How I Finished My Novel … 10 Years Later

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Ten years — TEN. YEARS. — of writing, re-starting and editing, and then it happened last week:  I finally finished my novel’s Sh*tty First Draft™️.

What finally, finally made it happen? I realized it came down to three things. If you’re looking to finish a project, these will help you make sure you don’t let another year slip by without progress!

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First, having someone waiting for my work

An independent book editor offered to work with me … on a condition: I had to submit my completed draft by the end of October.  And cut 50,000 words.

At the time, I felt like the editor asked me to climb Mount Everest in flippers. I thought, well, that’s impossible. I had about 60 days to do it. But then I realized I’d been working on this so long, I should just kick it up a thousand notches and do it.

Second, getting organized

While I organize my general writing life in The Writer’s Mission Control Center, for one-off projects I turn to Excel.

Hello, old friend.

We’d had lots of hard conversations in the past, and I had one again. I numbered the days, I calculated how much I had to edit and cut down each day. And I began.

Getting organized also helped me break it down into daily goals. I had to edit  2,666 words a day. It was tough, but I could do it. When I missed two days while at a conference, I recalculated and began again. I had been physically re-writing all the words, but to save time I had to move to just reading and editing.  

Third, scheduling and sharing generative time

I dedicated my daily writing time in A Very Important Meeting just to novel writing. During this time of writing together every day at 10 a.m. EST, what we do is called “body doubling,” where just the sight of so many other writers working helps me stay put, focus, and work.  

I didn’t have to wonder when I would get my writing done. I knew it would be during that time, every day. One of our AVIM writers, Emma Pattee, used this time to finish the novel she just sold in a major deal.

The moment of writing “The End.”

I couldn’t believe when it was actually done, and my friends helped me celebrate with flowers. It makes me feel like the final final is possible. That holding it in my hands in a bookstore is possible.

When it comes to completing any project, deadlines are just the beginning. To fuel the action to meet those deadlines, you need:

  • External stakes, whether a person’s expectation, an investment, or your reputation is on the line.
  • Organization, so you can see what you’re doing, where you’re at, and how far you have to go.
  • Generative time, or the hours in your schedule to do the work.

Now, imagine adding regular, one-on-one meetings and personalized writing guidance to the mix.

You can get it all with my coaching program, Your Personal Editor.

With three months of private writing workshops, free access to A Very Important Meeting throughout, and lifetime access to organizational software, you’ll stay on track to make yourself proud.

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