Rescue Your Unfinished Book

Previously, I listed 10 top tips to help you get back on track with your book. Whether you are grappling with your structure, your topic or your content, these tips will give you some insight into how to solve the problem. Here are the top tips again:

Top Tip 1: Get feedback, preferably from a professional editor
Top Tip 2: Create a book plan so you know whether you have the right content
Top Tip 3: Check the structure works by looking at the contents list
Top Tip 4: Check your subject is right for your business and for you as an author
Top Tip 5: Work out where this book fits within your business
Top Tip 6: Make sure you are clear on your key points
Top Tip 7: Create a writing schedule
Top Tip 8: Finish writing before you start revising and editing
Top Tip 9: Focus your book if you have too much content
Top Tip 10: Add more detail if you have too little content 

Below are the details of the tenth and final tip on what you can do to get your book back on track. If you didn’t create a book plan before you started writing, it’s possible that you have run out of things to say sooner than you thought you would.

too little contentUsually, we worry about writing too much but there are times when we write too little. This often  happens when you begin writing without a plan or with a plan that lacks detail. You begin by thinking you have a lot to say, then find that you are repeating yourself. As a result, you start cutting to get rid of the repetition but then you end up with a very short book – too short! So, what do you do? Do you abandon this book? Do you pad it out? How can you solve the problem of the under-length book? Here are some ideas to consider.

Top Tip 10: How to add content to your under-length book

So, you set out with what you thought was a big book idea and you thought you had a lot to say. then, you find your book is finished but it's a quarter of the size you intended and you've said everything you wanted to say. What now?

This scenario isn't as uncommon as you might think. Sometimes having too little to say is the result of a topic that is too tight but often it's a result of too little planning and preparation. However, the fact that your book is too short doesn't mean that it should be discarded or abandoned.

Ask questionsblank page and pen

The easiest way to add content to your under-length book is to ask questions so you stimulate yourself to write more. You probably know and need to say a lot more than you have. There is detail that has been left out.

  • Have you assumed knowledge that your reader may not have?
  • Could you add some examples, quotes or stories to liven up and add to your text?
  • Is there some history or background you could add that would add some context to your book?
If you need some ideas on how to extend and fill out your material, look at another book on a similar topic. Look at how that writer fleshed out the ideas they present. If you get stuck, ask open questions about your topic such as ‘how do you do x’, ‘what can you do to get x done faster and more efficiently’, ‘where can you learn more about y’. You get the idea. Asking questions opens up your mind and gets you thinking so you have more to say.

Expand your awareness

If your style tends to be succinct, work on relaxing and loosening it. The best way to do this is to practice writing a lot of material about a very specific subject. For example, write about a post box or a bowl of fruit. Describe what you see in detail and create a story around the object. Read other writers and study their style. Use some of their phrases and study how they approach their key points and how they begin and end their paragraphs.

Do more research

Once you have taken a look at your style, do some additional research on your topic. Read other books, articles and papers on your topic. Write notes on material you have not included in your book. You don’t have to include this material but by reading and studying it you will extend and deepen your knowledge so you naturally write more detailed content.

Expand the existing contents list

Finally, write out your contents and under each chapter heading list the key points. These key points are your main headings. Under each main heading list at least 3 further points you want to make. Find a quote, cases study or example that will add colour to each point. Think about how you would introduce each main topic and what you want to say to wrap it up. How much of this material is missing from your existing book? Add any new material you don’t already have.

Get feedback

If you know someone who is in your target market, ask them for some feedback. Let them know you are aware your book is too short and ask for suggestions about what is missing and what you need to say more about. This way, they will be aware that you are looking for constructive feedback on one specific aspect of your book rather than feedback that is about telling you their opinion of it. This should help eliminate negative comments. If they know you’re trying to improve your book they will more likely be specific and supportive than bland or destructive.

Your book might not be too short

Not all books need to be long. Maybe you have set your word target too high for your topic. If you were planning to write 60,000 words and you have written 30,000 perhaps the only thing you need to revise is your own expectation of your book's length.

You might also like

        »  What to Include in Your Book Blueprint
        »  Finish writing your first draft before you start doing revisions
        »  Procrastination: Ditching the Block that Stands Between You and Your Book
        »  Create a writing schedule
        »  What is Your Reason for Writing a Book?

Deborah Taylor
Deborah Taylor

Hi, I'm Deborah Taylor and I'm a publishing consultant and book-writing mentor. I work with established business owners who want to share their message by writing a book but are struggling to get started (or finished). I help them write, publish and launch a stand-out, attention-grabbing book that will raise their profile, reach more of their ideal clients and grow their business. I am a trained editor with over 15 years' publishing experience with major blue-chip UK publishing companies such as Hodder & Stoughton, BBC Books, Cassell and Pearson. I have produced books on every subject under the sun and with professinals and experts from a wide range of professions, from chefs and gardeners to life coaches and career consultants. I would love to help you write a book you love and that will raise your profile, attract new clients and bring you exciting new business opportunities.