Back in the days where writing was just a crazy dream to me, I would always tell myself “well you can’t even finish a novel so there’s no use trying”. This became the core of my self-doubt and lack of confidence as a writer. I did finish some short stories, and I was writing poetry, but to me, if I could not finish a novel, then it meant I was just not meant to be a writer/author.
Of course now I know that 1. You’re a writer as long as you write, and 2. It doesn’t have to be a novel to be published.
When I self-published my poetry book (see my article about my book -> here) I had to face this fear of not being able to finish it. And I had to find ways to get there without stressing out, because stressing out can block you and well.. hi there procrastination. I’m sure we all know this troublesome circle.
So in this article I will try to share with you my tips to overcome the fear of not being able to finish, and how to go through the process of finishing your book and getting it ready for self-publishing easy peasy lemon squeezy.
First of all, you have to define a clear outline for your book. The genre, the main themes or topics you want to explore, a rough target for the number of pages you’d like to have, the message you want to share with the readers or a purpose behind this book… It might change as you work on your book, but having a clear outline when you start writing a book will allow you to know where you are going, and when you should stop. This might happen to some of you, like it happens to me : I write as much as I can, but then where I wanted a short story, I end up with something way longer but not long enough to be a novel, and I just no longer know how to end it. If I don’t structure at least a little my writing, I would tend to add new arcs and new scenes and even if I did have an ending in mind at the beginning… it’s all lost in the flow, and I no longer see the end coming. So please take the time to write down this outline for your book, and if it’s a long story (novel, series of novels), try to make a little plan of your story, like the big steps you already have in mind. You can adapt it later as you write but at least like that you know where you’re going.
My second tip actually goes with the first one : give yourself a deadline. This will also prevent you from getting lost in your own storyline. You can even set different deadlines, for a chapter, a part, and then the final one, to complete your book. Because well, if you don’t have a deadline, it means you can just go on forever and… yeah, usually it doesn’t work really well to actually finish a book. Of course, when defining a deadline, you have to be realistic. For example, if you have a full time job and write during the weekends or let’s say 3 times a week, you can’t tell yourself “I want to write a 300 pages novel in 1 month”. Same if you’re writing every day but spends equal amount of time on editing it all than you spent on writing. Maybe try to take a few weeks without a deadline to see how you’re able to work on your project, and then see what would be a reasonable deadline. I’ll give you a concrete example of mine : these days, I’m writing a fanfiction. Fanfictions are always nice to try out things, so I’ve been writing this fanfiction for almost 2 months now, not everyday but maybe twice a week, and now I have around 30 000 words that I haven’t edited yet. The story is almost done, I only have a little epilogue to write, so let’s say the story will be done in 2 months, and will be between 32 000 and 35 000 words long. This gives me a good framework to know how long it would take me to write a novel with this kind of story and with this kind of writing rhythm/routine. (Check my article on how to create your own writing routine -> here) For example for a 300 pages book, with a basis being 100 pages = 25 000 words (standard publishing data you can find online), I would be able to finish the book in around 5 months. Let’s say 6 months with the editing, and preparing it for self-publishing.
My third tip on how to finish your book would be to have a writing routine. As mentioned just above, I wrote an article on how to create a writing routine (link here) so please feel free to check it out. A writing routine will help you with consistency, which is key to finishing your book. If you have a writing routine, then you will be able to write even when you’re not inspired, and this is how you’ll manage to get through it all.
Once you’re done with the initial writing, it’s time for editing ! Some people edit as they go, re-reading often their work and editing at the same time. Unfortunately I’m not like this. I may read and edit a few things here and there, but what I need to do first it to finish the initial writing, and then I re-read the whole stuff several times to edit stuff. So everyone have their own style of editing, do what’s most comfortable for you. What I would recommend is to read your whole work at least 3 times. Once to add or remove sentences, parts, edit the titles, things like this. The second time to check the spelling, grammar, syntax. The third time to check the coherency of your story. And if you’re not sure about your spelling, grammar etc, please try to either hire a professional or ask someone who is really good at it to read your work.
Another step in your process might be to have your book read by beta readers. It’s always nice to have an external opinion, they might point out confusing parts of your book that you could improve, and if you’re self-publishing, having beta readers will allow you to have quickly your first reviews on Amazon for example because then right from the start there will be people with a hopefully good opinion of your book.
Then, you will have to think about which editions you want to publish : ebook and/or paperback, and which format you’re going to choose for both. As there are many readers only reading ebooks now and many readers still attached to paperback editions (like me) I would recommend to have both. Plus, if you’re self-publishing on Amazon it’s not going to cost you anything to have both so, why not ? As for the formats, if you’re new to this like me, the easiest one that is accepted for ebooks on Amazon KDP is Word document (.doc, .docx) and for the paperback you will find good templates on Amazon KDP that you can use to be sure that everything is in order. (Check out my video at the bottom of this article, I put the links to relevant articles on Amazon KDP in the video description)
At this stage in the process of self-publishing your book, you can start to worry about the legal aspects. You will have to order your own ISBN numbers (Amazon can provide you with a free one, but then if you want to sell your book elsewhere you will need your own ISBN number anyway so, better to do it right from the start) and check out what must appear on your copyright page. It depends from one country or another, so I won’t be adding more details on this. You can also take a look at other published books and see what they have on their copyright page. Also check out if there are other formalities that your country might require for the publishing of a book. In France for example we have the ‘dépôt légal’ where we have to send a copy of our book (paper edition) with a bunch of forms to fill, to a special organization, otherwise we could get a fine of 7000€ so… yeah. Be careful haha.
The last thing you will have to consider before publishing your book is : the cover. Nowadays, you can do everything on Canva, which is amazing. If you’re doing it all yourself, be careful about the picture you will use, it will have to be free of copyright, free to use for commercial use. I also added the link on how to calculate the size of your full cover on my video description so please check it out down below. The other option would be to hire an illustrator. I know that as a self-published author your budget might be very low, but please take the time to think about it. Do you have a clear image in your mind of what the cover should look like but you can’t find the right picture yourself ? I had this problem, and after doing around 10 covers on Canva and asking for friends’ opinions and all… in the end I search for an illustrator with a style that matched what I had in mind, and hired them for doing the illustrations of the cover (then I put everything together to do the full cover on Canva). And I don’t regret it, the result was so much better than what I had been doing on my own. Also this book was very personal to me, very intimate, and my very first one, so I wanted everything to fit perfectly. To be honest I don’t think I will hire an illustrator every time, it would be too expensive. But when it truly matters… well it’s good to know that you can find great professionals online.
One last thing you may have on your mind will be the promotion of your book. I will not be talking about this in this article because it would be too long, but if you’re interested in how to market your book once or even before you self-publish it, let me know in the comments ~
Thank you for reading, see you in the next article ~ And have a beautiful day !