10 Writing Hacks to Actually Finish Your Book

by Joe Bunting | 42 comments

Are you struggling to write? Read on for my best writing hacks to get you writing now.

writing hacks

There's no getting around it. Writing is hard. Whether you're writing your first book, crafting an essay for school, blogging, or just writing for fun, there are so many things against you.

First is the time itself. What you could say in five minutes takes a huge amount of time to write into coherent, grammatically sound sentences.

Then there are the distractions: social media, video games, endless sudoku puzzles (my personal kryptonite).

Finally, and perhaps worst of all, there is writer's block, which can vary from a general aversion to writing to crippling self-doubt and an inability to put any words on a page, let alone something good.

Yes, writing is hard. So hard it's amazing people write at all, some for fun no less!

The good news is that if you're having a hard time writing, you're not alone. Even great writers struggle with distraction and writer's block. To be honest, I struggle too. I've written fifteen books and still struggle on a daily basis to write.

At the same time, writing can be amazing, inspiring, fulfilling, even life changing. If you're struggling to write, in this article I'm going to share all my favorite writing hacks to help you get focused. Hopefully at least one of these tricks will get your creativity thrumming, get the words moving, and help you finally get to writing.

So grab a cup of coffee, open up a blank page, and get ready to write.

Why You Struggle Finishing Your Writing Projects

I've written a lot of books. I've published hundreds of articles. I've finished poems, essays, newspaper columns, and more.

However, when it comes to procrastination and writer's block, I struggle as much as any writer. I believe this is the reason why:

The more important a project is to you, the harder it will be to write. After all, you want it to be good. Really good! You procrastinate because you subconsciously believe that the longer you wait, the more prepared you'll be, the better of a writer you'll be, the more you will understand how to make your writing great.

In essence, you procrastinate because you believe that you're not good enough right now.

But here's the truth: the only person who can write what you need to write is the person you are right now. If you don't write it, no one will.

And so, you need some mind tricks to force yourself to the blank page and make it all but impossible not to finish.

How to Create a Better Writing Process

Before we get into the writing hacks, there are a few principles that these tricks rely on that I want to share with you. Consider adopting these as a part of your mindset to better reach your writing goals

1. Lower the Bar

A proven technique used by psychologists whenever people are struggling to finish a difficult task is to lower the bar of success.

When you're working on a project that is important to you, like writing a book, you have huge hopes for it. But those same hopes can sabotage you when the actual work product you create doesn't measure up.

Instead, lower the bar.

For example, I am constantly telling writers not to measure the quality of their writing on their first draft. It doesn't matter if your first draft is good. It matters that it's finished. Quality comes on your third or fifth or eleventh draft.

So don't measure how good your writing is. Measure your word count. The more words you write, the more likely you'll get into a good flow, the better your writing will end up being.

In writing, when you focus on quality, both the quantity and quality of your writing suffers. But when you focus on quantity, both the quality and quantity can increase.

2. Don't Edit While You Write

When you edit, you use a different part of your brain than when you write.

Editing taps a part of your brain associated with the emotion disgust (remember her from Inside Out?).

Writing, on the other hand, is most closely associated with joy, the excitement of creation.

If you try to write and edit at the same time, your brain can get mixed up, the editor side can take over, and soon you're not making progress, you're just rehashing stuff you've already written for the thousandth time.

Instead, write during your writing time. Take a break. Then switch into assessing writing skills—check sentences, evaluate verb tenses, fix typos. Don't try to do them both at the same time, unless you enjoy going very slowly.

3. Use Templates and Forms

Don't reinvent the wheel. Or rather, if you want to reinvent the wheel, be okay with it taking a really long time to finish your goal.

Over thousands of years of human communication, certain templates, different forms of writing have come about, each with their own proven structures based on millions of trial-and-error iterations.

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants,” Isaac Newton said.

In the same way, by studying structure, templates, and forms, you can both write faster and in many cases better by borrowing what millions of writers before you have learned and established.

That isn't to say you can't write things your own way. It's just that it might take longer.

Here are a couple of resources on structures, templates, and forms you can use:

Alright, now that we've covered our writing process principles, let's get into the writing hacks to help you get unstuck and write faster.

10 Writing Hacks to Actually Finish Your Book

Ready to write? Here is my best writing advice for when you're struggling to write.

Warning: these techniques are intense, and should only be used if you actually want to finish your book. Use at your own risk.

1. Use Writing Sprints

Writing requires extreme focus, and one proven way to create focus is to set a timer and commit to only focusing on your task until the timer goes off.

This hack is similar to the Pomodoro Technique. This technique was codified by Francesco Cirillo, an Italian student. He found that when he was struggling to focus on his studies, he would commit to studying for just a short amount of time (at first for just ten minutes, but eventually twenty-five minutes). Then, he would set a timer and focus on that task until the timer went off.

In the same way, many writers today use writing sprints, which are short burst of focused writing time, often done in groups, to stay focused and get as much writing done as possible in a short amount of time.

I use this technique personally, setting my timer for just three minutes, because that's all the focus I tend to have! I've even found that I can usually finish 1,500 words in about 15 to 20 of these types of sprints (or 45 to 60 minutes of focused time). Not bad!

We have systematized these sprints in our Write Plan Planner, giving writers a simple tool to keep track of their sprints on our Daily Writing Session page.

2. Beat Your High Score

To make writing sprints even more effective, once you've completed one, you can then try to beat your score.

For example, if you wrote sixty-three words in your three-minute sprint, in your next sprint, you can attempt to write sixty-four words or more.

Perhaps you even get up to 100+ words. My personal high score is over 140 words in three minutes.

You can compete against your best writing sprint, your best word count in an hour, day, or month. Bursts of creative and competitive focus like this can boost your writing productivity and keep you moving forward on any piece of writing. 

3. Self-Reflect on Your Distractions

Write down what distractions are slowing down your writing.

After you have been writing for a while, ideally keeping track of your word count and productivity using sprints and high scores, you can write down what distractions are holding you back.

Perhaps your writing got interrupted by a text message you received. Or your child interrupts you. Or you get a phone call. Or you find yourself scrolling through social media. Or you realize you're doing a lot of editing while you write. Write it down.

Here, you aren't trying to shame yourself. Instead, you just want to reflect on what's slowing your writing down so that you can begin to problem solve.

Perhaps you realize that if you disconnect your computer from the internet you can avoid distractions. Or if you turn your phone off, you can write one hundred more words per hour. Or if you write before your children are awake, you can avoid your children interrupting your writing time.

Keep track of your distractions, self-reflect, then problem solve. Don't be afraid to try a few different solutions until you find the best one. Effective writers have an arsenal of solutions they use to keep making real progress. 

4. Mess With Your Font Size and Color

If you find that you're doing a lot of editing while you write, try making it harder to read the text and edit. Here are some ways you can do this:

  • Change the font color to make it a very light grey (or even white, for the very brave)
  • Change the font size to 2 pt or even 1 pt to make it too small to read without major squinting
  • Lower the brightness on your computer screen
  • Close your eyes
  • Look out the window while you write

Or use your own personal trick to avoid re-writing and editing.

As we discussed in principle #2 above, splitting up the act of writing and editing will help you write faster, and by making it harder to edit, you can optimize for writing.

5. Handwrite

Another way to make it harder to edit is to handwrite your first draft.

Author Sarah Gribble puts it this way:

I find my writing flows easier when I write by hand. With a first draft, I don't want to concentrate on spelling, grammar, or perfect sentence structure. (And I REALLY don't want to have that blinking cursor judging me!)

Handwriting goes beyond just avoiding editing, though. The tactile act of writing by hand activates part of your brain associated with creativity. Thus, you might find that the quality of your writing increases even as you get more writing done.

That being said, I find that handwriting takes me much longer than typing (even with occasional editing), so I tend to not use this hack. I'm always pleased with the results when I do, though.

6. Choose the Best Time of Day for Your Brain

Some writers report writing better when they're less alert, sleepy, or otherwise less productive.

So if you're a morning person, try writing late at night; if you're a night owl, try writing early in the morning.

The lucid dreaming effect that you get when you're a little bit tired can boost your creativity. Remember how editing taps into disgust? This also turns that part of your brain off so you can let your ideas flow.

Try different times of day and different routines until you find the one that works best for you. 

7. For Large Projects (Like a Book), Set a Deadline(s)

I've long loved deadlines, and here's why they work, from my eBook 10 Steps to Becoming a Writer:

Deadlines are meant to induce stress. I know none of us really wants more stress in our lives (do you?), but most writers I know struggle with two things: discipline and focus. A good deadline helps with both.
A little bit of stress focuses you. A good deadline can keep your butt in the chair and your fingers on the keys much better than “inspiration,” that fickle muse, ever could.

To write a book, you need two kinds of deadlines: one for the date you'll finish the whole entire book, and a set of smaller deadlines to ensure you make progress week by week.

Start with the ultimate deadline. When will you finish your book?

This deadline should be reasonable for you to achieve (it takes more than a week to write a book, after all). But you also don't want to give yourself too much time, or you'll lose the pressure that pushes you to write.

Here's a guide on how long it takes to write a book. Personally, I've found that 100 days is enough time for most writers to finish a book, even a long one.

That means, if you start today, this is your deadline to finish your book.

Once you've set your ultimate deadline, create a set of smaller deadlines. I like to set weekly goals for my writing so that I know I'm making steady progress each week.

We've built deadlines into the Write Plan Planner, which includes a step-by-step process for setting and tracking your deadlines.

You might be thinking, “But deadlines I set for myself don't help me. I just ignore them, and then I don't finish.”

Which brings me to the next step.

8. Give Yourself Consequences (or Why I Wrote a $1,000 Check to a Presidential Candidate I Hate)

I learned this trick from my friend Tim Grahl.

If you want to make your deadlines and avoid procrastination, create unthinkable and painful consequences.

For example, here are the consequences I used for a book I wrote:

  • 1st deadline missed: Delete Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes, my favorite iPhone game, from my phone (and don't reinstall until the book is finished).
  • 2nd deadline missed: Give my iWatch to my wife (permanently) and buy three pints of Jeni's ice cream ($12 ea.) for the people who work in my office.
  • 3rd deadline missed: Send a $1,000 check to the presidential candidate I despise.

Honestly, this last one had me terrified. I knew throughout my whole writing process that the book I wrote by my ultimate deadline may not be very good, but it would be finished.

Note: If you choose to write a check to an organization you despise, it's best to write the check in advance and give it to a trusted friend with strict orders to send it if you miss your deadline.

5 Productivity Hacks for Writers

9. Set an Intention

One big deadline, or even a few medium deadlines, aren't enough. You also need a series of smaller, consistent deadlines to keep you focused each day, and this is where an intention comes in. Here's an example:

Each morning before work, I will write 500 words at Carroll Street Café.

(Insert your favorite writing location, e.g. your desk, your favorite coffee shop, or even reclining in bed.)

Note here that it's very important to imagine where and when you will write. Your chances of following through go up significantly if you picture yourself writing at a specific location at a specific time.

10. Get Community and Accountability

I believe in the power of community. It's good to be around people who are struggling with the same problems you are. I've found that when I spend time with writers who are better than me, I become a better writer.

Make friends with other writers. You will probably find that you become a better writer almost through osmosis.

And when it comes to your book, how will you be able to face your writing friends if you're procrastinating on your own projects?

Personally, each time I write a book, I ask several writing friends to hold me accountable to finishing it.

If you're looking for a community to practice with, check out our Write Practice Pro community here

BONUS: Share Your Writing

Stories are meant to be shared, and when we share them, it unlocks a deep motivation to share more stories.

Here's a quote from a lesson in our Foundations of Publishing course:

We take words for granted, especially words like story, that we’ve heard since we were children.
What I find interesting is that the definition of story seems to imply an audience, that there has to be someone listening to the narrative for it to be considered a story. The word narrative itself suggests “narration,” sharing your story with other people.
We often think of a writer as some loner slaving away in a dark closet with his imaginary friends, but the truth is that story itself comes from a social urge to connect.
Stories are meant to be shared.

For the practicing writer, sharing is great regardless of the outcome. If your audience loves it, you have the pleasure of connection. If they don't, you have the feedback you need to make it better.

Personally, I share my drafts in our Write Practice Pro community to get their feedback on how to make them better.

Procrastination CAN Be Defeated

We sometimes think procrastination is a moral failing, that we're irresponsible, bad people for failing to follow through on our plans.

The reality is that procrastination is often just a lack of structure, and what the above techniques do is provide a structure that will all but guarantee that you will finish your book.

The real question is, are you willing to do it?

If you want to write a book, you need a book writing process that works. We've built these productivity hacks into the Write Plan Planner, the planner designed to help you finally finish your book.

Ready to write? Order your planner today.

Get the Write Plan Planner

Do you struggle with procrastination when it comes to your writing projects? Which of these techniques would help you the most? Let me know in the comments section.


See how much you can write right now with some writing sprints.

Pull out your work in progress, or start a new story with this writing prompt: She'd never meant to reach the top of this cliff, but here she was.

Now, see how much you can write in fifteen minutes. Use this fifteen-minute timer for one long writing sprint, or use this three-minute timer five times for five quick bursts of writing.

When your time is up, share your writing in the Pro Practice Workshop, and tell us how many words you've written!

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

Join Class

Next LIVE lesson is coming up soon!

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.


  1. Dr. Marye Smith

    As I have learned from reading your communications, just write and write consistently because when you stop for any given time, you procrastinate. Also, surround yourself with others who are endeavoring to achieve the same or similar goals.

  2. Sefton

    I love number 3! After all if you can’t picture how you’re going to do it, you never will. I take my morning coffee into the garden, away from kids-tv blaring inside, and write surrounded by wet greenery and birdsong. Perfect! Even if I don’t achieve my whole daily work in the fifteen or so minutes I manage, (and I usually don’t) it’s something and it starts the day off right. -Sef

    Oh, and September is my deadline too. Procrastination twins!

  3. Arfa Nazeer

    To be honest, the consequences are terrifying.
    I liked about ‘setting the intention’, but it badly fails usually. Maybe there is a lot of distraction as I open the laptop or my new blog. I don’t have queries for any novel or book. I usually get stuck with no blog post. There are a lot of distractions.

  4. Mariposa

    I started a book in 2012 and the same one in 2013. Then it sat, still unfinished for quite some time. Recently I am reading what I have so far so I can finish it. This article on procrastinating is what I need to keep with it. Thank you.

  5. Rodgin K

    Community is an interesting one. I myself have never really believed in community. I grew up in the middle of nowhere and prefer less communication with the world rather than more.

    That being said, I found this blog only a month or two ago and I have never been more challenged or productive in my writing for quite some time. So, props to this community for helping an undirected writer focus his efforts a bit more.

    I’m inspired to go do more writing tonight once my little one finally gives up and falls asleep. After a text to my new writing accountability partner.

    • Stella

      This blog has challenged me and forced me to become more productive too. High five! Could I ask, how did you find someone to be your writing accountability partner?

    • Rodgin K

      I have a friend I met at an RP board years ago and built an actual friendship through the writing we did. Together we have bounced around the internet for years trying to find a way to recapture the magic of that first story we did with no avail.

      However, we recently started a project on something neither of us have done before and while life has happened (we started this a year ago almost) we are still working on it together.

      All that being said, I am sure that you could find someone here to help if you trusted them. While I’m nowhere near Singapore, e-mail and the internet makes for some strange partnerships and I would be glad to keep you accountable.

    • Stella

      Thanks for offering! My email is stella.chenmh@gmail.com, feel free to contact me there. How do you and your writing partner currently support each other?

    • Rodgin K

      I’ll be sending you an email soon.

      We talk about all kinds of things but mostly we fill in each other’s weak points. Over the last seven years we’ve talked a lot of theory and ideas and generally just try to find something worth our time.

  6. juanita couch

    I liked all of them. I think the favorite would be setting the deadline and also setting the shorter limit deadlines so that I don’t find myself fighting to get it done in the final deadline. As for the reminder to come back September 2, I don’t need that because I have a folder with your name on it and I never delete any of your articles until I have made notes about them. You are my mentor.

  7. Donna Smith McGuinness

    Hi Joe! It’s Donna here…how are things? Anyway, I can always give great excuses why I didn’t finish my book, why I didn’t stay in with the community, etc. and they all run into my health (accident) but…at the same time…I have to find other ways to finish my writing. Health is a BIG procrastination, my husbands disability and now a complication with his surgery is a BIG procrastination, but they’re all just reasons that I know I can overcome! So #5. “Share Your Writing” is what I’ve been doing in the last 3 months. I decided to start blogging again, I’m going to get in on the contest this summer, I post articles to Twitter, which get RT quite a bit and I write for a web site. When I can’t use my arm I use the app ‘Dragon Dictation’ and save my notes to wherever I can, then edit them.
    It’s been a rough 1 1/2 years, but..
    as Martin Luther King, Jr said: “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”
    I have to keep moving forward, or I will continually move backward…

  8. ohita afeisume

    For years, I wrote stories for myself, several of which were in half and half. A chance meeting with somebody introduced me to the Wadiya Writers, a community of writers in Colombo. For the first time, I began to share my poems and stories. What amazing feedback I have got. I have been encouraged to finish many pieces that would otherwise have remained uncompleted due to the monster of procrastination.

    I shall continue to be an active member of this group as my creativity and productivity have been enhanced thereby. I am elated when people remark about how I too have been a source of encouragement to them.So kudos to being a member of a group and sharing your work with them!

    • Stella

      So happy to hear that, Ohita! It’s great that you’ve found a community of writers in your area. I live in Singapore and I have been looking for a writer’s group to join in real life. So far no luck, but I’m glad I at least have this site!

  9. LilianGardner

    I want to write two stories and finish them to submit for contests, by dead-line date, July 31st:. I have the stories in my head; the beginning, middle and end. I don’t have much ‘continued’ time, and so I tend to put off writing, telling myself that when I know I can have at least an hour to write without disturbance, I’ll start. But that’s just an excuse, Jo. (psst, I’ve been called away this moment, but begged time off to finish this post. Must hurry!) I hate the way I procrastinate, and I think having a dead line is great.
    I love your ideas, and it makes me smile to think you, too, procrastinate now and again.

  10. Mark Sandel

    Thank you, these are really good hacks.

  11. Missy

    Nice article. I’ve decided to stop procrastinating myself and use one of your writing prompts. I’d love to get some feedback on this.

    In the crowded car, I felt quite alone. It hadn’t seemed like such a bad idea at first. I would go along, for the sake of my poor brother, who had extended his invitation to me for completely selfish reasons. I would make the trip easier to bare, as he was only interested in getting to know the girl. It was the day after Christmas. A bitter cold ate away at our knuckles as we waited on the sidewalk. They arrived. The girl and her father. She had a strange name, complicated; hard to pronounce; gone from my memory a second after she uttered it. We were to drive out to their house to pick up the rest of the family, all nine of them. After a series of questions about school, work, and anything her dad, Leon, could think of, a silence fell upon the car. Uncomfortable, my gaze naturally fell to the window. We pulled into their driveway. Inside there house now, I was met with a challenge; a flood of names, faces. There must be more than nine of them, I kept thinking. Piled in the car, the only relevant thing to talk about was the storm we were heading into. I sat there shaking my head, silently suggesting that we turn around. The drive was interminable. Leon’s voice, made stale by his endless attempts to make us laugh, eventually died away. The crowded back seat, suddenly felt quite empty. Their strange, judging eyes faded while mine became fixed on what I could see of the highway. We will arrive, I thought to myself, and just as soon return.

    • Stella

      Hi Missy, what prompt did you respond to? Was difficult to follow the scene not knowing what it was about. There were a few minor typos – I think you mean easier to ‘bear’, and inside ‘their’ house.

      I feel that more showing and less telling would help. We hear the narrator’s thoughts on the scene but don’t observe any other characters’ actions or dialogue directly. Eg you could show us ‘Leon’s voice, made stale by his endless attempts to make us laugh’, or ‘Inside their house now, I was met with a challenge; a flood of names, faces’.

      The best part to me were where you talked about how the girl’s name was strange and hard to remember. ‘She had a strange name, complicated; hard to pronounce; gone from my memory a second after she uttered it.’ Very relatable and universal emotion.

    • Missy

      Hello, Stella. I was responding to the “Out of Place” prompt from the
      14 Prompts eBook. I guess I was trying to capture that ‘out of place’ feeling, and ended up being too vague about what was really taking place.
      Thank you so much for your advice. I plan to write a story to go along with each of the other 13 prompts.

  12. Tom Davis

    Great advice Joe. Hope you don’t have to send that check! 🙂

    • Joe Bunting

      Me too, Tom. Me too. Thanks for reading. 🙂

  13. Stella

    Technique #5: Sharing your work. Wrote this short story based on my relationship with my grandmother for a contest themed on local (Singaporean) food.

    Love: Best Before

    This is how I knew Ah Ma loved me: every Friday night, there was a plate piled with deep fried goodness. I would tear into it, demolishing wings and drumlets alike, and she would look at the small graveyard beside my plate and call me a hao hai zi.

    Unlike her food, her love had no best-before date.

    The food might change, but just like the plates beneath it, Friday dinners with grandmother were eternal.


    Change began with university. With no more big exam looming after X years, it was time for fun. New friends, new priorities for Friday nights. Our visits decreased to once every two weeks, one month.

    I became vegetarian. I spent the next half-year fielding questions. But I’m already so thin. Do I still eat fish? It was incomprehensible to a generation for which meat is a luxury. Soon chicken wings became kang kong, or mao gula with the seeds still in. The little graveyard beside my plate disappeared.

    She fell. Dinner visits became hospital visits, then stopped altogether. Your grandmother has no energy to stand. Don’t ask her to cook.

    So we ate out instead. Sometimes my father’s siblings came: First Uncle, Second Aunt. One day I asked, why doesn’t Second Uncle join us? It is family history I was now old enough to hear. Second Uncle’s wife offended Ah Ma years before I was born. I learnt that it was not just Ah Ma’s love that was stubborn as stains. Her grudges were too.

    I prepared to go on exchange. At the airport she turned up with a small rice cooker and enough condiments to season a feast. And a knob of ginger, because ginger is so expensive overseas. I had already packed, repacked and weighed my luggage.

    When she left I extracted the ginger from my socks, untangled the curry paste from my underwear. But the rice cooker fed me well through my five months.


    Ah Gong passed away.

    Ah Ma redirected her love into her remaining family. Our food began to multiply: a modern “five loaves and two fish”. One day she brought ba zhang. I ate one.

    Hao chi ma? Politeness dictated I agree. The next day I came home to a basketful of dumplings on our dining table.

    A challenge worthy of a UN diplomat arose: how to ask her to stop bringing food? Ma got the job. Our incoming edibles slowed to a manageable volume.


    Today I decide it’s my turn to make her dinner. Haven’t we always bonded through food? Finally I can show her what exchange has taught me about cooking. We set a date: 7pm on Saturday.

    She arrives at four.

    She watches as I remove the groceries from the fridge. I allow myself to hope – maybe she’ll be content to spectate? Her restraint lasts for all of three minutes. Then she’s beside me. How thinly will I slice the bittergourd? Will I stir-fry the kailan with oyster sauce or soy?

    Soon the host-guest distinction has disappeared like the chicken wings of my childhood. I watch as she pours twice the amount of oil I would have used and keeps pouring, as she leaves the greens on the stove long after I would have taken them off. As I contemplate the oily omelette and wilted vegetables, I wonder. Who is cooking dinner for who?

    Then I wonder. When did my love become conditional? ‘Best served before: she insists on cooking her way, she disrupts packing for exchange, she holds ancient grudges against relatives.’ Her love had no ‘best before’ date. When did mine acquire one?

    When I was young she cooked for me. Soon I will cook for her.

    Soon I will no longer cook for her.

    This is how I know Ah Ma loves me: we ate the kailan and bittergourd and omelette. And it was the best dinner I ever had.

    • Rodgin K

      Absolutely solid. Some questions for you because I am far more interested in your thought/writing process than I am in the stylistic differences I would have with this piece.

      Did you intentionally break your paragraphs so small? It really adds to the hurried feel of running out of time that you have here.

      Who is this piece written for? Knowing your audience often changes how you would write something. (Hint: The audience of you is a fine answer.)

      I’ll leave it at that see where this conversation goes.

    • Stella

      Thanks for commenting and for your perceptive questions!

      My word limit for this contest was 650 words, so the ideas are intentionally expressed succinctly. But I hadn’t considered that the effect of shorter sentences was to make things feel faster, so…an unintentional side effect?

      Your second is an excellent question. Normally when I write I can’t picture who will read. So I try to write from the heart, and trust that if something moves me, it will move others too. I suppose in that sense I am the target audience for my writing. (Why do you feel that’s a good answer? I don’t find it terribly satisfactory.)

      I presumed some knowledge of Singaporean culture but also tried to add enough contextual clues so that readers can guess the meaning of local phrases if they don’t know already. Was that effective? Did you feel lost at any point?

    • Rodgin K

      You posted on mine first so I came back to read yours. Glad I did.

      Unintentional side effects are some of my best writing so no worries there.

      An audience of you is fine because it is still a defined audience. It assumes many things about the reader intrinsically because you don’t need to think about it. A reader of your level, culture, and tastes will likely enjoy it. I write for people like me who enjoy what I like. I’ve attempted a children’s book before and it was terribly hard to think at a different reading and thought level.

      The nice thing about a short story is it is hard to get lost. The downside is that you can’t explain yourself. I did not know any of the phrases (I’m from northern Minnesota USA where curry is a thing of fiction) but in the context of local food I knew each exactly what I needed to as a reader.

    • Stella

      Thanks. Glad to hear your thoughts. I wonder if all writers ultimately write for themselves? Most of us write for an audience so nebulous and diverse that it’s hard to imagine who exactly will read what we write.

      What made you decide to write a children’s book? And how did that go? That’s a genre I’m completely unfamiliar with.

    • Rodgin K

      It went poorly. My wife is a quasi artist and we thought we could combine our expertise. I would not recommend it.

  14. Jonathan Hutchison

    This was a helpful reminder that the writing process needs discipline and focus as is constantly mentioned on this website. Accountability is also key-that is why I have a personal fitness trainer-to encourage me and to hold me to task.

    Most of all I resonate with hacks 4 and 5. I have to find ways to communicate and be held accountable and share what I write. Seems that it should be easy to accomplish these two but so far, for me, in practice these are my two major challenges to being more productive. Great article. Thanks for the clarity. I would welcome suggestions.

  15. Pamela Hodges

    Joe, I hope you miss the second deadline so Talia gets your phone, and everyone else gets ice cream. Naughty of me, I know.
    I will use all of these steps for a book I have written, that just needs illustrations.
    p.s. I believe in you.

    • Joe Bunting

      Not phone but watch. She might need it, though. She just went into the pool with hers! Thank you for believing in me. I will forget what you said about missing the second deadline. 🙂

    • Kellie McGann

      Pamela, I also kind of hope he misses the second deadline, considering I’m someone who will get ice cream 😉

  16. Deena

    This is a really great article, Joe. I especially like numbers 2 and 3, although they are all solid gold.
    All the best. Can’t wait to hear what you have to say on September 2nd!

    • Joe Bunting

      Thanks, Deena. It was fun writing it.

  17. Bruce Carroll

    September second. You’ve just given me a deadline. I’ll let you know how it goes.

    • Joe Bunting

      Please do, Bruce! Good luck!

  18. Anne Peterson

    Great article Joe. I’d have to say the one that I would probably use is the accountability one. I do well when I have told someone what I’m going to do. Having trouble getting back in the swing of things. First our granddaughter’s death and then my husband had a heart attack last month. The words are in there, just feel a little stuck.

  19. EmFairley

    Great advice, as always, Joe. Thanks! I set my latest deadline for August 1st to get my book finished. It was then 30 chapters over 30 working days. Tight. Today is day 13 and chapter 13. I’m still on track. But I might not have been. I’ve been asked twice to take the day off and was very tempted, but stuck to the task. The result was I pushed on and last Friday got chapter 12 finished in just 2 hours. So, yeah, I pretty much got the day off, and I’m still on target. 🙂

  20. Michelle Chalkey

    I have been working on a short story collection for over a year. I keep writing new stories but have a hard time sitting down and revising each one of them. I’m going to set deadlines for revising and completing each story and when to have the collection done by. Thanks for the helpful, motivating post!

    • Dr. Marye Smith

      HI Michelle,

      I have been working on my collection of short stories for 3 years! I finally made up my mind to revise. After incorporating what Joe has revealed about writing and to my amazement, I finally started revising and my goal is to finish before I return to work in the fall. I find that when I write down my goals for the day–goals that are doable– getting them completed is not predicated on how I feel. I have a “to do” list and I am learning to just “git her done.”

      You can do this!

      Best Regards,


  21. Joe Sewell

    Ick! With consequences like donating to Hitlery (just as an example), I’m not even going to start!

    I’m one of “those kind of people” who despises deadlines. Deadlines don’t allow life to happen. When your wife is recovering from knee surgery, dealing with liver cancer, dealing with a recently-widowed father (and, therefore, her own loss of her mother), and always on-the-go, life happens. When you have panic-anxiety disorder and migraines that debilitate you, life happens. When I see a deadline bearing down on me like a Mack truck, I panic. When I see it whiz by, I give up. Hey, it was a deadline. The line passed. The project is, therefore, dead.

    Please don’t respond with, “don’t think of deadlines that way.” They’re deadlines. If my goal is to do my best, then I want the time to do it. I am not geared to be a procrastinator, but I’m also not built to push-push-push just to make an artificial mark on a calendar.

    • LilianGardner

      Hi Joe Sewell,
      If I were in your place I’d detest deadlines just as much as you do.
      You’re going through much more than I could ever handle. I hope you’ll have enough time to write.
      I certainly have more time than you do, but I tend to waste it, procrastinate and do some other job. I am ashamed of myself after reading your post.
      Best of luck with everything.

  22. EmyBraun

    That’s true! How many people give up without understanding the nature of procrastination and don’t even try to defeat it. They take it like punishment but there is a cure. Many thanks to your friend that I discovered your blog.



  1. Monday Must-Reads [07.05.16] - […] 5 Productivity Hacks for Creative Writers […]
  2. How to Survive the Second Draft of Your Book – Smart Writing Tips - […] I’ve dedicated to finishing the book I’ve been working on for nearly two years. Inspired by Joe’s latest post,…
  3. Book Deadline Challenge: Week 3 Update – Smart Writing Tips - […] Three weeks ago, I accepted a challenge to finish my book by September 2, and if I miss my deadline,…
  4. How to Write a First Draft – Smart Writing Tips - […] The best thing about Joe’s writing about his process is that he is honest, he admits his struggles, and he…
  5. How to Write a First Draft - […] The best thing about Joe’s writing about his process is that he is honest, he admits his struggles, and he…
  6. A Simple Solution to Getting Your Writing Done - […] And guess what? In 10 weeks, Joe finished his book. How did he do it? Not by forcing himself…
  7. Want to Double Your Success as a Writer? Do This - The Write Practice - […] Joe’s intention while he was finishing his Parisian memoir was: […]
  8. The One Secret to Finishing Your Writing Projects | Creative Writing - […] Not an “it doesn’t matter” deadline. An “if I don’t make this it will cost me” deadline. If a date…
  9. The Best Book Writing Advice I’ve Ever Gotten | Creative Writing - […] Because when you write a book you just gotta turn the damn page. […]
  10. Do this in order to create writing time – The Write Academy - […] Joe’s intention while he was finishing his Parisian memoir was: […]
  11. Book Editing: How to Survive the Second Draft of Your Book - The Write Practice - […] I’ve dedicated to finishing the book I’ve been working on for nearly two years. Inspired by Joe’s latest post,…
  12. Book Editing: How to Survive the Second Draft of Your Book | Creative Writing - […] I’ve dedicated to finishing the book I’ve been working on for nearly two years. Inspired by Joe’s latest post,…
  13. How to Achieve Goals: 5 Ways to Stay Motivated and Actually Accomplish Your Goals - […] negative consequences are the way to go, give yourself deadlines for each of your goals. Writers have to work…
  14. How to Achieve Goals: 5 Ways to Stay Motivated and Actually Accomplish Your Goals – Art of Conversation - […] negative consequences are the way to go, give yourself deadlines for each of your goals. Writers have to work…
  15. How to Write a Book with a Cowriter (And Still Get Along With Them) - […] sticking to them. Accountability is a huge (and awesome!) element of cowriting a novel. Agreeing on these things beforehand…
  16. T.L. Mahrt on How to Live a Writer's Life (With Kids!) - […] What’s your top productivity tip?  […]
  17. T.L. Mahrt on How to Live a Writer’s Life (With Kids!) – Lederto.com Blog - […] What’s your top productivity tip?  […]

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Say Yes to Practice

Join over 450,000 readers who are saying YES to practice. You’ll also get a free copy of our eBook 14 Prompts:

Popular Resources

Books By Our Writers

Share to...