Focus: The Key to Finishing Your Book

I have talked to many “would-be” writers who never seem to finish a book and/or never even start one. One thing that seems to be a common problem in this situation is that many new writers have so many story ideas in their heads that they can’t decide which one to work on. Or, even if they have only one idea, they can’t decide on a firm direction for their story. They spend months, sometimes years, trying to decide how to flesh out their story. Often, this indecision ends up being an excuse to not write anything at all. They think they have accomplished something just by having all those great ideas, or just that one great idea. I have spoken with too many new writers who claim that as soon as they decide what to work on, or how to develop their story, they will finish their book and start submitting. Sometimes a year or so later, I learn that they still haven’t decided which story to write, or they have “started” 2 or 3 different stories and never finished any of them, or they still haven’t moved past the first couple of chapters of that one great idea.

Getting published doesn’t work that way. Finishing a book means FOCUSING on just one idea and developing it into book length, perfecting it, having it edited and submitting that finished book. Or, you move on from Chapter 1 or 2 or wherever you are in that one great book and let the story “happen.” I have learned over my 35 years of writing that if you are stuck with where to go with your story, just FOCUS AND KEEP WRITING. You’d be surprised what comes to you if you just let your characters “do their thing.” If you have trouble deciding which story to write, FOCUS on the story that tugs at you more than the others and set aside the rest of your ideas for a later time – maybe AFTER YOU HAVE FINISHED AND SUBMITTED the one book you focused on. If you don’t FOCUS on one idea, or FOCUS on continuing your story, you will never finish a book, in which case you will never SELL a book.

When you let ideas simmer, or decide you need to think about your one great idea a little longer, you end up doing everything else but write, like cleaning house even if it doesn’t need cleaning, doing yard work, watching TV, wasting too many hours on Facebook or YouTube, straightening your desk, making coffee, thinking about how you just can’t write yet because you are still confused over all those “ideas,” drinking the coffee you made earlier, going through your notes, visiting, daydreaming about being a best seller (which will never happen if you don’t settle down and write a book), thinking about titles for books still not written, setting up a filing system, attending meetings about how to write (again, nothing written – just learning the “how-to’s”), arguing politics, baking a cake, doing your nails, meeting friends or other writers for lunch, going to a movie, reading someone else’s book in hopes of coming up with an idea from that - you name it - every author has done it – anything but write.

There comes a time when you simply must FOCUS. Start the book that begs the hardest to be written – the book that pulls at your heart the most – and then concentrate just on that story alone, then FINISH THE BOOK! And finish it as quickly as you can. DO NOT waste time perfecting every line or chapter. That is JUST ANOTHER EXCUSE to never quite finish a story. Constant editing is another way to lose FOCUS – and that FOCUS should be actually FINISHING YOUR BOOK! That’s when you take a deep breath and smile over the fact that you actually wrote a whole book. It is THEN that you go back to page one and start editing. And be careful not to waste six months or more just editing and editing and editing. If you can’t decide if your work is perfect enough to send in, let someone else read it and help you with the editing. DO NOT let your finished book just lie there because you can’t decide if it’s good enough. And DO NOT start a second book in the meantime. Before you know it, that first book will be neglected for months and you will lose interest in it. And by then you might have started yet another story and have lost interest in editing and submitting the first book AND the second one!

Take a deep breath, pick an idea, shove the other ideas into a drawer, or save them on the computer, but LEAVE THEM ALONE UNTIL YOU FINISH A WHOLE BOOK. FOCUS! FOCUS! FOCUS! And while you are at it, FOCUS on your writing goals. The most important goal should be to START JUST ONE STORY, DO YOUR RESEARCH JUST FOR THAT STORY, WRITE EVERY DAY, FINISH AND EDIT YOUR STORY, AND SUBMIT your book for publication, or get it posted as an independent writer. THAT’S when you open that drawer or that computer file and pick out your next favorite idea and FOCUS on that one while you continue submitting the first book.

Remember, every book you write is a learning experience, which means each next book might be even better than the last one. If you FOCUS on story #2 and then story #3 while you have #1 and #2 floating around out there in hopes of a sale, you will always have yet another book to submit. Publishers like to know you can write more than one book. And you will feel more confident with each new book, realizing it is possible you might sell #1 and/or #2. Or, if you are publishing your own books, you will have more and more choices for your readers’ delight. More books mean more income – and more chances of one of them becoming a best-seller! And don’t be afraid to submit for fear of being turned down. I doubt there is a living writer who has not suffered rejections. It’s just one facet of the business of writing. Get over it! We’ve all been through it. YOU WILL NEVER SELL IF YOU DON’T FINISH A BOOK AND SUBMIT YOUR WORK.

FOCUS! FOCUS! FOCUS! It could end up in a SALE! SALE! SALE!


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