How To Finish Your Writing Projects

Last week I listened to a podcast about creativity. In it writer Jeff Goins and Dr. Keith Sawyer discuss how creative people function and the contents of Dr. Sawyer’s book Zig Zag. One idea they mentioned was that writing or creativity does not have to be perfect. But there should be movement from one project to another.

Besides fear, this is one of the main issues I have with writing. Battling the urge to make a billion tweaks until it reaches perfection versus sending out projects before they are finished is a weekly struggle.

I forget that having a process means that some of my writing will work and some will fail and whatever form of failure I feel is not a reflection of me. Finishing anything – a book, a blog post, a book proposal – is an opportunity to learn how to write better.

Finish - Track

The trouble is that I thought any writing process needed to be straightforward and I have difficulty with linear thinking.

From what I can understand, my mind works sorta like a game of soccer, but played by four and five year olds. It’s scrambly, often working in the wrong direction in a tangle of limbs, sometimes picking flowers, and other moments forgetting the rules entirely.

I decided it was high time to focus. To understand how to get this mind of mine to move through a project from start to finish.

I tried the one project method and ended up bored. I wanted to jump to the next thing as soon as I was stuck. I realized if my methodology incorporated bouncing from project to project then I’d better develop a plan.

Here it is – Finishing is the most important thing.

I devised a Finishing Plan and began using it on my blog and a non-fiction e-book I finished last month. It’s been working great. Here is what it is.

1. Finish a draft. Could take a day, weeks, months, or even years. But finish it. Don’t edit. Write the chapters out of order then fill in the cracks, jump to another idea, then circle back, whatever. Just get it out. Did I mention don’t edit?

2. Edit. I print off what I’ve written (or make a separate edit file electronically) and challenge everything. Make notes, scribble in the margins, destroy darlings, and rewrite. Then get it to a friend or editor for more edits. Then I make the necessary changes.

3. Polish. Add the fonts you love, the appropriate artwork, and anything else you may need to dress up the piece.

4. Send it. Post it, query it, submit it to a journal. Just get it out there, and then move to the next project.

5. Circle back and consider what worked or what didn’t and do more of what did.

This system may seem bare and basic but life is complicated. I also tend to hold onto projects too long and need to get them out there and this process allows me to do that.

Reader, what system do you use? How do you keep moving to the next stage or next project? I’d love to hear from you.

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9 thoughts on “How To Finish Your Writing Projects

  1. Good evening, loved this post and most of the ones I’ve read so far here. I like this process theory, I’m kinda a beginner writer and haven’t gotten anything out anywhere, but am trying to better my writing, hence my blog. I’m gonna try your process though and see how it works for me. Thanks and have a great night.

      1. Good morning Robert, I’ve got a writing question for you. I’m a beginning writer, hence my blog that’s only got four followers, what do you suggest for a new writer to get myself out there? I’m not sure I don’t want to write short stories, but I want to be able to work from home writing, VA, blogging, having my writing out there for lack of a better term. Any suggestions, advice or anything else for a newbie would be greatly appreciated. I’m even willing to do web testing, internet research, proofreading for blogs and websites. Thank you and have a wonderful day.

      2. Good afternoon Robert, this is Eva again. I’m curious what words you might have for a new writer like myself to get myself out there. I’m looking to write, proofread, test websites, internet research, and of course, write. I’m looking to get my writing out there and also to be able to work from home. I’m looking from a writer to a writer, any help, tips, suggestions, advice, I’m open to them, as long as nothing I do requires money, cuz this momma is poor broke. Thank you and have a great day.

      3. Good Evening Eva,
        I’ll answer your questions below. First though, cultivating a following and making money from writing may never happen like you want it to. I am guessing a second job might do the trick but maybe not be as fulfilling if you love writing.
        To the questions.

        How to get yourself out there:
        I would establish a simple blogging schedule. Two, maybe three days a week tops. Then settle on a topic. I took a look at your blog and I was not sure if there was a central theme or not. If it’s writing stick to how that intersects with your life. If it’s about your journey to becoming a stay at home writer/entrepreneur, keep writing about that. Then link them to your Facebook, twitter, or whatever social media accounts you have so they show up. (A simple YouTube video will get you there and it not hard to do). This will give you several avenues for people to engage with your post and allow things like google analytics to pick up keywords and other search sites as you contribute more posts and bring people to your site.

        If you want people to follow you:
        Follow others or mention them in a post.
        Be helpful and share what you have learned.

        Sites and people to follow:
        Chadrallen.com – Chad’s a friend of mine and he’s an editor. He has some great tips.
        goinswriter.com – Jeff Goins has a lot of free resources, specifically about gaining followers. Grab his e-book and take a look at that to get ideas. (check out his podcast)
        Michaelhyatt.com – Michael is an online entrepreneur and a great business mind.(check out his podcast)
        jonathanmilligan.com – Jonathan responds to most emails and makes a decent living as a stay at home marketer/product creator.
        Chrisguillebeau.com – He’s an online entrepreneur and a smart guy when it comes to making money. (check out his podcast)
        Austinkleon.com – join his newsletter and maybe grab his book Show Your Work! It’s my favorite read now.
        moneysavingmom.com – Crystal Paine is a must-subscribe-to blog.

        Helpful thoughts
        Join a writers group or find people in the comments section in the sites above to collaborate with. The best way to succeed is to get in a group and try to learn from and grow with them. If people want money or tell you to do XYZ and you’ll make 10K don’t believe them. Even some of the people I mention above can be tricky, so be careful.

        In the end, this will take persistence. It can be done but most do not succeed. I would suggest starting small with your blog, be consistent, and keep trying things whether it’s selling a product, an ebook or working on a site like fiverr. If you develop a process of write (or create w/no edits), edit, and polish/ship you might get closer than most. Also, throw your questions at Google like – How can I make money from a blog? You’ll get a billion answers.

        Be sure to do these things, whatever it may be because you love it or at least can stomach it. Don’t chase money. You’d do better working full time and delivering pizzas on the side and save yourself and those around you a lot of frustration.

        Let me know how it goes.

        Bob

      4. Good evening Bob, thank you for the input, suggestions, advice, resources, and as far as a”theme”,I don’t have one, yet. Trying to work on that though. Along with trying to come up with a good blog schedule,I actually think I’ve gotten close with that though. I have been following some bloggers, not exactly the ones you mentioned above however, I will be checking into those. But, being reading and writing are my two top favorite passions, I’m just trying to do whatever everybody I’ve read says about new writers, start with writing every day, blogging regularly, but if I wanna write for publication in magazines, blogs, periodicals, or be a proofreader, out even short stories, was looking for the best way in.

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