When I began writing books, one of the biggest concerns I had was could I really pen that many words? Depending on the genre (and who you talk to), books run anywhere from 70,000 to 120,000 words! That’s a whole lot of characters, Friends! So, back to today’s question, how can I write an entire book?
In my early reporter days, my editors would often ask me to cut my articles; so I
trained myself to write in the most concise manner possible learned to write concisely. Before that, though, I could fill up half a book on a town council meeting! Could I flip the switch again?
I can’t help thinking of the old saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” But, y’all, 100,000 words is a big ol’ elephant!
One Bite at a Time
As I worried and fretted over my abilities to fill up the space between the covers, I had already started writing Ashlee’s book. A few chapters in, it struck me: a chapter was approximately the same length as the feature magazine article I’d written about her. So, I realized I just needed to write 20-30 articles.
Suddenly, my worry disappeared and the monumental task of writing an entire book became a matter of taking one simpler step at a time.
How can I write an entire book? One article at a time. One chapter at a time.
One Story at a Time
You’d think I’d learned my lesson from that experience. Unfortunately, I can be a bit slow when it comes to learning lessons from myself. So, when I dove into writing Beast, I once again found myself fumbling for a paper bag. How was I going to write a full novel? I needed at least 80,000-90,000 words. *gasp*
Well, once again, it turned out to be a matter of focusing on bite-size pieces rather than the whole enchilada. [Yes, I switched from elephants to enchiladas. I’m really hungry right now, but talking about eating elephants doesn’t seem very appetizing.]
Anyway, I began Beast in February, but I’d been writing short stories on a more regular basis since last fall. It suddenly occurred to me that each chapter was roughly the length of my stories. So, once again I switched my thinking to view each chapter as one short story at a time. 20-25 shorts down the road, I’ll have a completed novel!
One Book at a Time
Last week I shared with you what I’ve been writing. In that post I mentioned the fantasy story that I’ve been working on here and there since last summer. Once I began working in detail on that tale, I quickly realized I have more than one book on my hands. From there, I started considering the fact that I wasn’t just writing a potential series, I was in the early stages of building a world.
Have you ever thought about what makes up a world? Land and other features such as water, mountains, woods, etc. All the plants and animals that fill it. Countries, states, cities. Governments, laws, rulers. People and races, creatures and other beings (remember this is fantasy). Magic—with magic comes rules that define it. Languages. Food. Jobs.
You probably get the picture.
I just thought writing one book set in the world I’ve lived in for … a fair number of years … seemed overwhelming! Now, I’m not going to tell you how I’m working through my fear of world-building—check in next week for that!—but I will tell you that I’m not scared of a trilogy or a series of any sort. I will face that feat the same as I’m facing the rest—one bite at a time, one story at a time, one book at a time.
So, there you have it—my giant writing revelation of the week in a rather concise package! Plenty of time left for enchiladas!
Readers, do you ever think of the books you read like this? I’ve read several larger tomes that I broke down into sections as I went. I’m also a bit of a nerd, so I like to look ahead to how many chapters there are and plan out how many I can read a night. That’ll give me a hint at when I’ll finish it! Writers, have you had any similar epiphanies on your journey? Did you ask yourself, “How can I write an ENTIRE book?” What helped you?
I’ll be sharing three more writing fears with you all this month, so keep checking back each Thursday for a new post; or, better yet, subscribe to my weekly newsletter and receive each post and more fun details and photos exclusive to my subscribers!