As a writer, I find myself caught in the general minutia of life and not devoting as much time to writing as I should. And I love to write. Writing is a craft that you have to hone through repetition and diligence. I wish there was a magic formula or pill I could take to help me finish a manuscript, but there isn’t, and unless the pharmaceutical companies can project a profit in creating such a pill, one will never exist. That leaves nothing but you and your computer to finish that manuscript that you have been working on (or should have been working on) all those lonely nights and mornings.
Here are my ten commandments for finishing a manuscript. They don’t require special training or even “Hemingwayesque” talent. They just require commitment.
Thou shalt set a writing schedule. This is your “other job now.” Treat it like you’re getting paid.
Thou shalt turn off the TV. The TV will kill the desire to write. Turn it off and step away from the remote.
Thou shalt not reinvent the wheel. Chances are that you are a writer because you were influenced by other writers or you enjoy a particular genre. That means you have a blueprint on how you want to construct both story and layout. Use the blueprint. Study it.
Thou shalt set a word count. The best way to determine how to end a book is to know when to end a book. If you have a word count goal, you can better construct the flow and plot points of your book.
Thou shalt set a daily word count goal. Know when your writing day ends before you sit down at the computer. Giving yourself permission to stop writing at a certain point is almost as important as sitting down to write. Personally, I set a word count goal of 1,000 everyday. I’ve heard Stephen King does 1,500.
Thou shalt join a writer’s group. Joining a network of writers is a great resource for both information and inspiration. You probably can find a writer’s group locally. There are hundreds online.
Thou shalt tell family and friends you are working on a manuscript. This may be the hardest commandment to keep for some of you, but chances are it will be the most invaluable step you take. They probably will react with genuine interest and beg to read what you’ve written. Let them. Get their feedback. Encourage honest criticism. It will help you grow as a writer and write a better manuscript.
Thou shalt read what you’ve written out loud every day. There is nothing like hearing what you’ve written. You will discover both brilliant words and embarrassing mistakes when you hear the words you’ve written. It will more than likely spur you to make changes or advance the story in ways you never thought of. It’s a great visualization tool.
Thou shalt seek silence. Having time alone with no noise or interruptions is important. I find time to meditate every morning. I focus on what I’m writing and picture my characters and storylines. It will keep you calm and confident in your writing abilities.
Thou shalt read a book on writing. Learn from the masters. They’ve been there and they’ve perfected their craft. You might as well use them as a resource. I recommend Stephen King’s On Writing and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life . I found them to not only be informative, but extremely entertaining.
There you have it. It’s not a magic pill, but it is a formula of sorts. I’m not going to guarantee that if you follow every step you’ll finish your manuscript, but I can guarantee if you do nothing, you will never finish your manuscript. Good luck and happy writing!