It turns out 100,000 words is a lot. They’re called “epics” for a reason, and when I wrote mine I had no idea that was what I was doing. I had an idea for a story and knew that I wanted the main setting for each chapter to be in a different region. I named each chapter after these locations as they were visited, with the final chapter being at “Home”.
This resulted in 15 chapters, with an average of ten pages per chapter. This seemed reasonable to me until I started comparing it to other stories.
Now, I knew I had a big story, but I had no idea I had a big book.
I even found that a lot of Literary Agents won’t even accept manuscripts that long because:
- They’re an epic amount of work.
- They’re expensive. Like really expensive since most Editors charge a per-word fee.
How’d I even do that?
With a lot of editing (a lot), I know I can get that number down if necessary, although it won’t go down enough to save anybody any money. I’m not saying you have to write 100,000 words in a month, only that it’s possible.
What really impresses me though, is how did I even manage to write that much?
- 116,000 words in three weeks for a novel I had (kind of) pre-outlined
- 93,000 words in four weeks for a book I wrote totally on the fly, using the exact same format (With the realization 10 pages a chapter is too high an average sometimes).
I did the math on the first story, and I’m guessing I devoted nearly 150 writing hours to that manuscript.
That’s ten hours a day of (mostly) writing, five days A week!
Now, I get that not everyone can write full-time, and I have no doubt had 2/3 of my kids not been in school on those days my work wouldn’t have been so efficient. But I’m telling you, I’m a slow, terrible typer who spent my days with an 18-month-old, and I managed to get it done, so I’m going to give credit to the process and discipline on this one.
- Every day was not successful, the writing was better some days than others.
- I wrote whenever I could, as often as I could, and I treated it like something that deserved to be a priority in my life.
- I just. Kept. Going.
Ten hours a day not possible for you? That’s okay! Just try my process and write every chance you get!
I’ll be going more in-depth into every part of my writing process starting next week, but here’s the gist of what works for me:
Have a starting time and a starting routine.
Find a place that’s easy for you to work, and has space for you to keep a drink and notebook nearby.
Get a bottle of water plus whatever you drink (coffee, tea, etc.) and go to the bathroom!
Hide your phone! Social media is a black hole that will consume all of your writing time. This time is sacred. If you usually use your phone as a thesaurus/ dictionary, use red text for filler words you want to change later.
Set a timer every hour or so to stretch and refresh if you’ll be working for a long time.
Pretty soon you’ll look forward to this pre-writing routine and it will become your favorite part of the day. (Your creative brain will come to enjoy it too).
Just keep putting your fingers to the keys until you can’t anymore. Rest if you need to, but commit yourself to this time! Write, even if it’s bad, even if you hate it. You can make it better later.
Figure out your ending early
Trust me, this is the hardest part of completing a story. If you have no end goal your characters will just be floating from place to place without any direction, and your readers will be able to tell.
Make an outline
I’ll be going more into this in the coming weeks, but for this outline, all you need is a crude idea of your plot. How many chapters do you want? (Your major introductions will be in the first chapter, major conclusions in the last, and the most exciting event goes smack-dab in the middle. What’s your word count goal? (Some Publishers have minimums). Where do your characters need to go, what major events are in store for them, and over what length of time will their journey be? Answering these questions will greatly help you plan an outline, and make a kind of to-do list for what needs to happen in each chapter. Fill in the gaps with inspiration along the way, and remember: if you surprise yourself with your story, you’ll surprise your readers too.
Where do your characters need to go, what major events are in store for them, and over what length of time will their journey be?
Keep a Story Notebook.
I’ll go more into this in another post, but mainly it’s a notebook (or 5) devoted to your story. Keep it to one story per notebook, unless they’re really short. Use this to keep track of details, ideas, and questions you have for earlier or later in the plot. You can add or fix these later, but for now, just focus on moving from the beginning to the end of your story. If you really want to fix inconsistencies earlier in the plot, devote an entire writing session to that alone.
Work in sections
On my best days I went for a chapter at a time (15 chapters in 15 days) I knew where my characters began in each chapter and a general idea of where they would be in the next. The writing was all about getting them there, and making it interesting along the way. Keep your characters moving, get them from point A-B-C, or in this case chapters 1-2-3…
Picture your story like a movie in your head. What would really make this scene phenomenal? What details are crucial to paint the image you want your readers to see? The details you’re blurry about, let the readers be blurry about as well. The details you love? Make sure the readers love them too.
Follow your characters
If your characters tell you they want to go somewhere, follow them. Enjoy the story yourself as you’re writing it. Keep yourself in suspense, and definitely keep yourself interested. If you’re bored, it’s boring. Lose it.
Question the rabbits
Follow your characters, yes, but don’t necessarily follow the rabbit trails. Some new, crazy ideas are truly great, but others will force you to have to alter your story so much for them to really work, it will end up totally off track.
If you have to force an idea, maybe that’s because it’s the great idea for another story. Write it down and keep it somewhere with your other great ideas for your future writing endeavors. The key to finishing a novel is staying on track. Remember beginning to end, A-Z, Chapter Introduction to Chapter Conclusion.
That’s basically it. If you think your writing is terrible but still love the story, finish it! Keep going! That’s what editing is for, and it is amazing how easy it is to answer the questions you had in the beginning once you’ve reached the ending. Add to your story notebook every time you think of something, and use free time to organize the ideas into the chapters/parts of the book you think they would fit in well, and it will be easy to avoid writer’s block when you get later into your story.
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