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How Do I Finish My Book? 7 Writing Productivity Tips

Susan MacDonald had already written and published one book when she emailed me for support to answer the question, “How do I finish my book?”

Susan needed to complete her second book by the December deadline set by her publisher, Gryphon House (an imprint of Kaplan), which had published her first book, Inspiring Early Childhood Leadership,  which she had worked on in my Bring Your Book to Life(R) Program.

Beyond “How do I finish my book?” Susan wanted help with strategies, to “create a clear focused plan to get the writing done by December.” She knew that she tends to “dive into the research, which I could do for months and not get focused on the writing.” And Susan remembered that one of my fond suggestions is to write from what you know and bring the research in later. It saves time and saves you from procrastinating with the writing, so you can meet your deadlines.


7 Writing Productivity Tips Click To Tweet

  1. Write from what you already know. Of course, there are times you must do research first, but whenever possible, first write a chapter from what you know and leave blocks for where you will do more research later, once the bulk of the book is written.
  2. Write first thing. On our call, Susan reminded me that she had written her book proposal in my class at the time her brother was dying. Somehow she managed to get up in the wee hours, before her hospital visit, and write. If she could do that, surely, she could write, despite a busy work schedule this fall. Still, how to create a plan that would carry her through with ease and on time?
  3. Schedule the time and keep it sacred. I always suggest writers schedule specific days and times in their calendar and keep them sacred. If something comes up, ask yourself, “How will saying yes to this new thing and moving my writing time impact my book?” If you truly feel pulled for good reason to move your writing time, immediately reschedule a specific time rather than waiting.
  4. Give yourself wiggle room. With a publishing deadline, it’s important to deliver on time because your publisher is committing resources according to schedule. I suggested Susan move her personal deadline up a few weeks to allow for any possible chinks in her schedule. She agreed.
  5. Make a schedule. Susan and I figured out how many weeks she had to finish each chapter (approximately two) and she is creating her schedule from that. Of course, it’s crucial to check in each week and make sure you met your goals. If not, quickly reassess how you can meet your schedule.
  6. Go to bed early. In one of my book writing courses, a participant tried this and got up an hour early to write. She completed the first draft of her book in eight weeks and went on to inspire many of my course participants to do the same!
  7. Find ways to stay inspired. Susan’s story, which I share later in this post, served as inspiration and motivation for her. Perhaps you can find inspiration in her story or find your own.

Inspiration to Write

Susan mentioned being inspired by the movie, I Can Only Imagine, about country singer Bart Millard. As Susan recalls it, Christian music producer, Scott Brickell, tells Millard, “There’s something more in you,” after hearing his songs. “You didn’t write that song in ten minutes, you’ve been working on it your whole life.”

Susan realized the same goes for her book.

“I don’t have to write my book in 22 weeks. I’ve been working on it my whole career.

“I have stories, powerpoints, material I taught, all my workshop handouts, my research notes and I speak to this all the time. I just haven’t put it in writing. Today, I went through all my handout materials and content presentation notes. I have so much!”

Participants in Susan’s Italy retreat

In fact, Susan had just returned from teaching a leadership retreat in Mercatello sul Metauro, Italy based on the material for her second book: Inspiring Professional Growth, which will be published by Gryphon House, as was her first book. The new book focuses on creating deliberately developmental organizations. The audience is people leading early childhood programs. Her retreat included principals, the leader of international schools in Brazil, someone from the US Navy childcare organization and early childhood directors and owners.

Perhaps you too have been working on your book your whole life (or career). Think about it!

“You’re on the Right Path.”

Italy retreat participants

Susan and I were both struck by the consistent confirmation she’s received internationally that this book is sorely needed.

Susan was recently contacted by an Early Childhood Commission in Canada. They felt she’d written her first book just for them. It addressed everything they are trying to do and the strategies they need to do it. “Can you train our people on the information in your book?”
In addition, an author in the UK, using another system, discovered Susan’s first book and added her research, confessing that it made her work dramatically different—and better.
It sounded as if the universe kept offering motivation and inspiration to keep working on book 2. “You’re on the right track.” “See how much difference your books can make?”

Your Turn

I encourage you to try the writing productivity tips I shared above. And as an update to this post, I was contacted by “Daily Writing Tips” a few months after writing this to share some of their list of 20 excellent productivity tips, including, “Keep a notebook” and “Don’t wait for inspiration.” You can read all their 20 tips here.

Feel free to share your writing productivity tips as a comment below. What do you do to cultivate a state of creative flow?

In addition, look for confirmation in your daily life that you are on the right path. Use this to motivate you and inspire you to move forward.

Lastly, think about material you’ve already gathered. You’re likely not starting at square one but finding ways to use all the strategies, material, stories, research and other information you have already put together.

Make a plan and enjoy the writing, resting easy in your plan.

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Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

Reader Interactions


  1. Jenny says

    This was very timely for me. I have just started a new job. I am writing two books and like Susan, I have been gathering material for years. My main book which I am working on sorting out the book proposal and a sample chapter is hopefully going to inspire teenagers to understand the benefits that natural systems provide for them. The other book is shorter and focused on river pollution. My issue is to make the time and to gain the mental space to write and get these out to people. I will try the earlier time idea next week.I write the drafts in fairly large bursts of energy say 4 hours. And that works really well for me but I have difficulty if I only have an hour, it seems to take me a while to get up steam!

    • Lisa Tener says

      I understand, Jenny. It’s great you know what works best for you. Maybe you can mostly schedule 4 hour blocks and schedule other projects around that. (Prioritize it on the weekends if needed). Perhaps the shorter blocks can work for a) platform building b) short sections of your book proposal


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