Have you always wanted to start and finish writing a book? What’s the biggest obstacle preventing you from achieving your goal? Knowing your greatest challenge is the first step to becoming a productive writer because it empowers you to create a structured plan and make progress.
To understand the most common reasons aspiring writers struggle to finish writing a book, Now Novel asked anonymous blog readers ‘What’s your biggest writing challenge?’ 312 writers shared theirs:
The five most common writing challenges:
- Difficulty finding motivation to write (33% of respondents)
- Starting a book (30%)
- Persevering despite setbacks (10%)
- Maintaining focus while writing (7%)
- Finding time to write (7%)
Any of these challenges sound familiar? Here are 5 practical ways to overcome them:
1: Motivate yourself by joining a writing community, getting personal feedback and creating rewards.
You’d think that as aspiring writers we’d be racing to write our ideas down. The truth is that many writers struggle with motivation because book writing is equal parts fun and hard work. Here are 3 ways you can remain motivated and finish writing your book:
- Find a writing group: Support from other aspiring authors who have experienced similar obstacles to you will provide encouragement whenever your motivation falters.
- Set satisfying rewards: Writing, though satisfying, is work like any other. Set daily or weekly word count targets. Be realistic: Work with the time you have. When you reach your goals, reward yourself. This will motivate you to keep earning the things you love by writing.
- Get a writing coach: An experienced writing professional will be an external source of ongoing motivation, holding you accountable to your own writing goals.
Before you boost your motivation, you need to start writing the actual book!
2: Make starting a book easier by planning, keeping a positive outlook and figuring out what you want to say.
Why does starting a book often feel so daunting? For some writers it’s because there’s an overwhelming amount of free reign and choice. Because each word is a paving stone. Each paving stone forms a path that leads your book down a more and more cemented route.
Common reasons why writers find starting a challenge:
- No planning: The task feels overwhelming because there’s no foundation to build on.
- Low confidence: You want to write a bestseller but are worried your book will be a flop.
- Uncertainty about what you want to say: You know you want to write something, you just don’t know what.
It’ll be far easier to start your book when:
- You plan ahead: There are at least 7 ways to write an outline, from the one-page synopsis to the detailed blueprint. Use an outline as trusty scaffolding for your book.
- You avoid negative self-speak: As the prolific author Ursula K. Le Guin advises, don’t tell yourself you have to write a bestseller. Tell yourself you’re going to write the best possible book you are capable of creating at this point in time.
- You decide what you want to say: What sections and subjects are most vital for inclusion? Do you need to split your book idea over two books to do it justice?
Plan ahead, hold fair expectations of yourself and know what you want to say. Making a start will come easier.
Even so, sometimes we hit roadblocks…
3: Develop the toolkit you need to persevere when the going gets tough.
Nobody said writing a book would be easy. Roadblocks in writing come in all forms. They include:
- Writer’s block:The feeling that words, phrases or ideas just won’t come.
- Being distracted by ideas that seem more interesting: Your book idea loses its lustre as other ideas and subjects beckon.
- You’ve written yourself into a tight space: Suddenly your arguments or themes don’t appear consistent or don’t mesh well
You might encounter these scenarios or others while writing. But you can persevere:
- There are many ways to banish writer’s block: Try freewriting (writing your immediate thoughts on the page without stopping to edit for a set period of time), or else consider resting a week and returning to the project. Give yourself a finite length of time off to let your thoughts process fully.
- Recall what drove you to start writing the book: Have you maybe strayed from your initial reasons? Consciously identify and recover the sense of purpose that drove you to start this particular writing project
- Get feedback from another writer: Sometimes you are too close to your own writing to see where you’re going wrong. Another writer’s insights could help you identify exactly what isn’t working structurally. This will help you get back on track.
Sometimes it’s not so much the content of a book that is the challenge: It’s the actual writing process and establishing a routine that is tricky:
4: Find ways to amplify your focus.
To write a book you need the three D’s: Discipline, Determination and Daring. But each of these can waver if you aren’t able to focus. Focus consists of two things: Concentration and prioritization.
There are several reasons why you might struggle to concentrate and devote your full attention to your book:
- You’re distracted by thoughts related to you writing (for example, ‘What if it’s not ood enough?
- You’re distracted by thoughts unrelated to your writing (for example, ‘I really should be doing X’)
- You can’t decide what part of the book to prioritize
- Your inability to focus is physiological
Overcome distracting writing thoughts by deciding before every writing session the one thing you are going to work on that session. It could creating a great chapter heading and an introductory paragraph.
Only let yourself work on that one thing! Don’t criticize your own work into a standstill. Rather identify the source of your displeasure and find a solution. If you feel your sentences are too long and clumsy, study a good guide to better sentence construction.
If your distracting thoughts are unrelated to your writing, note them down in a journal with the time and day on which they occur. Periodically flip through this distraction journal and look for patterns.
It could be that there’s one thing you always feel guilty about not doing when you sit down to write. Make doing that one thing - be it a chore or another project – part of your writing routine. Get the things you don’t want to do out the way so you can focus on your book.
It’s possible you’re battling to focus for physiological reasons, because you’re simply exhausted. Permit yourself to take longer breaks from writing when you need to. A weekend here or there will give your unconscious mind time to do its work and put together important pieces of your book. Don’t think of this as time wasted: When you return the words might flow easier.
In addition to these strategies, try a technique for improving your focus such as the Pomodoro technique. Work for 30 minutes at a time with 15-minute breaks between each session because it will create a productive rhythm.
What if you feel you never have time to write?
5: Add up small increments of time.
‘I don’t have time to write’ is something I hear again and again. Juggling professional and personal responsibilities and the book project you’re passionate about is tricky. But here are several ways to make time for your writing:
- Break the task up into small time increments: Writing 500 words per day is doable if you set aside thirty minutes to an hour to just write. Jot down what you aim to accomplish before starting each session.
- Make a regular writing slot a fixed part of your schedule: Often we try to fit writing around other tasks and use ‘spare’ moments. Make your writing time as essential as your other commitments or leisure activities.
- Enlist the help of those who care: Whether you have young children or other responsibilities, explain to close friends or immediate family how you’d love to write but just don’t have time. Ask for help (whether that means taking the children out for a fun morning or help with mundane but essential tasks). Loved ones will want to help you reach goals that are important to you, but you need to ask.
Each of the five most prevalent writing challenges can get in the way of finishing a book, but only if you let them. Instead, strategize. Plan, problem-solve and ask for help when you need it most, and your book will come along.
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