’ lives or start a movement.
2. What would happen if you didn’t complete a writing project you previously started or a new one you begin next month?
Imagine it’s December 1, but your project is unfinished this time. What happens then? Notice how you would feel, what you would do, and how you or your life might change—for the better or worse. Pay attention to whether you like or dislike the impact created by not finishing your writing project.
Consider the benefits of not finishing what you started—for yourself or others. For example, maybe a benefit is that you don’t have to face rejection or criticism.
3. What do you gain by continuing to be a writer who doesn’t finish what they start?
This old story has served you somehow, or you wouldn’t still be telling it to yourself…and believing it. So what do you gain from that identity—being someone who doesn’t complete projects?
Perhaps you get to avoid the hard work necessary to become a successful author, or you don’t have to face rejection from literary agents or publishers.
4. Are you truly committed to the project?
You can see what you are committed to simply by looking at your life. For example, if you watch reruns of MAS*H every night for two hours, you are committed to that activity. If you exercise every morning for 30 minutes, you are committed to that. And if you always have credit card debt, you are committed to overspending.
What about your writing? Do you work on your book project every day—or not? If so, you are committed. If not, you lack commitment.
Why might you not be committed? Maybe you started a book project and realized it doesn’t interest you or no longer feel passionate about the topic. As a result, you stop feeling committed to its completion and don’t prioritize completing it.
Possibly you have been told you should write a book, so you started doing so. Then you realized you really hate writing. It wasn’t your dream but someone else’s wish for you. So, you lack commitment and don’t write.
5. Do you believe the project is valuable because you, as the writer, have or can add value?
Some of the most common reasons writers don’t write or complete their projects stem from their beliefs about their own value and the value of their work. If you believe you are not good enough, don’t have anything to say, or can’t produce an impactful book, you won’t finish your book project. Instead, you’ll think, “Why bother?”
A transformational coach once told me to “value my value.” Take that advice yourself, and you’ll likely finish your book project.
Why? You’ll know that you have something valuable to say and offer in the pages of your book.
6. What are you afraid will happen if you finish the writing project?
Most writers will say they are afraid when asked why they don’t complete projects or write consistently. Like them, you might assume you are scared of something. If you weren’t, you would be completing writing projects and putting them out into the world, right?
So, what are you afraid of? The book not selling. Having to show up, be seen, and play big. Being rejected. The hard work. What you might have to give up. What’s your chosen fear?
What if you removed that fear by realizing it is worry (not fear) about something that may never come to pass. In fact, you aren’t in any real danger, and whatever you “fear” hasn’t happened yet…and probably won’t.
So get excited about the future you visualized already—the one with all the great benefits resulting from finishing your book project!
7. Are you the type of person—or writer—you want to be?
When you began writing, you probably had a pretty good idea of what you thought being a writer would be like. You imagined being a writer…taking on that identity.
Take a moment to remember who you thought you would be (maybe an author), how you thought you would feel (like accomplished), what you would do (such as write and publish books consistently), and what you would have (possibly a series of published nonfiction books).
You aren’t living into that identity when you don’t complete the writing projects you start, are you? You aren’t being that person who can do that—the writer you know you can and want to be.
8. Who would you need to be to finish the writing projects you start?
Given that you have not consistently finished the writing projects you started, it’s safe to assume you aren’t being the type of person who does complete projects. You don’t have the identity of a person who finishes what they start. So, what kind of person or writer do you need to be to complete your projects?
What type of person gets the results you desire? If you were that type of person, what identity characteristics would you possess, like being committed, self-integral, productive, focused, or tenacious?
9. What would you do every day if you had the characteristics you identified by answering question #8?
Imagine that you are a writer who finishes what they start, how would you live your life? What habits might you have? What activities would you engage in? What tasks would you complete? What skills would you learn?
For example, you might have the habit of finishing what you start, right? Or you might write every day, meet deadlines, learn to write a book proposal, send out queries every week, use social media, or research your topic one day per week.
10. Is your book project worth fighting for?
Writers who complete their book projects feel a strong sense of purpose and mission and are willing to sacrifice for the book. They know the book is essential and prioritize writing and publishing it.
When life happens, they don’t let it get in the way of writing. Instead, they fight for the time to work on the project. They tenaciously fight for the ability to complete the manuscript and get it into readers’ hands—even if that means negotiating with a partner or asking for help from friends.
And it might mean sending queries or proposals to hundreds of agents in an effort to get the book published. When you know your book is worth fighting for, you will do anything within your means to complete and publish it.
Take Action on Your Insights
You’ve answered a lot of questions. Hopefully, they inspired introspection and powerful insights. Now it’s time to take action on the insights.
After all, if you just file those insights away, nothing will change. And if nothing changes, nothing changes.
That means you’ll continue starting but not completing book projects. I don’t think you’d be reading this post—or have answered the questions I posed—if you wanted that.
So take your insights and apply them to being a writer who completes the projects you start. Then, do what that type of writer would do, and before you know it, you’ll have a finished manuscript.
Do you struggle to finish the writing projects you start? After answering the questions above, do you know how to change that habit? Tell me in a comment below. And please share this post on social media or with any writers who struggle to finish what they start.
Also, if you want me to coach your around these questions to help you see your blind spots and change your writing habits, reach out for a quick chat or join the Nonfiction Writers’ University for group Author Coaching.
Would you like to write and publish nonfiction work, like articles, blog posts, books, or reports…and become a successful author? Join the Nonfiction Writers’ University. Get the basic education you need and the group Author Coaching to help you succeed as a nonfiction writer.
Enjoy a 30-day trial membership for only $1. If you’ve felt the desire to get coached and be supported as you pursue authorship, this program is for you. Participate in monthly group Author Coaching sessions and gain access to an extensive archive of writing and publishing resources.
Photo courtesy of Andrea Paicquadio.