If you’re struggling to finish writing your book, you can be sure you’re not alone in this plight.

This summer I finally finished writing my book – a book I’d been working on since 2017.

During the early process of trying to write my book, there were times when I felt the project was literally, physically fighting me. My body was sore. I found bruises and scratches on my skin that I couldn’t explain, and I was always so tired. Jacob wrestled with an angel. I wrestled with words. 

Four years later, the book is complete, and I can’t wait to share it with the world next year.

In case you’re also struggling to finish your work in progress, I want to share with you the three things that I think helped finally complete my manuscript – clarity, commitment, and community.

You need clarity to finish writing your book.

One day while taking a walk with my husband, he asked, “What is your book about exactly? I’ve been trying to tell people, but I can’t. I don’t have an elevator pitch.” The problem was I didn’t either. Writing my book had been so difficult because it lacked focus.

I couldn’t decide if I wanted to write a book about writing or about feminism or both. And even though I wanted the book to be a collection of essays, I kept forcing myself to write it as a traditional narrative with chapters instead.

Then cancer happened.

Cancer happened and then I knew I wanted to publish a collection of essays about how you can write your way through anything.

If you’re struggling to finish your book, it may be because you’re not clear on what your book is actually about or what story you’re trying to tell. Do you have an elevator pitch for your book?

Having focus is especially important for essay collections and even poetry collections. When you’re putting together a collection of work you can be tempted to include everything you’ve ever written. Not only does this make it impossible for the manuscript to feel complete, but the book will also be incredibly difficult to market.

Remember, this doesn’t have to be your last book. That’s what I had to keep reminding myself. I don’t have to say everything I’ve ever wanted to say in this collection. And it’s also okay if I change my mind in the future about some of the issues I address in this book. My new insights can just make for new content.

After you get clear, get organized.

After you get clear on the theme of your book, you can then get organized. Once I settled on the theme of “how to write your way through anything,”  I took some time to think about all the different things writing has helped me with –coping with cancer, coping with questions about my faith, loving my husband, loving myself, understanding my family, finding my people, finding my purpose, and finding my place in the world.

The collection needed essays in all of these categories. Because 2020 was my “cancer year,” I knew that, after a brief intro, I wanted to open the collection with a story that took place on December 31, 2019, and that I wanted to close the collection with a story that took place December 31, 2020.

Next, I grouped the essays by theme. I surveyed what material I already had (i.e. blog posts, previously published essays, incomplete pieces saved on my computer or scribbled on scraps of paper) and made note of what was missing.

You need commitment to finish writing your book.

Once I knew what was missing, it was time to get to do the real work – writing!

Sitting down to do the work was quite a challenge. As a full-time freelance journalist, I write for a living. I write all day every day and I love it. But by the time the sun sets I just want to watch crime shows or catch up on The Masked Singer.

I quickly realized that writing in the evenings wasn’t going to work for me. So, I had to schedule marathon writing sessions for the weekends instead.  I’d let my husband know when I was about to disappear into my home office for several hours. And he would keep me fed with Chick-Fil-A while I worked.

You must figure out what works best for you. When do you do your best work? What do you need to do to get your family on board so that you can have the time you need to write?

Your writing community can help you finish your book.

Because I’m a freelance journalist, I’m deadline-driven. I knew I wouldn’t finish my manuscript unless I had deadlines and someone to hold me to them – which I didn’t have because I’m self-publishing my book.  So, I hired a publishing consultant to help me out. Not only is she guiding me through the logistics of publishing and promoting my book, but she also helped me actually finish writing the book by giving me deadlines for the different drafts of my manuscript.

You don’t have to hire a publishing consultant to get the job done. Enlist the help of an accountability partner. Or you could ask your beta readers to give you a date by which they need to receive your manuscript.

Writers need other writers. Period. If you’re a member of a writing community like the See Jane Write Collective, it’s easier to find both beta readers and accountability partners.

You can also turn to the works of other writers for inspiration when you get stuck in a creative rut.

Read and re-read books similar to yours – Chris-Tia Donaldson’s book This Is Only a Test: What Breast Cancer Taught Me about Faith, Love, Hair, and Business was practically my bible. But also read books from other genres.

Reading poetry and fiction helps me find the balance between writing essays that are both concise and captivating. I want my words to paint a picture, but the journalist in me also wants to quickly get to the point.

So be sure to schedule some reading time, too.

As I continue my self-publishing journey, I’d love to bring you along each step of the way. Sign up for the See Jane Write email list and follow me on Instagram @seejavaciawrite.