Finish Writing Your Book: 3 Big Reasons Holding You Back

by Joe Bunting | 31 comments

Do you struggle to finish writing your book, or really anything you start? If you said  yes, you're not alone. In a poll we conducted (with real people!), seventy-two percent gave us the same answer.

Finishing writing projects can be tough! That doesn't mean you can't do it.

finish writing

Here's an important truth: you don't have to be the next Ernest Hemingway or Stephen King in order to finish writing a book. It's possible for you to find the writing time you need. But before you tackle your creative project, it's worth examining why you haven't been able to finish your story idea in the past.

In this article, I'm going to share three giant reasons most writers don't finish writing their books—and how you can carve out everything you need to complete your current project.

Yes, Writing a Book Is Really Hard

I've been coaching small groups of writers as they finish their books. At the beginning of each new group, I tell them, “Writing a book is hard. It's probably one of the hardest things you'll ever do.”

“You were right,” they always tell me a few weeks later when they're deep into their first drafts. “I didn't really believe you before, but this is really hard!”

It's no secret writing a book is hard. And yet the busiest person can finish writing their project if they understand why their book fell off course, and how they can get their book on track.

Here are three popular reasons you can't finish writing your book: for fiction writers and those completing a nonfiction book.

3 Reasons You Can't Finish Writing Your Book

There are many things many people fail to do that make finishing their books much more difficult. It is likely that what is holding you back has to do with one of these three reasons:

1. You don't have a plan.

A story idea isn't enough, even a great idea, a ground breaking idea, an idea that will change literature forever.

You have to have a a plan.

Many writers resist this idea of having any type of outline before they start writing their book. They want to see where the stories go, they say. They're free spirits, “artistic types.”

And yet, writers who finish projects, even anti-outlining pantsers, have some kind of plan. It may not be written down, and it might not be very good, but they have one.

How can you develop a plan that will bring purpose to your writing sessions?

The bare minimum plan for your book is a premise. A premise is the main idea of a book. In fiction—and especially screenwriting—the premise is also called a logline, a one-sentence summary of the protagonist, main conflict, and setting. In non-fiction, the premise is the central argument you’re making in the book.

If you're uncomfortable with planning. You don't have to write your premise down. You can even change your premise as you write your story (although, I wouldn't be wary of that). In other words:

A plan is a starting point, not a commitment.

As general Eisenhower said,

[P]lans are useless, but planning is indispensable.

If you want to take planning to the next step, here are three planning methods for novelists:

  • Snowflake Method. A system invented by author Randy Ingram where you begin with a simple one sentence story (i.e. a premise) and expand it over several steps into fully-fledged novel.
  • Story Grid. A writing and editing system developed by veteran editor Shawn Coyne that uses the Foolscap Method and its six questions, including focuses like point of view and major moments and conventions in certain genres.
  • The Write Structure. My new book is written by a writer for writers. In it I offer common-sense principles that drive bestselling novels. I also offer practical advice on how to use these principles in your own writing, making it an invaluable resource for authors that can help them better understand what makes great story structure, and how to become a better storyteller themself.

You can learn more about how to apply writing structure by joining one of our programs passionate about helping you commit and finish a book: 100 Day Book or our new course Ready, Plan, Write.

Want to get three free lessons to jump start your book this summer? Check out Ready, Plan, Write here.

2. You don't have a team.

No writer is an island.

If you think you can write a book relying solely on your own willpower and without the support of others, you're kidding yourself.

As I've studied the lives of great writers, one thing has stood out to me: great writers were friends with other great writers. Because of this, they were able to develop consistent time that eventually lead to the completion of their awesome books. They had the support they needed to work through issues, to find the motivation they needed to write past the sticky parts of the writing process.

How do you get a team? Here are three things you can work on today:

Get buy in from your family and friends. The people closest to you will have a huge impact on your writing success.

In my own life, I noticed a shift in my self-confidence and productivity when my father stopped criticizing me and started praising my writing. He went from being skeptical of my writing to my biggest fan, and it made a huge difference in my output.

I would never have succeeded at starting The Write Practice and keeping it going those first, lonely years without my wife. I can remember having nervous breakdowns nearly every week, but she believed in me throughout, kept me focused, and helped me keep going.

If you want to finish your book, get your family and friends on your side. They'll believe in you even when you stop believing in yourself. This is priceless.

Create relationships with other writers. There's no greater motivation to get writing than hearing that one of your friends just finished their book, or got a publishing contract, or hit a bestseller list.

If you don't have relationships with other writers, make them. Connect with other writers on social media. Go to a writer's retreat or conference. Join an online writing community. Do something, because friendships with other good writers are as valuable as gold.

Share your struggles. It's okay to not have your book figured out. It's normal to hit a period of writer's block. You're not a bad writer if your book gets into trouble.

But failing to share what you're struggling with is foolish.

This is the whole reason to have a team, so you can get help when you need it. Be vulnerable. And come up with strategies to write through struggling times.

Are you looking for a writing community committed to finishing their books? Our courses and community might be the perfect fit for you. 100 Day Book develops strategies for building a consistent writing schedule that will not only help you finish a book—but move towards publishing it. And all of this is done alongside a team you can depend on, with a mentor and peers who will push you to the finish line.

Ready, Plan, Write will help you flesh out an idea into a book plan and writing schedule that delivers. Come pursue your dream with us!

3. You don't have a rhythm.

Several years ago, I began writing every day. I didn't always write a lot. It was just important that I wrote. Every day.

Sometimes I missed a day. Inevitably, the next day it would be twice as hard to write.

Then, about six months into my daily writing habit, I missed three days in a row. It was devastating. I didn't write again for months.

Yes, writing is hard. However, it's much easier once you've made it second nature, once writing is so ingrained into your daily rhythm it's almost harder to avoid it than do it.

If you want to finish your book, make a commitment to writing every day.

Some other obstacles to writing rhythm:

  • Lack of practice. The good news: writing gets easier over time!
  • Perfectionism. Perfect can wait for the final draft. Just write.
  • Not having a plan. Your plan helps you remember what to write next.

You Can Finish Writing Your Book

From jotting down a story premise to character sketches and outlines the strengthen your story structure and center your story's focus—you can finish writing your book.

If you feel like you can't, it's likely you're suffering from one of the big three reasons that prevent writers from finishing their writing projects discussed in this article.

When we recognize what's holding us back, we can come up with a plan that will get us out of our writing slumps—and writing stops.

We hope you join us for Ready, Plan, Write or 100 Day Book, and we wish you luck!

How about you? Have you had trouble finishing writing your book?  Let me know in the comments.

PRACTICE

For today's practice, think through what working on your book every day would look like. What's your ideal writing schedule? Who will support you as you tackle it?

Spend fifteen minutes thinking about this and writing it down. Include a list of people who will believe that your book and your writing is important. Share your writing in the Pro Practice Workshop here, and encourage a few other writers.

How to Write Like Louise PennyWant to write like Louise Penny? Join our new class and learn how. Learn more and sign up here.

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Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

Want best-seller coaching? Book Joe here.

31 Comments

  1. seth_barnes

    Thanks for helping me finish my book, Joe. You applied these lessons with excellence!

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Yours was the first book I ever worked on, Seth. And it changed my life. Thank you for taking a risk on an unproven writer.

  2. LaCresha Lawson

    It is hard to start and it is hard to end.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Indeed it is, LaCresha. It’s even harder to end, though, if you don’t start. 😉

  3. Debbie A Lane

    For me writing the last 2 chapters was the most difficult. I wanted to make sure I left the reader feeling like she or he read an amazing story.

    Reply
    • Ryan

      Nothing like trying to write a masterpiece to make the process more difficult! It makes sense that you wanted to have a strong ending.

  4. Ryan

    Consistency is key… Once you have momentum in a writing project, it’s pretty easy to press onward. All it takes is a little neglect to bring the project to a halt. The neglect can be brought on by doubt, unexpected events, lack of concentration, laziness, etc. When I do attempt to jump back into a writing project, it sometimes feels like the flow of my writing has been interrupted over my absence, and it’s hard to get back into that smooth rhythm. That’s why I love writing short stories; they’re much faster to complete, leaving less time for abandonment! I’m looking forward to this upcoming conference for sure.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      So true, Ryan. What did Annie Dillard say in The Writing Life? Writing is like a houseplant but when you leave it unattended it takes over the room? That’s probably not even close, but I have an image in my head like that associated with her book.

  5. Debbie A Lane

    I am a new writer and new to this site Ryan where is the conference?

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Hi Debbie. I don’t know Ryan or where the conference is, but welcome to The Write Practice and to writing in general! It’s great to have you. 🙂

    • Debbie A Lane

      Thanks Joe!

  6. AM

    I don’t usually comment on posts (though I read every one), but I just wanted to say that I’m really glad you’re making posts around NaNoWriMo. This is the first year I’ve been eligible to do it, age-wise, so it’s my first time, and I’m grateful these posts are here to help me through it. Only critique: it’s and its are not the same thing. Sorry, but word switches (like affect and effect) drive me up the walls. Literally.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Fantastic! It will be fun to have you along for the ride.

      And thank you for catching that AM. It’s been fixed! 😉 I’m very aware of the difference, but they do sometimes slip through my proofreading cracks. I appreciate you pointing it out.

      Thanks for commenting!

  7. LilianGardner

    Being a part of TWP is inspiring me to write, whenever I can, sometimes daily, and other times on free weekends. I appreciate all posts from TWP and regret that I don’t always comment.
    However, I’m at a loss in not having anyone near (real) with whom to share my work. People in my small town don’t speak English. Fortunately I have members on TWP, but I must be more active.
    I’m half-way through a novel, and after revising and polishing, I’ll ask other writers, on line, if they will read it and give me feedback.
    I’ve signed up for ‘How to Write a Book in a Month’, and can’t wait to begin.
    Thanks for this free opportunity.

    Reply
    • allyn211

      Where do you live, Lilian?

    • LilianGardner

      I live in Italy, in the Po delta, about seventy kilometers south of Venice.
      I love living here. People are friendly though reserved, and their English is purely scholastic.
      Where do you live, allyn211?

    • allyn211

      Atlanta area, USA. 🙂

  8. allyn211

    I”m having a rough time getting into a rhythm, especially on Saturdays. That’s when we usually do our household chores. I have a child with autism who, as part of his routine, uses Saturdays to catch up on shows he’s missed during the week. We’re trying to get a handle on our finances, and there are things that need to be done in the house daily. I also have a number of health concerns. This Tuesday, I go get a mouth guard to help treat TMJ. The next day, I go to a chiropractor to get my back worked on due to chronic back pain. Thursday, I have yet another appointment. I meet weekly with a ladies’ church group (and I need their fellowship!) Also, this Monday, my son has a dental appointment. I keep a calendar. My main problem, I guess, is the mental/emotional stress all the “stuff” causes.

    Reply
    • LilianGardner

      allyn211, you are so brave. I’ll remeber you and your family in my prayers. I hope you’ll have free time to do the things you like doing.

  9. allyn211

    I’ve also done NaNo several times, and I may need to use NaNo to propel me further along with my current WIP!

    Reply
  10. Aspholessaria

    My biggest problem is that although I have 3 books published, my family still thinks of it as my little hobby and not a serious occupation. Consequently they continually interrupt me and expect me to drop my writing for other things. It doesn’t work to say that I’m working because my income from writing is almost negligible so they think my writing is unimportant.

    So getting family on board is a big problem. Friends too, don’t seem to be unduly concerned about it either. Only 2 have bought one of my books. (The first one I published). I wish I could get over this problem, but unless I suddenly hit the big time (unlikely, I know), then finding time to write every day, and getting support from family and friends seems to also be unlikely. I do try to write every day though, but frequently fail.

    Reply
  11. Sumeet Thakur

    Whether i will write a book or not, but these stuffs are really cooperative. And strongly hope to get these more and more, that will assist me doing various papers. Thanks for your support.

    Reply
  12. Vincent Harding

    I agree that devising a plan can be a huge help, for some. Same with having a team. I personally believe discipline is the most vital—you can miss a day, or two, or not have a stable of other writers to connect with—but discipline can push you through all of that.

    Reply
  13. Christine

    As for finding a time to write, I guess that wouldn’t be hard if I’d redirect the two first hours of the day I normally spend reading what others have written on their blogs. Of course I fear no one would notice I was gone! 😉

    Finding local friend/family supporters may be a whole ‘nother story. my dear one’s first reaction when I brought up Nanowrimo was, “Forget it!” 🙂

    Reply
  14. Dennis J Coughlin

    Brilliant advice – thanks. I’m in the middle of reading The Story Grid right now and I’m loving it. Absolutely agree that you need a plan so you can break down the big tasks into smaller chunks!

    Thanks
    Dennis

    Reply
  15. Lucy

    All of this is so true! I’ll be attempting Nanowrimo for the third time this year, and I’m determined to do better. The first year, I tried to pants it with no plan. The second year, I was crippled by perfectionist-itus and really didn’t get very far at all. This year, I’m going to have an outline to work with. My big problem is that I’m a Grade 10 – 12 teacher, and while I have time to write, I don’t always have the mental energy to solve the tangles my characters seem to insist on getting into!

    Thanks for the advice 🙂

    Reply
  16. EmFairley

    Thanks Joe! My book is coming along and I’ve decided to try and get it finished by the end of November, so thanks for the challenge!

    Reply
  17. Lady Bird

    Thanks for your planning methods I’ll definitely use them! While writing I usually use this tool http://www.coolutils.com/TiffCombine which is the best of its kind. Hopefully with your tips I’ll finish my book this year)

    Reply
  18. Tanya Chamain

    On the third draft right now. I am still tweaking and applying the advice I have gotten from you. Trying to get published is something that freaks me out though!

    Reply
  19. Carrie Thatcher

    Thank you for this piece. I needed it. I was ready to chuck my project, but I will hang on and keep fighting. Even if it’s just to say I finished the rough draft.

    Reply
  20. Star Ostgard

    Have to totally disagree that you have to plan in order to finish a story. I have written dozens of stories, from short shorts to epics to series. I have finished all but one – the one I had planned out. All the rest were organic. Started with an idea and wrote.

    Reply

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