Finish Your Book

August 20, 2019 § 10 Comments


I’ve found ‘one weird trick’ that gets me to the end of major projects:

Doing one thing.

It seems so simple, and yet this morning I:
Checked email
Made breakfast
Gave feedback on pages
Tore apart my closet looking for a thing I tucked away while I was on vacation, and had hidden so well I couldn’t find it (my closet is now extremely tidy and partially Konmari-ed)
Dealt with the air conditioner repair men
Washed dishes

You get it. Chances are, you do it too. And it doesn’t make us bad people, or even bad writers. We’re human. We got stuff to do.

But three months ago I really needed to finish a website. I made it my “weekend” project, and worked only on website copy and pictures and html code until I was done. No editing, no other writing, no reading, no errands. It took four days. But it’s done.

Two months ago I needed to finish a book proposal. Weekend project. Blinders on. Six days. But it’s done.

I don’t have kids and I set my own work hours and my spouse is beyond supportive. But it’s still hard to pick one thing, figure out how to tackle it, and do it until it’s done. It’s hard to stay focused when totally legit things want our attention (I did shower and cook dinners).

That’s why so many writers love retreats. A blissful week away in which someone else cooks and cleans, and no-one can “Hey Mom!” or “Ummm…Dad?” or “I need that presentation” you. But even on retreats it’s hard to get started. And if you’ve only got a week, you need a plan. A big-picture view of what needs doing and how.

At home, you can enlist a writer friend. Split an Airbnb for a week, read each other’s manuscript before you go and give specific, prescriptive feedback about what to work on in what order. Not “your book should be like this” but, after hearing your goals, “Restructure the plot, then fix the ending, then rewrite chapters 8-10.” Check in with each other daily for accountability.

But if you have time and funds, we’d like to suggest a retreat…that comes with a manuscript read. (This is where the ad part starts!) Brevity Editor-in-Chief Dinty W. Moore and Social Media Editor Allison K Williams would like to invite you to Costa Rica.

Next May, we’ll be hosting 10 dedicated writers in a luxury eco-lodge overlooking the Pacific. Organic food that you don’t cook. Beautiful grounds you don’t mow. Probably sloths. Definitely monkeys. But most importantly, we read your entire manuscript before you arrive, and with you, make a work plan to finish a draft, a proposal, or your book, before you leave. Don’t have a book yet? Write the first draft with us, and we’ll read it when you go home. Either way, it’s a chance to focus deeply on the work that’s most important to you.

If a travel retreat isn’t in your bag, grab a friend and start picking dates for your own week of fabulous productivity. But if you think finishing your book in tropical paradise might be for you, we’d love to spend that time together.

More information about Rebirth Your Book retreats. (If you’re already close to done, there’s room for two more in Italy in October!)

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Allison K Williams is Brevity’s Social Media Editor. Please say hello if you’re at Hippocamp!

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§ 10 Responses to Finish Your Book

  • ninagaby says:

    I have to admit I looked at flights and the whole itinerary and my disjointed manuscript and then remembered that our barn is collapsing and the house practically blew apart last winter and the insurance company hasn’t gotten back to us….life is certainly a series of choices. But this sounds utterly magical on so many levels.

  • floatinggold says:

    A great post. I can 100% agree.
    And what a great way to market your retreats.

  • Oh wow. Hopefully you’ll do this every year, cuz I’m planning (and dreaming) ahead! Yabadabadoo!

  • Yep, totally agree! But when I am in the moment and doing one thing, I can whip out a project in no time!

  • polaserra says:

    Hi! I’m new here on WordPress and I have decided to follow your blog, and boy am I glad I did. This post was exactly what I needed to read today. I’m in the painful throes of writing a nonfiction essay on the death of my dog and mindfulness, and I haven’t been able to finish it because I’ve had a million things to do. I would go to Costa Rica in an instant, but I just recently moved to Barcelona, so that’ll have to wait. 🙂 But so cool that you’re doing this. I salute you.

  • Eilene Lyon says:

    I was so tempted there for a moment – I do have a draft manuscript done that needs a serious rewrite. But I don’t see how I could focus on writing in such a setting! I would want to be out exploring instead.

    You are so right about focus – has always been a big problem for me.

    • Allison K Williams says:

      The way I’m looking at it is that it’s a place with “just enough to do” – like, there’s a gorgeous view and the grounds are good for hiking, but it’s not actually close to much else. The nearest towns are tiny! So we’ll do horseback to the waterfall one day, but other than that everyone sits down and writes every morning 🙂

  • menda says:

    Ocean and paper? It sounds like a dream!

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