In sailing, there’s an action called “anchor watch.”
Once you reach your destination and drop anchor, you need to keep an eye on potential drift. If you notice your vessel has moved a lot in say twenty minutes, your anchor isn’t secure in the seabed. You need to haul up and try again.
At this time of year, writers are usually ramping up for National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, or racing to finish their drafts before the mental finish line of “sometime between the end of the work year and December 31.”
Putting pressure on yourself to finish without having any helpful structures in place is like dropping anchor without knowing the condition of the seabed. It’s very possible you’ll keep drifting.
Here are a few ways to finish strong.
- Reassess your writing goals. Why did you set out to write this draft? Have you retained that original intention in your output? Have you kept your target reader in mind at every stage?
- Build in revision time. Your manuscript isn’t ready for another set of eyes until you’ve self-edited it. Have you returned to your outline or map to make sure you’ve hit every necessary point? Do you have enough time each day or week to finish your draft, and then self-edit?
- Know your destination. Are you planning to sit on this draft for a while and let the ideas percolate? Or would you like to move ahead with your publishing goals in early 2023? Decide on your publishing strategy so you’ll know whether to assemble a team to support you in self-publishing, or hire an editor to help you build a book proposal to attract an agent and traditional publishing deal.
- Decide who’s coming on the journey with you. Now is the time to line up your beta readers, who can review your self-edited draft in January. You might also hire a sensitivity reader for sections of your manuscript. Editors book up quickly at this time of year (you’re not the only one who wants a book out soon) so be sure you line up your developmental editor soon. If you need help finishing over November and December, a writing coach can be the accountability partner you need—the anchor for your draft, and your larger writing and publishing goals.
And if you find you do need to haul up and try again? That’s absolutely OK. Know that it’s part of the creative process—your schedule can shift, and books take the time they need.
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