How Do You Write A Book?

Every writer of any consequence and many not-quite-there-yet writers have fielded questions over the years about their methodology for writing books. Most of them seem to say they get up early—4 a.m. - 5:30 a.m. on average—and begin writing. The majority of these writers say they work steadily until some point, such as so many words or pages or some specific time later in the day. The page count ranges from two to ten or more. The timeframe can be from three or four hours to the entire day. The word count ranges from several hundred to several thousand. Other writers, notably Lee Child, start writing around one in the afternoon and continue until they too have reached a word or page count or some general time limit.

So, what are we to take from this? That individual’s writing methodology differs across the boards. There is no set formula for writing a book. For one thing, some novels require considerably more research than others. Does research time count as writing time? I believe it does. Obviously, the more research time involved, the longer it takes to reach the end of the book. Also, some writers are more prolific than others—Brandon Sanderson comes to mind. Other writers, such as James Patterson, frequently co-write novels with other authors, so they may produce six or more books per year.

My writing preferences are to get up early and get my workout out of the way so I don’t end up skipping it later in the day. Then I try to get all of the non-writing tasks completed. Finally, around one or two in the afternoon, I start writing and continue until five or six o’clock. Because my ratio of research to writing is 4:1, it takes me longer to complete a novel than someone who eschews research. My goal is to write, on average, a minimum of 1,000 words per day. For example, in the past eight days, I’ve written 9,650 words in my next Sleeping Dogs novel. That’s an average of 1,200 wpd. I typically don’t write on the weekends because of other commitments. 

So, at an average of 6,000 words per week, it would take me about 17 weeks to finish the first draft of a 100,000-word book. Wouldn’t that be nice. Unfortunately, there are interferences and long hours of research plus editing (and re-re-re-editing), working with beta readers, rewriting, cover design, and a plethora of other requirements including, principally, marketing. That typically means I publish about one book per year. 

Incidentally, the 100,000-word example doesn’t mean all novels come in at that length. Established writers in certain genres often write much lengthier books. Other genres, such as Romance, come in at around 60,000 words. For new authors trying to attract an agent, you should try to keep it under 100,000 words. Apparently, publishers have a phobia about publishing newbies whose books exceed that threshold. 

© John Wayne Falbey 2017 All Rights Reserved