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Thursday, January 14, 2016

How to write a book in four months

Say a book is 60,000 words. You should be able to average 500-1000 words a day. So that's 60-120 days, or four months, writing one to two hours a day.

Why doesn't this happen?

1) People don't write every day, or even four or five times a week. They spend whole months without doing anything on their projects.

2) What about research time? It's possible that the writer doesn't know enough about the subject to write a book yet. I'm assuming here that this book is about something that you know something about, or could research in about a year. So, if you want, give yourself a year and four months, to research and write the book.

Research time is not trivial, of course, but you can't even talk about writing a book unless you know enough about a subject-matter to conceive of the book project. If you imagine spending most of your research time for a year on a single subject, you will know enough to write a book by the end of the year.

A few caveats here. I am also assuming that, by reading and researching, you will come up with worthwhile ideas. I don't know how to tell you how to do that. When I read, almost anything at all, I naturally generate ideas, because I have an active intellectual engagement with the subject-matter. I've learned that you can't take that for granted.

Secondly, many people seem to think that you can simply make the pages pile up without sitting down to write them, as in some Henry James story. Many people will complain that they cannot write every day, and hence my plan is unrealistic. Yes, it is unrealistic if you can't do this.

Thirdly, you might not want to write a book every two years. I certainly haven't done so in my career. I have had time to write more, certainly, but I think you need to think about your contribution and what that entails. I could have written more, but with more repetition of ideas and patterns of thought.

3 comments:

clarissasblog.com said...

"I am also assuming that, by reading and researching, you will come up with worthwhile ideas. I don't know how to tell you how to do that. When I read, almost anything at all, I naturally generate ideas, because I have an active intellectual engagement with the subject-matter."

- That's how it works for me, too. I discovered that if ideas don't come, this simply means I haven't read enough.

I like this post because I wrote my current book in almost exactly 18 months and was feeling bad that it happened so fast. I wondered whether it meant the book was too rushed. But I wrote for 2-3 hours 320-30 days out of the year, so that was pretty consistent and generated a lot of words.

profacero said...

I have never been able to average more than 250 words a day. Not in sixth grade and not now. I mean 250 words that need very little revision. So, since I like the six day a week writing plan, this means 1500 words a week.

Every time I try to write more words per day, or write a "shitty first draft," it is so counter to my nature and the habits that got me a high school diploma, a B.A., an M.A., a Ph.D., and more, that I do something like break a computer since I feel so violated, I just have to do something self-destructive.

profacero said...

P.S. Gosh I hate most professors. "You will never finish your dissertation unless you write seven pages a day, not caring how bad they are, and then revise them heavily." "You will never be anything unless you are exactly like me." Etc. Etc. I so do not want to be like that, treat people like that.