Wednesdays are for Writers: Joanne Mallon on How to Finish Writing a Book

SOOP Indie Authors GraphicStarting to write a book is easy. Lots of people start to write books (or say they’re going to, one day). Finishing a book, on the other hand, is a whole other matter. It’s what separates those who dream of becoming an author from those who actually become one. In my head I have started writing shelves full of books, but I have only actually finished three.

As any author will tell you, finishing a book is tough, way tougher than starting one. This is especially true if you are used to online writing or blogging where you can always go back and change something at any time. For the author, books rarely feel finished. There’s always something else to change or improve – paragraphs to polish and typos to find. But eventually you just have to make like Frozen and Let it Go.

So how can we get our books from half-baked to fully cooked?

  • Tell people about it
    Your book, like any other baby, will have a life of its own, and a great way to get that energy happening is to start to spread the word.  Tell other people that you’ve got a book on the way and you’ll also convince yourself of the fact. Let it lift itself out of your hands and fly. Towards the end of the writing process, you might have had enough of your book, but for other people, their relationship with your book is just beginning. Their excitement will be infectious, and your book will start to pick up enough momentum to get it to the finish line. So this is why I started a Twitter account for my most recent book several months before it was finished.
  • Line up a few early readers
    If you don’t have a deadline from a publisher, give yourself one by asking a few people to read your first draft, and tell them when you will deliver. The more you try to do this on your own, the harder it will be to put a full stop on it and send it out into the world. Line up a few beta-readers and aim to impress them.
  • Set it aside for a while, but not too long
    Let it cook a little. Go do something completely different. Write something else. Read something else. Refresh your eyes. Come back to your text and ask yourself honestly – does this make sense? Am I enjoying reading this? Does it do what I wanted to? It’s OK if the answer is no – your first draft is very unlikely to be the last.
  • Get it listed on Amazon
    If you’re self publishing, you’ll have more control over this and can give your book a due date. It’s quite a scary step, but once you’ve got the cover art, why not organise the Amazon listing so your mother can get in her pre-order?
  • Accept that it will never really be finished
    This is the truth of the matter, and it’s a hard truth to accept. There will never be a time when you pick up your book and don’t see something that you would fix, even when it’s on sale in a book shop. You may never reach the point at which your book feels finished, but if it’s ever to be published then you will need to reach the point at which you can leave it and move on. For me the point of abandonment with Social Media for Writers was when I went over the text for the umpteenth time and thought it was incredibly boring. I was sick of looking at it, so that was a good sign that it was time to push it out of the nest. I also felt like not publishing, but I had told so many people about it (see my first bullet) that I couldn’t really back out. Now that the book is published, readers keep telling me that it’s funny, that it makes them laugh out loud. This is astonishing to me. I don’t see those jokes any more. I wrote them a long time ago and they just aren’t fresh to me the way they are to readers. So maybe when you’re sick of it is the real jumping off point.What do you think? How did you know when your book was finished?

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BIOGRAPHYJoanne Mallon Feb 14

Joanne Mallon is the author of Social Media for Writers. Joanne is a career coach specialising in media, a widely published freelance journalist and author of three books. She freely admits to being so addicted to writing that she’s got QWERTY imprinted on her fingertips. Originally from Belfast, Joanne now lives in Brighton, UK with her family. She features in the media regularly and is known for her practical, down to earth approach. A former TV producer, she’s been making stupid jokes on her award-nominated blog Opposable Thumbs for 8 years. She’s the founder of MediawomenUK, the first online networking group for women in media and, the world’s leading site for children who blog.


Social-media-for-writersSocial Media for Writers is a book for all writers – authors, journalists, copywriters and bloggers. Through practical, easy to follow advice, it shows how social media can become part of your income stream as a writer. Best-selling authors and successful freelance journalists also share the secrets of how they use and manage their social media. It includes chapters on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram. Social Media for Writers also covers what your writer’s website needs to contain, and how to set up a successful blog. It shows how not to let social media become a terrible time suck, and how to make it work for you.


  1. Hi Joanne, Thank you for your article. I really appreciated your final point on accepting it will never be finished. It’s a struggle with the inner perfectionist in getting it right. It’s just the type of message I needed to see. Cheers, Mel.

    • Thank you for your comment Mel. The whole issue of perfectionism is quite interesting to me. I guess that’s another story to tell. When something is perfect, it’s finished and couldn’t get any better, and life is just not like that. Life is always moving and changing, so for most of us perfectionism is asking the impossible. And so it is with books! I think if you can be happy to produce a really, really good book then that is easier than trying to produce the perfect one (which probably doesn’t exist anyway).

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