Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

3 Keys to Finishing Your Book Once and For All

Note: This is a guest post from Chad R. Allen, a writer, speaker, editor, entrepreneur, and writing coach. Chad serves as editorial director for Baker Books, a major trade book publisher. Connect with him on Twitter and his blog.

3 Keys to Finishing Your Book Once and For All

I work with a lot of writers who write down, either mentally or on paper, their goal to finish a book.

They do so for a lot of reasons—because up to this point finishing their book has been elusive, or because the idea recently took shape in a way it hadn’t before, or because they can’t keep pretending it doesn’t exist.

It does exist, and apparently it’s so vehement about existing, it’s not going away no matter what they do to suppress it.

So they might as well give up and do something about it.

That’s what we writers want to do, I think, if we’re honest. We want to do something about it—something so consistent, so thorough, that on the other side of our doing something we look in the day’s mail and there it is. Finished. Not perfect, certainly, but here. Finally here.

And I think of all the writers who months later begin realizing it’s not going to happen. Not this time. And I think about the pangs of guilt and literal pain they will feel deep in their chests. Another disappointment. Another expenditure of wasted effort. No book.

I don’t want that to happen, and so I’m writing this to help.

Finishing your book once and for all

The purpose of this post is to give you an on-ramp to finishing your book once and for all. As I’ve worked with hundreds of writers over the years and observed my own writing practices, I’ve noticed three things that often comprise the difference between finishing and not finishing.

It just so happens the three initials for these elements are C. P. R., so you can think of this as CPR for your book project if you’d like. If nothing else it makes them easy to remember. The three elements are:

  1. Concept
  2. Process
  3. Retreat

Let’s delve deeper into each.

Key #1: A compelling concept

A compelling book concept is one that promises to meet a need people have in a distinctive way. When you have confidence in your concept, you have that much more motivation to keep writing.

The first step to a great concept is to get really clear on the need your book is addressing. One can do this in many different ways, including good ole Google searches in your topic’s space. You might also try doing a search in BuzzSumo. This will produce a list of the most shared articles related to your topic, which will give you clues to the major pain points of your audience.

Once you have the need you want to address in place, brainstorm a distinctive working title and subtitle, and you’re off to the races. Later in this article I’ll share how to obtain an infographic and video tutorial that will help you further with this process.

Key #2: Design a sustainable writing process

When I first started blogging, one of the best pieces of advice I heard was, “Fall in love with your process.” And another equally good piece of advice (from Jon Acuff) was similar: “In the beginning, measure hustle, not traffic.”

The reality is we have very little control over things like how an agent or publisher responds to a query or proposal. We can’t stop someone from writing a negative review on Amazon. One thing we do have control over is our process.

So what’s your process? When do you write? What are your tools? Do you have a certain word count you’re shooting for each day? And so on.

Design your process, fall in love with it, and stick to it. Below I share how to download a worksheet to help you do this.

Key #3: Schedule a writing retreat

I’ve saved the best for last because this one really is the X factor.

Back in 2013 I had an idea for a short manifesto-style book. I had much of the content development done, but between a full-time job and family commitments, I couldn’t find time to put it all together.

Realizing spring break was coming and our family was planning to stay home during this time, I asked my wife if it would be all right with her if I used that week to finish my book. She said yes, and so each morning found me in front of my laptop at a coffee shop.

Five days later I was well on my way to self-publishing what became Do Your Art: A Manifesto on Rejecting Apathy to Bring Your Best to the World.

Writing retreats happen in all sorts of places and times and manners. The important thing is to schedule and take one, if not several. See below for a free writing retreat planner.

Concept, process, and retreat. Start with these three, stick with them, and you’ll be well on your way to holding your book in your hands.

A special gift for Goins, Writer readers

I’m so grateful for this opportunity to write to Jeff’s audience. I have a lot of respect for him and for anybody who follows his content. In light of this, and because I want to make this CPR process as user-friendly as possible, I’ve developed a sequence of free videos and worksheets that I call the Finish Your Book! mini-course.

Inside you’ll find:

  • Seven brief teaching videos
  • An infographic on how to develop a compelling book concept
  • A worksheet to help you design your writing process, and
  • A planner to help you schedule and plan an effective writing retreat

The whole course should take you less than 90 minutes, and at the end of it you’ll be set up to finish your book once and for all. If you’re serious about finishing your book, this course is just what you need (and it’s completely free).

To access it, click here.

Do you have a book in you? Which of these three (C.P.R.) elements would help you the most? Share in the comments.

About Chad R. Allen

Chad R. Allen (@chadrallen) is a writer, speaker, editor, entrepreneur, and writing coach. Author of Do Your Art, Chad is on a mission to empower creatives to do their best work. He serves as editorial director for Baker Books, where he has worked for over fifteen years. He blogs at www.chadrallen.com.

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  • Christy Mobley

    I need that scheduled writing retreat. I have the concept, blog posts on the subject, a rough outline, even a marketing plan but my home is chaotic right now. Scheduling time and going to a coffee shop sounds good. I’ll try it!

    • Chad R. Allen

      Go for it, Christy! And if you want to kick things up a notch further, schedule a multi-day writing retreat in an inspiring place. Even if you can’t manage it for several months, scheduling it is the first step. And your writing is worth it!

      • Christy Mobley

        Thanks Chad!

  • Alison McLennan

    Reading this as I sit down to work on a novel that’s been almost 5 years in the making. Very encouraging, for this project and the other dozen nonfiction titled clattering around in my ever-ambitious brain. Thanks, Chad!

    • Chad R. Allen

      Awesome, Alison, and thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

  • Colleen Golafshan

    Thanks Chad for telling us about book project CPR. I’m focusing most on the process at the moment, writing foundation articles for my blog (coming soon) and getting more of a sense of the concept as I go…not quite up to the retreat stage yet.

  • K.M., I am doing my co-author book and doing scenes for book 2. How would you show a character writes a letter since where my characters live there is no technology only magic? KumKum Bhagya Episodes

  • Tony Furlong

    Finishing, which should be in inverted commas, a script but do have a series of novels that I’ve outlined, that I want to write. They live in my head for now.