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Here’s How to Finish Writing a Book

How to Finish Writing a Book: My Breakthrough

start writing
You don’t have to go far for a writing retreat. This is in my friend Tracy’s backyard.

A few weeks ago, I attended a “deep writing” retreat with creativity coach Eric Maisel at Kripalu yoga center in the Berkshires, in order to finish writing a book.

I came to class with less than a third of my first draft. In 5 days I completed:

  • Most of the first draft, with just a few details to add (which require research)
  • A chunk of the bare bones of my book proposal
  • Ideas for book promotion
  • A rough query letter

What Gets in the Way of Writing a Book Click To Tweet

What gets in the way? How can you overcome that in order to finish writing a book? Here’s the magic I came away with from 5 days with Eric Maisel:

The Maisel Magic: “Manage Anxiety”

  • We procrastinate on our books (and other meaningful work) because of anxiety. Much of the anxiety stems from words in our heads that we tell ourselves (no one will read it, I’m not a great writer, it’s been said before, etc.). When we say such things, we need to notice. Then we can tell ourselves, “That doesn’t serve me or my book.”
  • Replace the phrase with an affirmation, such as “I have something important to say and people want to hear it.” Choose an affirmation that specifically counteracts your self-talk. Eric offers many anxiety management techniques that can also help.
  • It turns out that many of the exercises I do with my clients work to combat anxiety, such as “Meet Your Muse.” This exercise bypasses the linear mind and critic, and helps you accesses your creative mind). A few deep breaths can also get you to write consistently and finish writing your book in due time.

Make Writing a Morning Habit

  • A daily habit of writing for 30-45 minutes each morning (or every weekday morning) makes it easy to stay on track because you never have to decide, “Will I write today?” Writing is a given. Making choices causes anxiety, so if you’ve already made the choice to write each day, it will cut down the anxiety. You’ll still encounter resistance/anxiety but it’s easy enough to tell yourself the self-talk isn’t serving. You can also use the phrase I suggest to participants in my book writing classes: “I can have my book or I can have my excuses but I can’t have both.”

Avoid the 3 Day Slump

Photo by Matthew Payne on Unsplash
  • If you’re on the 5 day/week plan, just remember that more than 3 days of not writing (according to Eric Maisel) will make it harder to get back to it.

Anticipate the Challenges

  • If you’re going to do this plan, it’s important to figure out:

a) What will get in the way of finishing your book: “I have to take my son to school in the morning.”

b) How to solve that problem: “I’ll get up 45 minutes earlier and write then.”

On Fire with My New Writing Routine

writing a book
Photo by STIL on Unsplash

In the two weeks since I returned from the retreat, I have not skipped more than one day per week of writing.

As Eric suggested, I focus my morning writing routine (30-45 minutes) on one project—my book or the related proposal, query, promotion ideas, etc. I can work on different aspects of it; yet, I am not working on other books, other blog posts, etc.

While I’m almost done with the first draft of the book, some mornings a few more ideas come. When this happens, I dutifully capture them—stories, exercises, etc.

On the mornings I don’t feel the book coming, I allow myself to work on other aspects that will serve the book, such as the proposal.

When I don’t need to drive my son to school, I often find myself writing for two or three hours in the morning, way past my committed time.

It’s Catching!

I shared this advice with my clients since returning and many of them, too, have reported breakthrough results. Several have almost finished writing their books since we spoke about this.

Are you ready to make a consistent commitment to writing each morning? Can you anticipate what will get in the way and create a plan of action to address such challenges ahead of time?

Your Turn

writing routine
Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

I’d love your comments:

  • What’s working for you?
  • What new commitments are you making?
  • Identify any challenges you anticipate; share how you plan ahead to address them to finish writing your book.
  • What shifts have occurred in your writing life since taking on such a commitment?

If you enjoyed this post, you may also want to read Writer Derailed! Curing Writer’s Block.

For a new perspective altogether, read Writer’s Block: Maybe You’re Not Stuck at All.

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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. Shalini Bahl says

    I am excited to try this!

    My challenge is that when I get into anything, I like to spend several hours doing just that and some days are too full to write for long. But 45 minutes I can fit in every day. I’ll have to learn to disengage after 45 minutes. Will share how it goes!

    Thank you!

  2. Constance H. Gemson says


    Writer’s block: jump over it! Build in rewards after completing a writing goal. You may want to call, a friend, take a coffee break or plan an activity you enjoy. Make sure your break is brief and then back to work!

    • Lisa Tener says

      Hi Constance, These are great tips. When people tell me, “I don’t want to give up x to write my book,” I often suggest they turn x into a reward for doing the writing. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Marie says

    Thanks you Lisa for your email this morning. It supports the decision that I’ve made yesterday to start writing again after a break of two months, caused by the death of my mother. The affirmation “I have something important to say and people want to hear it” is helping me a lot. Thank you!

    • Lisa Tener says

      Hi Marie,
      I’m sorry for your loss. My dad passed away at the end of December and I feel his love encouraging me to keep writing. Your affirmation is wonderful! I can tell it comes from your heart and your inner knowing–your power!

      • Marie says

        Thank you! Since the end of may, I’ve written my chapter 16 and this morning, I’ve began my last chapter. I’m so excited. Thanks !

        • Lisa Tener says

          That is so exciting, Marie! You are so close. Will you be working with a developmental editor next or sending chapters to beta readers or do a few rounds of editing on your own first?

  4. Zac says

    What if you have to wake up early (6am!) for your day job? I don’t think I can wake up any each to write :/

    • Lisa Tener says

      Hi Zac, I understand. If you want, you can try going to bed a half hour earlier and waking up at 5:30, but if that doesn’t work for you, perhaps find a way to rejuvenate at the end of the day before writing and or write in the morning on the weekends or other days off.

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