How to Stay Motivated to Finish Your Writing

September 22, 2012 | By | 35 Replies More

Author Suzanne Lieurance

As any writer or author knows, starting a new book or other writing project is usually fun and exciting.

But once you get started, staying motivated to actually finish writing the book or project can be pretty tough, especially if you’re working on something that can take several months to complete.

My first book, a children’s travel guide, was published in 1997. Since then I’ve gone on to write more than two dozen published books (some fiction, most of them nonfiction) and I’ve taken on hundreds of freelance writing projects as well.

Over the years, I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade that help keep me motivated to finish the projects I start. Maybe these tricks will work for you too. Here’s what I suggest:

• Get a contract first, if possible. If you write for a living, it’s much harder to stay motivated to finish something if you aren’t sure you’ll be able to sell it. The entire time you’re writing, you’ll be wondering if you’re just wasting your time. That’s why I get a contract for most projects before I ever start them.

Once I have a contract from a publisher, it’s much easier to stay motivated to complete the project because: a) I’ve usually gotten an advance, which means I have some immediate income so I don’t need to worry about money for a while, and, b) I now have a deadline that I HAVE to meet.

• Outline or plan the project in as much detail as you can FIRST.  For nonfiction, I outline the book according to chapters or sections, then subtopics. For fiction, I break down the action into chapters, then scenes. If I’m working on a magazine article, I create subtitles based on the information I want to cover in the article. Outlining or planning the project  in detail will get you ready for this next trick.

• Know what you need to write BEFORE you sit down for a writing session. If I’m working on a novel, for example, once I’ve made a detailed outline, I just schedule time to write scenes, then those scenes add up to completed chapters. I’m much more productive working this way because I’m not trying to figure out WHAT to write during my writing time, I’m just fleshing out my detailed outline.

• Set aside specific blocks of time to work on each project. If you’re a busy freelance writer like I am, you have many ongoing projects all the time. All these projects can be a bit overwhelming if you don’t learn to manage them. You’ll find them easier to manage if you set aside specific blocks of time for each project. 

I set aside an hour, first thing every weekday morning to work on my novel-in-progress. Some mornings I may only get one scene written. Other mornings I write like the wind and finish a complete chapter or two. Sometimes I might even spend more than an hour on the novel if the writing is going well and I don’t have another fiction project scheduled for that morning.

I set aside afternoons for my nonfiction writing. If I’m working on a nonfiction book, I might finish a chapter or two then take a break. I’ll go for a walk or do some housework, or just sit outside with a cup of coffee and relax. But then, if I’m also working on a magazine article or query, I’ll come back to my office and work on it for an hour or so.

The point is, all my writing projects are scheduled. Sure, things happen sometimes so I’m not able to stick to my schedule. But I get right back on schedule as soon as I can.

• Forget about everything else when you’re working on a project. With all that happens in life, it can be difficult to stay focused. But during your writing time, forget about everything else and just work on the project at hand. Even if you have a dozen writing projects lined up, or you’re worried about what you’re going to make for dinner tonight, forget about everything else except the project you’re working on. This might take a little practice. But after awhile, it will get easier to let go of everything else when it’s time to focus on a project.

Write a Romance by Suzanne Lieurance

• Realize that most projects seem overwhelming at some point. Each time I get a contract to write another book I say to my husband, “What was I thinking? I can’t write a book!” Then he calmly reminds me that I say this all the time and, for me, this feeling of panic is just part of the process. I will move beyond it once I get started on the book by following all the other tips I’ve explained here.

 Don’t strive for perfection. When you sit down to write, just get something written. Sometimes I get hung up because I try to make the 1st draft perfect. But when I let go of that and just write, I accomplish more, and usually the 1st draft doesn’t turn out to be so bad. Plus, it gives me something to work with, and once I have something to work with, I can keep revising and editing until I get a section, scene, or chapter I’m happy with.

Every writer is different. These tricks might work for you. But over time, you’ll probably develop your own bag of tricks that you’ll use to stay motivated to complete each of your writing projects. 

Suzanne Lieurance is a busy freelance writer and author, writing coach, speaker, workshop presenter, and president of The Working Writer’s Club. Learn more about her books, workshops, and presentations on her website.

Follow Suzanne on Twitter: @writerscoach. 

Check out Suzanne’s Facebook Page, her LinkedIn and her Pinterest profiles.

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Category: Being a Writer, Contemporary Women Writers, On Writing, US American Women Writers, Women Writing Fiction, Women Writing Non-Fiction

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  1. Motivation and Productivity - West Lothian Writers | May 25, 2015
  1. Emmelie says:

    Thank you for the inspiring article, Suzanne! I have a bad habit of not finishing my novels, and this really inspired me!

  2. Great article. I found this really useful and I will definitely be using these tips. Thanks.

  3. Carin says:

    Completing my outline this week…thanks for the push!

  4. Hi Suzanne!

    Great article! Excellent practical tips for writers to help us organize our time, manage multiple responsibilities, and be productive without “stifling” the muse. I normally outline my books but wrote my most recent one straight from my stream-of-consciousness.

    I loved how my voice came through, but as a result, I had to rewrite the book 4 times to hone the characterization and plot. For anyone who hates rewriting (I don’t mind revising but dumping 100’s of pages of the manuscript is like amputating a limb!) as much as I do, planning is the way to go and your tips were spot-on!

  5. Great article as always, Suzanne. I have not been in the habit of planning my writing before I sit down to write, but now I think it really can make the process easier and help me maintain focus.

  6. Faye says:

    Great post, Suzanne. Very helpful.
    “Forget about everything else” is just one of those “be disciplined” and in-the-moment things that takes dedication and practice. Sometimes easier said than done, but a great reminder!

  7. Great article, Suzanne!

    Lack of motivation is a form of Resistance. I recommend the book, Do the Work, to those who are having trouble completing a project. It’s a fantastic book that has helped me a lot and shows all the forms of Resistance and how to outsmart it. 🙂

  8. Ernie Boxall says:

    Suzanne, not only is the content worthwhile, I was led to the chapter on Picture Boards which I found will be a real help with a story I’m working on at the moment.
    I still have more to read but wanted to get this off today.

  9. Debbie says:

    Good to read! Setting aside blocks of time and forgetting about everything else are what I need to concentrate on. Outlines are also a good idea and I have done some of that for the children’s books that I’m working on. Also, I’m participating in NaNoWriMo and need to make an outline for that. I think NaNoWriMo will be an avenue for coming up with ideas for writing in general. I don’t think of myself as an aspiring novelist, but it sounded like fun and I think I will learn something of value.

  10. Thanks for writing this Suzanne as always your topics are over the top helpful and very good at keeping me focused. I enjoyed it. I’m taking a writing course and this instructor is adamant about outlining before writing – It’s driving me crazy, but from your article I can see it certainly does keep you on track.

    • Hi, Billie,

      If you aren’t used to outlining, at first you can worry that it will restrict your creativity. But, once you get used to outlining, you’ll find that it actually helps you be creative but you’ll be a much better writer.

      I hope you’ll try it.

      Good luck and happy writing!


  11. I am, by nature, a sit down and write and see what happens kind of gal. But, I have a non-fiction project that I think might go easier if I do the planning of chapters, etc. before I start writing. We’ll see what happens. Thanks for the info!

  12. Suzanne, I am not by nature a person who plans out their writing by chapters, scenes, etc. I plan to try this on a project I am working on to see how I do with it. I hope it makes the writing process easier.

  13. Karen Cioffi says:

    Suzanne, Great tips. Keeping focused is on of my biggest problems. You can easily get out of control when you overbook yourself also. Setting specific time periods aside for particular projects is a great idea.

    • Hey, Karen,

      Yeah, it’s funny how setting aside specific times for specific times works out. It’s like time expands or contracts somehow (although it really doesn’t) so you get the work done. Go figure…

      Happy writing!


  14. Dorit Sasson says:

    Great and timely post. I find the middle of any project the hardest to finish. I think it’s also important to know which projects to take on and which projects aren’t worth your time and this comes with experience.

    Dorit Sasson

  15. Kathy says:

    As you know, Suzanne, I am having difficulty staying motivated. In some respects, it seems like I am wasting my time as your article pointed out. Yet, I am also building a platform so my time is invested in that.

    I have taken your article to heart and will keep plugging away! Looking forward to that first “deadline”!


    • Hi, Kathy,

      Building your platform is good. But nothing builds platform like bylines in recognized publications. Don’t spend too much time “waiting” for things to happen. Get your queries out there, write some guest posts for popular blogs in your niche, and try the smaller local markets to get started.

      There’s no reason to be discouraged. You just need to take more action if things aren’t happening quickly enough.

      All the best,


  16. Suzanne, what great advice! So practical and so clearly explained. Plus, knowing it works for you is great inspiration. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Hey, Nancy,

      Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. You’re such a prolific writer and children’s book author, I’m sure I can’t tell you anything about writing that you don’t already know. But it’s nice to be “reminded” of a few things from time to time.

      Happy writing!


  17. Suzanne,

    Yep! the key is scheduling. I need to discipline myself to stick to my schedule.


  18. Suzanne, thanks for a great article. I especially need reminded of that bit about setting aside blocks of time for specific writing projects.

    I think forgetting about everything else may certainly take practice but it’s worth the effort. Thanks!

  19. Joe Sottile says:

    Wonderful article! I especially liked the part about selling your book before you write it. I never quite thought about writing in that sense. It would make writing more fun, and take the worry out. I also like the ending a lot. We shouldn’t strive for perfection with out first draft. Revising can be fun when we know our work is getting better. I enjoyed your bag of tricks! Thanks.

    • Suzanne says:

      Hi, Joe,

      Glad you enjoyed the article. It’s great when you can sell your work BEFORE you write it. It does take the worry out of selling.

      I love revising. That’s my favorite part of writing!

      All the best,

  20. Excellent article, Suzanne. Your tips for staying on track are right-on. The one about focusing on exactly what you are going to write at a given session is especially helpful.

    • Hey, Melissa,

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting. You’re such an experienced writer, I’m sure my tips are not new to you. But, as I’ve mentioned before, it’s good to be reminded of things now and then.

      Happy writing!


  21. Hi, Marge,

    Thanks for reading my article and commenting. If you start figuring out WHAT you need to write before you ever sit down to write it, I think you’ll find that the writing goes much faster and easier.

    Happy writing!

  22. Marge says:

    Great article Suzanne. Knowing what you’re going to write about and scheduling time are very important. I’m glad I skipped over today to read it.

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