Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How to Finish a Book: Promise Yourself Rewards

Completing a book-length project is never easy, but it’s something that writers need to learn how to do. It takes inspiration, desire, and hard work. Combining those at the right times is not simple. Here’s what I do to keep myself going when I work on a project that can take me years.
While I’m working on a book, I make myself little promises about what I’ll do to reward myself when the book is done. One reward I think about is just announcing to someone that the project is complete: When this book is done, I’ll get to send an email to the editor, telling her that I’ve finished, and I’ll say…
Another reward for finishing that you see in your mind can also be spending more time with your loved ones, or taking a special vacation. Sometimes I imagine doing readings of a particular part of the book that I like, and I picture the audience’s reaction. Another fantasy that keeps me going is to visualize the book on the shelf in a bookstore, though not all books are marketed in stores these days.  
Often I pretend that the book will be nominated for a prize. Whether that’s realistic or true is not the point—it’s an idea that keeps me going. I have a little awards ceremony of the imagination where a favorite literary figure introduces the award and then announces (drumroll, please!) that my book is the winner. That fantasy, silly as it is, also allows me to hold myself to the highest standards while I’m working on the project. I know I won’t have a chance for that prize if I don’t do the best I possibly can on the book.
That’s another challenge when working on a long project—you’ve got to keep the quality consistent. If you feel as if the quality is lagging, take a break till you’re ready to work at your highest level of creativity and attention.
If the book involves an advance, I spend that money in my mind many times over. I think about all the things I could do with the funds, from paying my taxes to going on a shopping spree for my favorite music.
The important thing when working on a book is to keep your nose to the grindstone, but your eyes on the prize—which is finishing. 

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