Saturday, March 20, 2010

Enormity of a novel vs. wee little goals

If someone says unto thee, "I must have your completed novel in five months. Begin," what you would begin is not a novel at all, but an epic freakout over the impossibility of the demand. The number of words involved—75,000-120,000, depending on your book—boggles the mind and shuts down the engine of the little train who could.

So don't think about that. All that will get you is a plate of roasted fail drizzled in a savory fail sauce and served with a side of fail.

Instead, think about all those people in November who write novels in a month. And think about writing the equivalent of a three to five-page paper each day until you're finished, the kind your English teacher made you write. About a thousand words per day. You can do that. It'll take you a couple of hours, maybe three. Plus you can hold down a day job. You might not get to watch TV, but what you're writing is better than anything on TV anyway, right? Maybe on a weekend you could write more than a thousand. If you were super diligent about that, you'd have a 90,000-word novel in three months.

But you're not going to be super diligent, because you have a life. Or if you don't, I'm sure you're trying to get one. That's okay, I highly recommend having a life. You can take off a day or two here and there and still make your deadline in five months. And you know what? The year's not even half over! You can write another novel before the year is out! You can even take two months off for a backpacking trip across Europe and then come home and write a novel about it!

The first novel of my series, Hounded, took me over a year because I didn't have a deadline and I was attempting to have a life. I left it alone for weeks, even months at a time because there wasn't any urgency. After I got a contract, I wrote much more quickly. :) I wrote the second book in five months. Now I'm already a third of the way through writing the third book and I have until July to finish it. The practice helps, and the deadline helps a lot.

So give yourself a deadline and start practicing. If you'd like to see how long many Sci-fi/Fantasy authors worked at getting published before selling their first book, check out this handy-dandy info here courtesy of fantasy author Jim Hines, who surveyed 246 SF/F authors and crunched the numbers. You'll see that some of them worked a long, long time. Decades. Some of them, on the other hand, sold books after a just a few years. None of them ever gave up. My data is in that survey; I wrote for 19 years before I sold my first book. If you're an aspiring writer, I hope you'll be one of those who sells theirs quickly—but if the time of "quickness" has already passed for you, I hope you'll keep working anyway—the practice helps.


  1. I agree. Never give up. The race is not always to the quick, but to those who keep running. I'm so proud of you babe.

  2. When I first read the title I thought it said "vs. Wee Little Goats." That's a whole different blog post, I suppose. :-)

  3. Yeah, I'm a young writer myself, still only 17 =0 I know I'm not gonna be published in the near future but I hope to be published in a couple of years.
    I find it daunting when I'm staring at my work, only 30k in and i've set myself a target of 80k. I agree though that breaking it up too 1, 2k everyday, it makes everything seem easier =]