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How to Finish Writing a Book: The Keys to Getting Unstuck

One of the hardest parts about writing a book is that all the pain is experienced upfront, while most of the rewards come at the end.

Authors who finish and publish their book see the greatest benefits, including:

  • Personal growth and pride of accomplishment
  • Scaling their impact and helping more people
  • Improving relationships (and forming new ones)
  • Leaving a legacy
  • Growing their business

The problem is that you have to spend months (or years) of effort on the writing process itself—and it can be difficult to sustain that effort without knowing that these benefits will come to fruition.

Dealing with that fear—”Am I wasting my time?”—is a common issue. It leads many nonfiction writers to feel afraid and overwhelmed, and rather than finishing, they quit instead.

The good news? It doesn’t have to be this way. 

If you’re feeling stuck and overwhelmed right now with your book, you don’t have to quit. It’s possible to overcome the problems you’re facing. You just have to know what’s causing them and face them head-on.

In my experience, writers fail to finish their book for one of 3 reasons:

  1. They never defined their book positioning (or they got it wrong)
  2. They haven’t addressed the fears that come with writing a book
  3. They never created a clear writing plan

I know these are the core issues because I’ve coached and worked with hundreds of Authors in our Scribe Guided Author program, and I see them all the time.

In this post, I’ll explain why these issues prevent you from finishing your book and how to correct them. I’ll cover:

At Scribe, we’ve developed a proven method for guiding new Authors through the writing and self-publishing process. If you’re serious about finishing and publishing your book, schedule a consultation to speak with one of our Author Strategists. 

Issue #1: How to Get Your Book Positioning Right

Book positioning is your answer to the question every reader asks when they consider a new book:

Why should I read this?

If you can’t answer this question clearly and succinctly, then the reader won’t do it for you. They’ll just move on to something else.

If you’re in the middle of writing a nonfiction book and you feel like you can’t keep going, you probably have a problem with positioning.

Authors who aren’t clear about positioning get stuck because their book idea doesn’t actually work, and they can feel something is off as they write—even if they can’t exactly define it.

Working with a service like Scribe (or hiring a good nonfiction writing coach) will help you define your positioning. But it’s also possible to figure it out on your own.

That’s because all book positioning processes are the same at their core, and they follow these 3 steps:

  • Step 1: Determine your objectives. Know what you’re trying to accomplish by writing a book. What results does it have to produce for you to consider it a success?
  • Step 2: Define your target audience. Who do you have to reach to achieve your objectives? If you want to accomplish your goals, you need to know who your book is for.
  • Step 3: Lock in your book idea. Your book idea needs to articulate what your audience gets out of reading your book.

These steps are interconnected, so it’s important not to skip them.

For example, if your goal is to be paid to keynote tech conferences, then your target audience are the people who attend those conferences and the people who book speakers for them.

So the question is: What do you know that’s interesting to those people? That is the book positioning.

But let’s say you don’t know anything that’s interesting to those people. Then you probably can’t achieve that goal, so you need to change what you want or who you are trying to reach.

Ideally, you want to get your positioning correct before you start your book. Fixing your positioning later in the process can require significant revisions.

But if you realize that you never clearly defined your positioning (or you got it wrong), revising it can be the key to coming unstuck and finishing your book.

By following the 3-step process laid out above, you can clarify your answer to your audience’s question:

Why should I read this book?

Then, you can revise your book accordingly to ensure your content delivers on that promise.

Issue #2: Why You Need to Identify and Make Peace with the Fears Holding You Back

If you’ve defined your positioning and know that you’re writing the right book, but you still have writer’s block, the next question you face becomes an emotional one:

What are you afraid of?

Before you get defensive, know this: it’s completely normal to experience fear when writing your book.

Whether you’re a first-time Author, or a 4x New York Times bestselling Author like me, fear is an inevitable part of the process. Here is the key lesson I learned about this:

You’ll never finish writing your book if you ignore your fears.

The good news is that once you define them, you’ll often find that while some may be rational fears, many more of them are irrational. Knowing this can reduce their power over you and help you push through them.

Below are 6 of the most common fears I’ve seen (and experienced myself):

  1. “I don’t have a great book in me.” The thing about this fear is that it’s easy to overcome when you base it in reality. If people are coming to you, asking you, or paying you for your knowledge, you clearly have a book in you.
  2. “My book isn’t original.” Your book will be useful if the knowledge it shares is accessible and useful. Even if you’re curating old ideas, your book will be valuable as long as it explains the ideas in new ways that people can understand.
  3. “I’m afraid my book won’t be good enough.” This fear leads Authors into the perfectionism trap. Excessive obsession with every detail is a sure-fire way to never finish that final draft.
  4. “I’m afraid no one will read or care about my book.” Authors with this fear are often worried about their book not making the impact they want it to. However, it’s these Authors who almost always end up making the greatest impact—because their motivation for finishing is rooted in helping others.
  5. “I’m afraid my book will upset people.” You can’t write a book without accepting the risk that some people will hate it. Acknowledge that this fear bothers you, and use it to examine the argument you’re making from every angle. You’ll end up with a better book.
  6. “I’m afraid my book will make me look stupid.” This is a rational fear because writing a bad book can have consequences that are worse than writing no book at all. This is why book positioning and book editing are so important (and why so many Authors seek professional help from services like ours).

How to Write a Book by Overcoming Your Fears

In our book writing workshops, we guide Authors through a process called fear-setting.

It’s a step-by-step process of acknowledging all the fears you have associated with writing your book. You define which ones are rational versus irrational and weigh them relative to the greater purpose of your book.

This process helps many Authors realize that most fears they have are irrational. When you look at them relative to the impact your book could make, you gain perspective that helps diminish your fears.

Many of our Authors don’t understand why we do this exercise in our workshops. But once they start writing, the whole process clicks.

Here’s how fear-setting works:

  1. List your fears: Write down every fear that you have.
  2. Ask yourself if any of your fears are real: Keep the ones that are realistic, and cross out the ones that aren’t.
  3. Define the consequences of any real fears: Think about the worst-case scenarios and get a clear understanding of them.
  4. Consider the benefits of writing your book: List them and say them out loud.
  5. Remember who you’re helping: Think about your audience and the impact you can make in their lives.
  6. Consider what would happen if you quit: List the consequences of not writing your book.
  7. Decide: Based on this, make a decision to write or not write your book.
  8. Make a plan to mitigate potential consequences: Think through how you’ll respond if consequences arise.
  9. Consider how you can use fear to your advantage: Try to reframe your fears and turn them into motivation.

I wrote an entire post on book writing fears and how to beat them. If you want to learn more about the fear-setting process, check it out here.

Issue #3: Create a Writing Plan and Stick to It

Whether they’re experienced or inexperienced, every Author faces obstacles. The difference between the Author writing their first novel versus the Author writing their 10th is preparation.

Experienced Authors anticipate the challenges that come during the writing process, and they know exactly what to do.

Authors writing their first book are the opposite. And because they’re not prepared, they’re more likely to quit when they get stuck.

Creating a writing plan is a way you can overcome these obstacles along the way. By defining how, when, and where you’ll write, you’ll have structure to fall back on when the writing gets difficult.

Follow these 6 steps to make your own writing plan:

Step 1: Set Proper Expectations

One of the main differences between writers who finish their books and those who don’t is their expectations. The Authors who expect the following in the first place are less likely to quit:

  • It will be hard. Good books take hard work to write. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either trying to sell you something, has never written a bestseller, or writes terrible books.
  • It will be exhausting. You will get tired and drained if you’re doing it right. Give yourself enough time and space to rest and recover along the way.
  • It will be confusing. There will be moments when you’ve wondered if you’ve said what you wanted to say. Rewriting is normal.
  • It will be overwhelming sometimes. Stressful feelings and thoughts will cross your mind throughout the process, and when they do, they’ll overwhelm you. Self-doubt is not unusual.
  • It will be emotionally uncomfortable. Writing a book pushes you because it will expose many of your deepest fears. This part won’t be fun, but as I wrote earlier, you have to acknowledge your fears.

Step 2: Schedule a Writing Time and Choose Where You’ll Write Every Day

There are many aspiring Authors who wait for inspiration to strike before writing.

Those Authors will never succeed.

If you want to finish your book, you can’t wait for inspiration to come. You need to create the conditions that spark inspiration instead.

You have to sit your ass down and write nearly every day. The same time, the same place, until you finish your book.

This doesn’t mean you need to write full time, from 9 to 5. You just need to set up a writing schedule that outlines when and where you’ll write.

Step 3: Set a Writing Goal

For each writing session, have a specific target to hit. I recommend a goal of 250 words per hour.

Why?

Because 250 words is the approximate number of words per one page in a printed book. It also makes facing that blank page less intimidating. Since it’s a low number, you’ll reach it more times than not, which will feel good and inspire you to keep writing.

Writing 250 words might not seem like much, but it adds up if you’re consistent. If you write only 250 words a day, you can finish the first draft of a 120-page book (around 30,000 words) in about four months.

Step 4: Set Your Deadlines

Every Author needs deadlines. They encourage you to take action, and they hold you accountable to the process.

Below are some general guidelines for setting your own deadlines (based on how fast you want to finish your book):

  • If you want to finish your book fast, set a deadline of a chapter a week.
  • If you want to work at a reasonable speed, give yourself 2 weeks per chapter.
  • If you want to take the process slow, deliver a chapter every 3 weeks.
  • If you’re busy, give yourself a month to finish a chapter. But question whether you even have the time and dedication to do this.

Step 5: Announce the Book

Use whatever social media platform you like to tell everyone that you’re writing a book. Telling people what you’re working on will hold you accountable during the moments you start to waver.

Your announcement can include what your book is about, who it’s for, and more—it doesn’t matter. The point of announcing your book is to claim your intention to the people you care about.

Step 6: Share Your Daily Word Count

When it comes to accountability, setting deadlines and announcing your book are your first moves to make. But there are other ways you can hold yourself accountable, too.

One of the most reliable ways is to share your daily word count. In our Guided Author program, all our Authors do this with each other through our private community.

Posting your word count will give you the daily push you need to ensure that you sit down and write your 250 words. You’ll also receive encouragement from others to keep going. Plus, sharing puts peer pressure on you, which reinforces your writing habit.

MORE RESOURCES:

We wrote an entire book on how to write and publish your nonfiction book. It’s called The Scribe Method.

You can get it on Amazon or download it free here.

We also publish a podcast called Scribe Book School. You can find it wherever you get your podcasts.

Ready to Get Unstuck and Finish Your Book?

A book will change your identity. It requires a deep understanding of who you’re writing for and what you want to accomplish.

All of the fears and challenges I’ve covered here can stop you from finishing your book. But if you get your positioning right, get real about accepting your fears, and develop a proper writing plan, you’ll be much less likely to quit in the moments you feel stuck.

If you still feel stuck but you’re committed to seeing it through, I highly recommend getting a good nonfiction writing coach to help.

Want help finishing your book? Consider joining the Scribe Guided Author Program. We’ve designed a proven process that provides everything you need to write, self-publish, and market your book with the help of expert coaches. Click here for more details. Or, schedule a consult with our team.