When you first sit down to write a new novel, the end feels very far away, doesn’t it?
You may know where the story’s going, and you know that it will be fun getting there – most days anyhow — but it still feels daunting. After all, unless you’re writing for middle grade or younger readers, you’ll be writing at least 60,000 words – or far more, depending on your genre. And when you’re staring at a blank screen with a word count of zero, well, it feels like a pretty big uphill climb.
But it doesn’t have to. Sure, you still have to write all those words. But breaking it down into manageable chunks can make a huge difference psychologically.
Why? Because when you’re standing at word zero, it feels vaguely impossible to make it to that faraway finish line. But when you set your first goalpost at one chapter, and you realize that one chapter will probably be a little less than 3,000 words, it suddenly feel a little more doable – especially when you break that down further.
Say your first chapter will be 2,500 words. That’s 500 words – or roughly two double-spaced pages – a day for five days. In just one work week, you’ll be done with chapter one.
Multiply that by 24 weeks for a 60,000-word book, and you’re there. It’s just 28 weeks for a 70,000-word book. Even that sweet spot in adult literature – around 90,000 words – is easily attainable in just 36 weeks. Add in a few weeks for editing your own work, and you’re still under nine months for an entire book-length manuscript.
Now that feels manageable, doesn’t it?
And that’s an easy schedule. You could easily squeeze in two pages a day each weekday without breaking a sweat if you’re working another full-time job. But what if you have a little more time on your hands? Play around with those numbers, and you’ll see how easily those word counts can add up if you stick to a routine. Do you have time for three pages a day, plus an extra four pages each weekend? You’ll have a 60,000-word book done in three months or a 90,000-word book done in under five months.
I also like to dangle carrots for myself so that I’m always striving for something attainable. For example, when I finish chapter one, I might take an hour off from writing and treat myself to a frozen yogurt across the street. The 5,000-word milestone might be a $10 lunch at Panera. 20,000 words might be a $25 trip to my favorite store at the mall or 30 minutes of solitude with a couple of candles, a hot bath and a glass of champagne. Figure out things you like – little treats you can give yourself without breaking the bank – and attach them to realistic goals. You’ll find that sometimes on those days when you’re feeling discouraged or blocked, knowing that there’s a reward just a few thousand words away can help you push through.
It’s doable. You just have to put those words on the page, one by one. Begin now. Happy writing!
Kiki Sullivan is the author of The Dolls series. Like the main character Eveny Cheval, Kiki used to live in New York and now calls the American South home. Unlike Eveny, she finds it impossible to keep her rose garden alive and has been singlehandedly responsible for the unfortunate demise of countless herbs. She may or may not have hung out with queens of the dark arts, strolled through creepy New Orleans cemeteries at night, or written the first book of this series with a red-headed Louisiana voodoo doll beside her computer. Visit her at www.KikiSullivan.com.