How to Write a Book If You’re Bad at Long-Term Projects

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Starting them, working consistently on them, finishing them … no matter your hang-up with long-term projects, it’s hard enough you have to manage them in school and work. Now you have to figure out how to work around them when you write, too?

Writing is something many of us use to give our pent-up creativity a productive outlet. You wouldn’t think the same roadblock that keeps you from doing that 15-page research paper until the night before it’s due is the same one that keeps you from starting, working on or closing out your latest book, but—sorry to tell you—it is.

This doesn’t mean you have to give up, though. If you’re determined enough, and you’re willing to put a lot of hard work into one document on your computer, you can still make it happen. Here are three strategies you can try for yourself.

Break the bigger project into smaller ones 

Okay, you’ve heard this one before. But when someone tells you to break novel-writing into smaller novel-writing pieces, it’s hard to know what exactly that means. A full-length novel isn’t just a bunch of separate novellas (novelettes?) put together; each piece ties in significantly to the other. Even writing one chapter at a time is sometimes just really hard to do if you’re trying to connect two plot points together.

Word or page count might be the best way to start out minimizing the amount of work you plan to do at each sitting. Judging your book as a whole by number of words or pages doesn’t do much to determine whether it’s a decent story or not, but if you set a goal to write 1,000 words a certain number of days a week, for example, having this number as an endpoint might help you move forward a little bit at a time.

Since we’re on the subject …

Devote one hour to your book five days a week

One hour of writing really isn’t that much, but if you try thinking of how many hours writing a book might take you from beginning to end, that’s when doubt creeps in, and its best friend, the procrastination monster, soon after. If word or page count doesn’t do it for you, setting a timer might.

Give yourself two days a week to let your project rest, and try scheduling out one hour each of the other five days to spend with your book. Even if you don’t make very much progress, at least you’re looking at it and thinking about it—and if you have time planned specifically just for writing, it’s more likely to actually happen.

Give yourself deadlines, and incentives for meeting them

An accountability partner can really help with this one. Saying “I want to finish my book by the end of the year” is an okay goal … but that’s a long window of time to give yourself to work on one project. Notice we said “deadlines,” with an s. Plural. Finishing will always be your end goal, but, in alignment with our first suggestion, setting smaller ones along the way can completely change your productivity.

Again, word and page count might help here. For example: “I want to reach 40,000 words before August 1.” This is a measurable and hopefully attainable goal. Now tell that goal to someone you trust to hold you to it, but also don’t hesitate to hang an incentive there to keep you working toward your goals.

As with any long-term project, you have to go into it knowing it isn’t going to get done in a matter of weeks, and you can’t just sit down and crank it out all at once. Even if writing is something you do for fun, if you really want to write a book but can’t seem to get organized, we hope these tips can help, or at least inspire you to come up with methods that work well for you.

Happy writing!

Image courtesy of Flickr.

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