You’re ready to sit down with your laptop for another exciting adventure of writing your book. But first, you scroll back a few pages to re-read what you wrote during your last writing session, just to make sure that what you’re about to write will flow well with the previous text.
You find several misplaced commas, a few dangling participles, and an entire section that needs to be rewritten. So, you fix, rewrite, and re-read what you corrected. By now, two hours have passed and you haven’t written any new content to move your story forward. You’re frustrated . . . again!
If you have experienced this scenario, you’re not unlike many authors who write backward, instead of writing forward. It’s easy to get caught in review mode when you’re writing your manuscript. You want every word to be the right word and every sentence to flow seamlessly into the next. You want to be completely satisfied with your last paragraph before you create the next one. But that method is a surefire way to remain stuck and never get your book finished. This self-editing is a form of perfectionism (and, dare I say, procrastination) that you must move beyond if you plan to complete your manuscript during this lifetime.
Put a stop to your backward writing by trying this approach:
As much as possible, set a start and end time for each writing session. Arrive at your “writing cave” well fed, well rested, well hydrated, and well focused. During your writing session, write with reckless abandon.
At the close of your writing session, resist the urge to review what you’ve written. Trust that you’re on the right track (a detailed outline will help immensely with this, but that’s another post altogether). Instead, on a separate page from the text you just created, jot down several bullet points for what should come next. This will be your guide for the next writing session.
Click above to watch.
With these bullet points visible and on a completely different page, you should be able to pick up at the next session where you left off at the last, without reviewing what you’ve already written. This will save you time and frustration, and help you get to “The End” much sooner than your previous attempts.
By the time you reach the end of your book, you should have covered everything in your outline. Only then are you ready to review what you’ve written and begin the self-editing process. Start this process too soon and you’re sure to remain stuck there. Remember that you will enlist beta readers, reviewers, and a copy editor to help sharpen your manuscript, so don’t stress over fixing everything while you write.
You are creating a masterpiece; this takes time and process. So create, then fix. Write forward, not backward, and experience the joy of completing a manuscript you’ll be proud of.
Anita R. Henderson is CEO of The Write Image, LLC and creator of Write Your Life. Known as The Author’s Midwife, her work with high performers has resulted in multiple bestselling and award-winning books and has helped authors grow their media and online visibility, speaker platforms, industry credibility, and overall confidence in their ability to write a compelling, high-quality book and leverage it in their business or career.