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 ninth tip on what you can do to get your book back on track. If you didn’t have a book plan before you started writing, it’s likely that you have created the ‘everything’ book. Don’t worry, you can put it right surprisingly easily.

If you don’t know what it is, the ‘everything’ book is a book that lacks any clear argument, angle or focus and is literally a run-down of everything you know about a topic. It’s usually boring to read and very difficult to finish because you keep thinking of something else to add. All is not lost, though, because cutting back the ‘everything’ book is surprisingly easy. All you have to do is make one key decision.

TIP: Don’t throw away your deleted text! You can reuse it in many ways: blog posts, articles and even as the foundation for other books.

Top Tip 9: How to focus your book when you have too much content

too much content

If you already have a 60,000-word manuscript but still haven’t written half of what you planned  you have too much content and you are well on the way to writing the ‘everything’ book.

Don’t worry, a lot of us do it, especially when we are writing our first book. It’s very easy to have an idea and then find it getting away from you. Sometimes this happens because your title is too general. Sometimes it’s because you get excited and keep thinking of things to add to the book, a kind of ‘Ooh, I must mention, that, and that, oh, and that too!’ Usually, this happens because your topic is too general and wide

Check your topic

The first thing you need to do is decide what learning, outcome or result you want your reader to achieve from reading your book. Target a specific problem. For example, if your topic is about paying off your debts and becoming debt-free or getting your toddler to bed and into a regular sleep routine, make sure you only write about that topic.

If you find yourself meandering into other topic areas like ways you can pay off your mortgage early or how to get your teenager out of bed in the morning, stop. This is great information but it does not belong here. You may think you’re adding value, but actually, you’re just confusing your reader and giving them information they cannot use right now.

A tightly focused book has more value for you and your reader than a loose, overlong book because:

  1. Your book is more likely to be read, used and recommended if you solve a specific problem.
  2. You get your book finished more quickly (as it’s going to be shorter) so you get it out there faster.
  3. You come across as someone who knows what they’re doing rather than an amateur who is floundering around in unknown territory.

Check your title

Once you have your topic worked out, you need to revisit your title: does it convey the exact message you are going to be writing about or does it need to be altered?

Look at your title. Is it specific enough? Does is really describe what your book is about? What is different and special about your book? If you get stuck, do some market research: what ideas come to mind? Do a brainstorm and pick three or four you particularly like.

After you have done this, put your book away for a day or two. When you get it out again your thoughts will have settled. See if one if the titles jumps out at you – it might be perfect, it might need a bit of extra work. If nothing feels completely right use a working title instead.

A working title is one that conveys the exact topic and focus of the book to you but which you do not think will work as a published title. Working titles are great as they are specific enough to write about and they keep you moving forward. Even if it is too long or not quite right, it’s okay. You can fix it later.

Start cutting and pasting your copy into place

Once you have your topic and title worked out you can start to select the parts of your book that are relevant and discard those that are not.

  1. Write a contents list. Make sure you have your topic and a title at the forefront of your mind when you do this and check that the contents fit the title when you are finished. This is crucial.

    keyboard shortcuts for cut and paste
    Cut and paste your content to create your new book
  2. Work out how much material you have for each chapter. You may not have any content at all for some chapters (when you work out a new title you will realise that you need to write new content to make the book fit the title), and for other chapters you will have far too much content.
  3. Cut and paste the content from the old book and paste it into your new book. Put each piece of copy into the right chapter and in the right order. Even if you only have a single paragraph that fits under a sub-head, put it there. This is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle – but one that you need to create new pieces for before you can complete it.

Work out what you need to write

Once you have your new contents worked out and you’ve cut and pasted copy from the old book into the new book structure, you need to start writing again.

  1. Decide how many words you want to write for each chapter and stick to it.
  2. Divide the total number of words  you want to write for the whole book by the number of chapters (plus your introduction) to get an average for each chapter.
  3. Count the number of words you have for each chapter and write it down just below the title of the chapter.
  4. After each writing session, update the word count for the chapter. If you are over-writing you will know and you will be able to re-focus before you write too much again.

Top tips on keeping your book on track

  • Keep to your word count for each chapter so your book doesn’t go on forever.
  • Set yourself a deadline for completion so you don’t get tempted to just keep on adding more and more content.
  • Read your book title, chapter title and section title before you begin writing so you are clear what you are focusing on each time you sit down to write.

You might also like

        »  A Brief Guide to the Book Publishing Process
        »  Proof-reading – do you need it?
        »  Editing – why, how much and when?
        »  What to Include in Your Book Blueprint
        »  Create a Book Project Plan

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.