More about getting started —

4 Mar

It’s amazing to me how many questions people have about wanting to write a book. I love getting these questions, though, so if you have one, please do send it along!

How much time should I write each day?

How will I know when the book is finished?

When is the best time of the day to write?

How many pages will my book have?

Do I have to write it like it’ll look when it’s published?

I have a favorite answer (sort of snarky, but not necessarily) to those questions for which there is no particular right answer. I shrug my shoulders and say ‘How long is a piece of string?’  There is no right or wrong answer to these, they’re very personal questions, and what’s right for one may be totally wrong for another.

How much time should I write each day?

How soon do you want to finish your book? Or maybe a better answer is: How much time can you devote to it each day. There are probably as many answers to this question as there are  already published authors, and those who aspire to that category.  It is best if you can set aside a certain amount of time for each day, at a time when your mind is free of other details, and you can relax and concentrate on the task at hand.  That is your best time to be writing.

For instance: I am NOT a morning person. I tell people that no matter what time I get out of bed, I wake up at 10 am. I might be able to find the keyboard before then, and actually even write something, but will it make any sense? Most likely – not. So, I would not be a person who would write twenty pages before breakfast. Or at least my morning coffee!

On the other hand, I’ve discovered that my best and most creative time of day is after dinner, before bedtime. There’s a good solid chunk of 3-4 hours in which I can (if motivated and have a viable idea on which to expound) produce between three and four thousand words! Yes, I said 4000 words! At that rate, if I did that every night, I could end up with a 70,000 word book within a month. I know this is possible for me to do, as I’ve done it twice. Actually, they were both 70,000 word books, but they were both done in three weeks’ time!  Yes, you read that right. Three weeks!  Granted, I was not a very nice person to be around at the end of that time, but I couldn’t help it. I was driven.

I’ve also done two 110,000 word books in about three months’ time — each. I didn’t necessarily plan for those word counts, but that is the answer to question number two at the top of this post. I wrote until the story ended. I had little pre-conceived idea about book length, but for whatever reasons, they came out exactly as they were supposed to!  Also, I was working at the time of writing these books. But they just tumbled out of the computer. It was an amazing experience for me.

But there were times when it didn’t work that way for me, and there will, no doubt, be times like that for you. If you’ve planned your book so you know where it’s going, just hop back in the chair in front of your desk and get back to it. Write something. Write anything. Sooner or later, it’ll start to make sense, and you can continue with the writing. Always write forward – aim toward the end of the story.

How many pages will your book have?

Believe it or not, before computers, books were almost always of a particular number of pages.

Specifically, these were 184, 224, 256, 312. All of these numbers are divisible by 4, which is the number of pages in a folio. Several folios would be bound together and then comprise a ‘signature’. This is not necessarily a standard number, but the number of pages in any book would be divisible by 4. Slight tweaks could be made by changing the style or size of the font.  It wasn’t long before word counts were standardized according to the accustomed page size and style from a given publisher.

You’ll be happy to know that with the advent of Print On Demand, these numbers are no longer the main factor when determining the length of a book. It can be whatever size it needs to be in order to be complete.

If you are going to publish your book on your own, it can look however you want it to look, but a clean easy-to-read font will be a major help for any first time author. You do want to make it easy for people to read your book! Always remember that. Just because you can use twelve fonts on a page doesn’t mean you should! And in fact, you definitely should not! You might be better advised to hire a book designer for your first attempt. The designer will (or should) listen to what you want and produce something at least close to your wishes. If not, it’s just back to the drawing board again. Make your wishes known as clearly as possible, and eventually, it’ll all come together just the way it should.

But still – the most important thing to remember is – nothing happens until somebody writes something! So, what are you waiting for. Go sit down at the computer and start writing! Thank you.

Comments?  Questions? Please send them along to me at


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