How to Finish That Ebook You Started Six Months Ago

    A guest post by Ali Luke of Aliventures

    Admit it. Somewhere on your hard drive, there’s an abandoned document: ebook-in-progress.

    You once had high hopes for it. You were going to launch it to the world, make lots of money, and bask in your new-found fame and fortune.

    Except, it wasn’t quite that easy.

    At some point, you put that ebook draft aside … and you haven’t picked it up since.

    Maybe you think you just haven’t got it in you. Sure, you can write blog posts … but a whole ebook?

    Trust me, you can finish your ebook. And here’s how:

    Step #1: Look Over What You’ve Already Got

    This can be a surprisingly tough step, so be prepared to feel some resistance. Push on anyway – it’s only a document, and it can’t hurt you.

    Open up that file. Skim through what you’ve already written. Chances are:

    • You might have done more than you remember
    • You’ll have forgotten writing some of it
    • Your writing will probably be better than you thought it was

    Even if you’ve only written 1,000 words of your ebook, it’s a good start.

    Once you’re clear about where you’d got up to, it’s time to create an outline.

    Step #2: Put Together a Complete Outline

    If I didn’t write outlines, I’d never finish anything. Your outline is a crucial tool for both the structure and organization of your ebook itself, and for the motivation that you feel when writing. It’s a lot easier to work from a series of bullet points than from a blank page.

    Your outline doesn’t need to be insanely detailed. And it’s not even that hard to get started: just begin by creating a summary of the material that you’ve already got.

    A good outline might be:

    • A rough chapter heading for every chapter (you can tweak this later)
    • Three to five key points that you want to cover in each chapter


    For instance, if your ebook was about novel-writing, your outline might start like this:

    Chapter 1: What is a Novel?

    • Give a dictionary definition
    • How’s it different from other forms? (Short stories, memoir, etc)
    • The history of the novel
    • Key types of novel today

    Chapter 2: Why Write a Novel?

    • Much more popular than short stories
    • New publishing possibilities, e.g. as an ebook
    • The desire to write and create


    Step #3: Set Yourself a Deadline

    Now that you’ve got your ebook planned out, you’ll be able to decide on a deadline.

    A good deadline allows enough slack that you don’t give up entirely – but keeps enough pressure on you that you build up a good writing momentum.

    To work out a sensible deadline, you’ll need to figure out:

    • Roughly how long your ebook is going to be (work out the average word count of the chapters you’ve already written, and assume that each chapter will be that length)
    • How fast you can write (if you’ve no idea, time yourself across a couple of writing sessions)
    • How many hours you’ll be able to spend writing your ebook each week (aim for at least four hours)

    If your deadline ends up being a very long time away, you might need to adjust your plan. Perhaps that 60-chapter ebook could be split into a series of five 12-chapter ebooks.

    Step #4: Book in Your Next Three Writing Sessions

    One of the reasons that your ebook ended up gathering virtual dust is because there’s never going to be a “perfect” time to write. Perhaps you were in a good routine with your blog posts … but your ebook kept getting shunted aside.

    To avoid that happening again, make time for ebook-writing sessions. Put them in your calendar, and treat them as non-negotiable appointments.

    Try to position your sessions during your best writing times: for me, that’s morning (I’m typing this at 9.23am) but for you, it could be afternoon, evening or late at night.

    Block out your next three sessions – ideally, within the next week.

    Step #5: Work Out Your Target for Each Session

    Simply having “write ebook, 10am – 12 noon” on your plan isn’t going to do much for you. It’s all too easy to sit down and stare blankly at the screen … only to end up chatting on Twitter instead of writing.

    Give yourself a specific target for each session. That might be “finish chapter two” or “write the first two sections of chapter five” or “revise the introduction”.

    Setting your goals in advance removes the element of indecision when you sit down to write. It also helps to focus your thoughts: if you know that you’re going to be working on chapter five tomorrow, you may find that some new ideas bubble up while you’re in the bath or cooking dinner. (Keep a notebook on hand to capture these.)

    Step #6: Repeat!

    One week of effort isn’t going to get you a finished ebook, unless you’re working on something very short.

    If you really want to finish your ebook, you need to put in consistent effort, day after day, week after week. Yes, there’ll be times when it’s not easy … but once you start making steady progress, you’ll realize that it can be done.

    A half-written ebook is no good to anyone. It won’t bring you any fame or fortune, and it won’t help your readers either.

    So make the decision today to finish that ebook and get it out there. You can do it – and I promise you, it’ll be a great feeling.

    Ali Luke is the author of several ebooks, including the popular Blogger’s Guide series. She’s just released The Blogger’s Guide to Irresistible Ebooks, which covers the whole ebook-writing process from initial idea through to post-launch promotion. Click here to find out more about it.


    About the author

      Ali Luke

      Ali Luke’s free mini-ebooks Time to Write and The Two-Year Novel are for any writer who wants to fit in some extra writing (and enjoy it more)! You can download them here when you sign up to her weekly email newsletter – which includes writing tips, discounts, and more.

    • Hey, thats an interested post now! I have started writing several ebooks, but couldn’t finish any, just because I am too lazy! 😛

    • Great article. Thanks.

      Any advice on e-book vs. kindle vs. print (creative space) vs. audio versions of our work?

      Ebook is certainly the most attractive as it can be sold for more (at least that’s my plan) print and kindle will be less profitable but probably reach more readers. Or there’s always the idea of just giving it away… hmmm.

    • Great article. Thanks.

      Any advice on e-book vs. kindle vs. print (creative space) vs. audio versions of our work?

      Ebook is certainly the most attractive as it can be sold for me (at least that’s my plan) print and kindle will be less profitable but probably reach more readers. Or there’s always the idea of just giving it away… hmmm.

    • Hi Ali thank you very much for your advice. I always have a difficulty to finish what I’m started. Your article really help me. thank you very much!

    • Ali,

      I appreciate the practice and encouraging nature of your advice. It’s helpful to know that even allocating 4 hours a week is a way to make progress on an e-book. I haven’t begun because I haven’t figured out how this activity could fit into my life. You’ve given me an in. I also appreciate the insights shared in the comments.

    • Ali, your new book looks great! I especially like your formula for setting a deadline.

      I don’t have an ebook half started, unless you can’t the one that’s been hanging out in my head! I’ve been enjoying my summer with kids home so much that I haven’t set aside the time to write it! For me, it’s creating the space to write, while still keeping up with my blog, my practice, and my family… When I’m ready to put it on my calendar, I’m coming back to this post and your book.

      • Ali Luke says:

        Thanks Marci! 🙂

        Creating space to write is probably the biggest challenge of all … I’ve no idea how people with kids manage it! Good luck with your ebook, and hope this post helps when you do come to tackle it.

    • I always find myself disappointed when I look back over stuff I’ve written in the past, half done ebooks and such.

      Even though I don’t always end up liking what I’ve written I know that it’s a leg up so even if I have to rewrite the whole thing at least there’s that original work to build off.

      • Ali Luke says:

        Sometimes a lot of work is needed, and that can indeed be pretty discouraging. But on the plus side, at least you can see how your writing’s improving over time!

    • Just had a writer’s group meeting last night where we were discussing book outlines and deadlines. Great information. Life just gets in the way of progress sometimes.

    • Ali,

      A wonderful timely post for me since I have one in the pipeline. Completed it. Just going through the corrections and working on them. Whew let me guess, it didn’t take me six months but two months. But I must agree that I did only soft writing – spent about 4-5 hours a week for the first month and 2 hrs per week for the second month 🙂


      • Ali Luke says:

        Two months is pretty fast! Great stuff. 🙂

    • Thank you Ali Luke. I will make use of these notes (I’ve written it down already :D). Though, I have one question. On my website, I have about 4 posts. How many posts do you think I should have before I began writing/working on my eBook? And could I start now?

      • Ali Luke says:

        I’d suggest waiting a bit longer, Jarod — at least until you’ve got enough of an audience to find out what they actually want to read. It’s a good idea to blog for at least three months before trying to start an ebook. As Ellen says above, a target market is crucial.

    • Jeff Wise says:

      I use step #3 to my advantage most of the time. I absolutely have to set a deadline or I know it won’t get done. It will sit there and sometimes the idea may just go away.

    • Great tips-Having an outline and making a plan are key but if it’s non-fiction make sure you have a topic that you are passionate about and have a target market that will make it profitable to do! Otherwise it’s an act in futility.

    • I’d like to learn more about turning your blog posts into an e-book. Apart from “How to” posts, what else do you recommend turning into an e-book. Thanks Ali.

    • Thank you, Ali! This is inspiring me to do something I’ve planned to all summer!

    • Ali,
      I wish I had read your post a few years ago. You see, I wrote a book, 12 chapters, had it edited over and over again, and then sent it out to publishers only to receive one rejection after another. So what did I do? The same thing any respectable self-doubting person might do. I filed the entire book away in a file box. Not for 6 months, not for 1 year, but for THIRTEEN YEARS!

      Finally, in the 8th month of a mentoring program which was teaching me how to write a book in 12 hours or less, one of my mentors asked innocently, “Why don’t you take the book you have already written and create an ebook. Boing! A light bulb went off and finally, that same year, I posted my ebook online at Only it was more than 500 pages and I realized that ebooks need to be shorter. So, I created 4 smaller ebooks, each part becoming its own ebook.

      And then, a few months after that, I had those same ebooks published as actual books. What a relief to get my books out of the closet and into the world. That process has freed me up to focus on other professional activities and to keep moving forward.


      • Ali Luke says:

        The great thing with ebooks is the ability to take back control of the publishing process. I’ve nothing at all against traditional publishing — but it’s an incredibly tough thing to break into. Congrats on getting your book out there! 🙂

    • Rick says:

      Writing ebooks, working on stories and a novel, blogging, writing web content, Tweeting, keeping up with Facebook…It’s a wonder I ever finish anything! I have a few techniques I’ve developed that help me finish a writing project. I outline when the project is complex (like a novel), break it down into scenes, and write a little every day. I also keep a “publishing calendar” where I schedule my writing, and use a timer I picked off the internet to keep track of blocks of time to spend on each project. I’m still fine-tuning, but it seems to work so far. Now…to schedule time to sleep!

      • Ali Luke says:

        I know the feeling, Rick! And I like the techniques you’re using, too … I think outlines are essential for any project (I even outline blog posts before I start). Timers definitely help me stay on track too.

    • Great advice Ali. I believe that having a plan like this makes all the difference between those who finish and those who don’t. It’s not too late to return to your unfinished manuscript, “dust it off” and finish it.

      • Ali Luke says:

        Cheers Gary! I’ve sometimes found that a dusty old manuscript really is past it … for whatever reason, I’ve lost interest and moved on. But deliberately laying a project to rest (as opposed to abandoning it) can be surprisingly freeing.

    • Thanks for this plan. I have one e-book out there called Social Networking Your Way to a New Job. But I have a half completed fiction (mystery) book that I have been picking up and putting aside for literally years.

      I pulled it out (again!) a few days ago and I really do like what I’ve written and believe that it has potential. I’m going to use this post to lay out a game plan tonight and get this done.

      Thanks again!

      • Ali Luke says:

        Woo! I know how tough it can be to stick with fiction projects (I’m at the very final editing stages with a novel that’s been almost three years in the making now…) so wishing you the very best of luck with it! 🙂

    • Kendra says:

      This has been on my to do list for quite some time now. I have actually gave myself a deadline even though all I have is the title and a summary about the ebook. I am hopeful I will get it done by my deadline…not hopeful, but confident it will be done!

      Kendra ~TLS

      • Ali Luke says:

        Good luck, Kendra! Hey, a summary is a great start … hope the rest of the ebook comes together well. 🙂

    • For me, the key was actually announcing my ebook and starting to talk about it. I don’t think it would be done yet if I haven’t made it public so that I knew people were expecting me to deliver!

      • Ali Luke says:

        Great point, Mandi; accountability is a huge help. Once you’ve got eager fans waiting for your ebook, you HAVE to get it written!

    • Vanusa says:

      Thank you, Ali! I discovered that I have 5 written chapters of an ebook with 10 chapters! And I’ll finish it!

      • Ali Luke says:

        Woo! Awesome stuff – you’re half-way through! There’s no turning back now. 🙂

    • Karen says:

      Needed to read this today. It’s only a short giveaway report I’m working on, but there has been a lot of distraction recently. Today is set aside to get back to it, and this will be a real help. Thanks.

      • guest says:

        Thanks Karen! Glad this came at the right time — it’s always great when posts do that. 🙂

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