Last October (October 14, 2014 to be exact), I launched my Writer Unplugged series as a way to take you behind the scenes of my process of launching a book while trying to write another. My book, Doable: The Girls’ Guide to Accomplishing Just About Anything, was to be launched on January 20 (and successfully was…woot!), and my other project, an untitled work-in-progress, was in the very beginning stages.
In that first post, I threw out a goal about the WIP that felt ambitious, bold, and scary. Here’s exactly what I wrote:
There’s a book in me that I know I HAVE to write, but I’m struggling to get started. In fact, in my mind I’ve been “working” on this book for more than 8 months, but I don’t have much to show for it, save for a bunch of scattered notes in Scrivener. Frankly, this book scares the crap out of me because it’s unlike anything I’ve ever written before and I feel like I don’t even know where to begin. It’s personal, it’s big, and it’s overwhelming. But I’m tired of waiting. I want to get this book out into the world already.
With that goal in mind, I’m setting a personal deadline of having a either a manuscript, a book proposal, or both, ready to share with my agent no later than May 31, 2015.
At the time, I honestly didn’t know if this was “doable” or not, but I knew that putting my stake in the ground was the best possible thing I could do take the first step towards reaching my goal.
So, now my news: I’m excited to share that my book proposal for my project is COMPLETE. The final version went to my agent this week (May 6 to be exact). MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.
So, what does this mean?
It means I’ve created an extensive book proposal that includes a detailed overview of the book, a look at comparative titles, a description of the markets for the book, a fleshed-out promotional plan, a final table of contents for the book, detailed chapter-by-chapter summaries, and 3 completed sample chapters.
Final page count? 88 pages.
Truth: It was a BEAST to write. Book proposals always are. And there were many (many) times along the way when I felt stuck and confused about how it was going to work itself out, if it was at all. Luckily, I recognized that this feeling is part of the deal, so I noticed it, took a breath, and moved on.
For those of you tackling big writing projects yourselves, I wanted to share with you 11 strategies that for me were key in going from those first tentative steps to running across the finish line. Here they are, in no particular order:
MY BEST 11 STRATEGIES FOR COMPLETING A WRITING PROJECT
1. Get support: Ask a friend to keep you accountable, hire a writing coach (I did!), and enlist the help of others when you’re faced with aspects of the project that feel overwhelming or where another’s expertise can give you the confidence to keep moving forward.
2. Obsess over it: Make your writing project the thing you think about before you go to sleep and the project you dive into first thing in the morning. Think about it while sitting in traffic or walking the dog. Make it your focal point.
3. Tell people what you’re doing: Let everyone know what you’re working on and when you plan to complete it—they’ll be inclined to ask you about the project when they see you and you’ll want to have an update or development to share with them.
4. Prioritize it: If you finally want to complete your big writing project, it has to become the big rock in your bucket. Make it the primary thing you’re working on in your free time (or work time, whatever the case may be).
5. Be thorough: Don’t cut corners or skimp on any part of the process. You want to feel 100 percent confident that the finished product, whatever that is, represents your best possible effort across the board.
6. Trust in the process: Believe that if you continue to work diligently on your project and commit to excellence in what you create, you will have something worthwhile and meaningful at the end of the journey. This is a biggie.
7. Set a deadline: This is goal setting 101, but seriously…set a deadline and stick to it.
8. Be relentless: You’re going to get stuck along the way (most likely, more than once) so you’ll need to show some grit and resilience in order to get unstuck. (I went through 8 very different iterations of my book outline, approaching it from every possible angle, before I finally figured it out. True story.)
9. Focus on the goal, not what comes after the goal: Getting caught up in the outcome / endgame can halt creativity in a heartbeat. Find a way to just BE in the beautiful place that is producing something creative…you can figure out the rest later.
10. Have a sense of humor: When your inner critic starts having a field day and fueling your insecurities about how your writing isn’t good enough or your story’s not relevant enough (and so on and so on), try to find a way to laugh at yourself and your silly lizard brain through the tears.
11. Be curious: Avoid what ifs by focusing on why not. Approach your writing project with a sense of curiosity about how it will evolve and the impact it will have on the world.
So, what’s the next step for my WIP? My agent has it now and will begin pitching it to publishers in the next few weeks. In this moment, my work is done, so I can do things like catch up on email, write a few blog posts, clean my bathroom, and take some well-earned naps.
Now I stay positive and curious about what will happen from here. Now, I wait.