This weeks advice on how to finish your book on schedule comes from Lauren Bailey. Lauren is a freelance writer and blog junkie, who blogs about online colleges. Questions and comments can be sent to: blauren99 @gmail.com.
Submitting a proposal and getting it accepted can be difficult enough, but the real work comes along when you must deliver on your promise and complete the book on schedule. Whether you are publishing your dissertation or are writing a different work related to your research and expertise, it pays to nip procrastination in the bud and have a plan for finishing your book on schedule.
Step one: Make writing a job.
Out of everything we can avoid during the day, none of us, except perhaps the most irresponsible among us, avoid our job. Now once we get home, there are any number of things we may choose to avoid, including our laundry, our bills or even our spouse! But don’t let one of those “things to avoid” be your book. Your book is a job responsibility that will require a certain amount of hours each week to complete. If you look at it like a job, complete with financial and emotional rewards down the road, you will have a greater motivation to get on the ball with your writing. Furthermore, remember that publishing a book will actually help you land a good teaching job, especially if you are seeking a tenure-track position at a university.
Step two: Make writing a passion.
Looking at your writing as a job does have its drawbacks, however. Heading to your second “job” can become a drag that you have to psych yourself up for every day. Remember why you chose your particular research in the first place and how passionate you were on the topic while you were completing your graduate degrees. Think of the critical experience and personal touch that you and you alone can lend to your work and all that others need to learn from your perspective in your area of expertise. Let this passion for your work carry you through the various stages of your book’s completion.
Step three: Organize your research
Have an efficient means of a categorizing your research in online files. Label each piece in a common-sense way and avoid having mounds of paper surrounding your workspace or home office. If your particular writing and research idiosyncrasy is to read material that’s in your hands, make a point to have an organized, well-labeled filing system in your workspace or home office to keep things from mounting up on you. Stacks of papers walling you in can create a stressful environment that’s not conducive to writing.
Step four: Establish a content plan for your book
Breaking down the full project into more easily manageable chunks helps the book become less overwhelming and more do-able. First break down the book into sections, and then further break down the book into chapters and chapter topics. To help you in this process, there’s some excellent advice available over at Active Garage on creating content plans.
Step five: Commit to a schedule
Once you’ve broken your book down into sections, it’s important to set a schedule or timeline for when you need to complete each section. Meet your own individual deadlines and “the big deadline” won’t appear so suddenly, leaving you scrambling to get on top of things. Also, keep in touch with your editor often to get a feel for what sort of progress you should be making. To help you meet the deadlines you set for yourself, get an accountability partner in the form of a mentor — an academic friend whose opinion you respect. Having someone call you and ask about your progress every now and then can keep you motivated to have new things to tell your mentor.
Step six: Eliminate distractions (including obsessive self-editing)
Just like when you were working on your dissertation, you have to forgo certain hobbies and particularly weed out distractions like television and general Web surfing to stay on track. One distraction, surprisingly enough, is obsessive self-editing, a habit in which you constantly read what little you’ve written over and over making hundreds of changes instead of pushing your writing forward. There will be plenty of time for obsessive self-editing once you’ve finished the first draft.
Step seven: Decompress
Last but not least, realize that stress leads to writer’s block more often than not. When you start feeling the pressure building up behind your eyes, find an outlet for your stress, whether it’s meditation, a quick call to a friend or family member, a brisk walk, prayer or positive affirmations. Take short 15-minute breaks from your work when you feel you’re becoming unproductive and return to writing again with renewed vigor.