How to write 60,000 words (and enjoy it).

It’s 11:40am, and I just passed the 60k word mark on Dustland.  As a relatively newish(y) author, I wanted to use this as a chance to impart the importance of milestones to those finding it difficult to write, especially those who want to write their first book and find it too daunting.

I published my first book on Amazon in 2010.  Exciting!  I had little expectations from it.  It was purely a self-interest project that I wanted to write, with no intention of marketing or anything, so whatever sales came after that was a bonus.  I sold over 600 copies, which was both shocking and fun.  However, what I really wanted to do was write my first fiction novel.  That, to me, seemed far more difficult than the first book.  Soooo…I have to make up a story and characters and have an interesting plot and find my writing voice and rework my first draft, second draft, etc. and have someone edit and proofread it and work alone at my computer and force myself to type when I really, really don’t want to and question every avenue that brought me to this point that made me think…think…I could somehow write a book someone will actually pay me money to read and throw my lot in with every other successful and not successful author that has ever come before me, and be compared to and criticized.

Yes, that is what I want to do with my spare time.  Write a book.  Yes.  Indeed.  Sign me up for that!  Can’t wait.

FIRST MILESTONE!  So I finally set it upon my self to finish…a…book.  At all costs.

I didn’t care if it was the worst reviewed, worst-selling thing to ever disgrace the human race.  All I wanted to do was know I could write more than a short story.  What came about was technically a novel at 202 pages (a bit over 50k words) and, thankfully, positive reviews and decent sales for a no-name author.

For new authors, the hardest part of writing your first book is finishing it.  It’s easy to get excited about an idea, but then you get lost after your initial concept and enthusiasm loses steam.  Where am I going with this?  I don’t feel like writing.  I’m going to read celebrity gossip.  Ooh, that post on Facebook is hilarious!  Ah, I’m tired.  I’ll write tomorrow.

Those who are successful, or at least, those who try to be successful are those who do.  You finish.  You finish what you start, and you suddenly join the ranks of an elite few in this world that actually put their time and effort into completing something that is very difficult.  Most never even begin, and those that do, never finish.

Finishing a novel requires a commitment, a very large commitment of personal time and energy and mental stamina (and coffee and maybe a few cigars and whiskey).  There are times when you want to stop.  You don’t feel inspired, so you procrastinate.  One day turns into a week.  A week into a month.  You can’t let that happen.  You force yourself to write each day.  It becomes a habit.

Whisky tasting

Tools of the trade (Photo credit: libraryrachel)

Stephen King wrote in his book, “On Writing”, a quote I love to read whenever I feel uninspired:

Running a close second [as a writing lesson] was the realization that stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.

For me, when I set out to write a novel I have three things already in mind:  the concept (what got me excited to tell the story in the first place), the theme (survival, revenge, love triumphs evil, etc), and a good idea of the ending.

Yes, the ending.  For me, it’s the light at the end of the tunnel.  It’s how I always know where I’m going, because when I write, sometimes I feel like I get lost in the reeds.  I need that rope I can grab onto and know if I just keep pulling myself forward, I’ll get to where I originally set out to be.

I’ve written plenty of half-baked stories that reside in la-la land.  Why?  Because I had no idea where the hell I was going.  Write with a purpose.  Finish.  Succeed.  Make, and enjoy the milestones along the way.  They are hard fought.  60,000 words is the first time I have ever written that much, and I know I have another good 10-15k to go.  Yet, once upon a time, I thought of writing 60k words and it scared the hell out of me.  I mean, that’s a lot of words!

Milestones are important.  Don’t worry about what other people have done before you.  If you’ve never written a book, finishing the first chapter is a milestone.  60k words is a milestone.  Hitting the publish button is a milestone.  Your first sale, your 10th sale, your 100th sale.  It can be a long road writing and publishing a novel, so celebrate your achievements every chance you get!

Write.  Finish. Finish. Finish.  Succeed!!

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4 comments

  1. Allen Watson

    Thanks for sharing. Heck, milestones were the only thing that got me through the book I’m about to publish. I had daily, weekly, and overall milestones. They are very important and it makes you feel great to reach them.

  2. Tim Scott

    When I worked at a video game industry, our publisher gave us (the developer) weekly and monthly milestones to hit. Not only to stay on budget, but on track for a reasonable release date. For new authors, it takes some time for us to think of our work professionally and not just a hobby. We need to develop habits and milestones to ensure we are achieving our goals. Thanks for sharing!

  3. countingducks

    Funnily enough, some publishers stumbled on my Blog and asked me to write a book. I have now done 59,650 so almost a 60,000 word writer. I’ve no idea if it is any good, and moving from Blog posts to book writing seems like switching from making model aeroplanes to the real thing. My technique was to write without self pity. I set myself the target of 1600 words a day, five days a week and I’ve kept to that. Whether it has stature and I might be able to buy a new shirt on the proceeds, or it is utter rubbish which will find a new home in the bin, I’ve yet to discover, but its been a giant learning curve.

    • Tim Scott

      Hi countingducks, thanks for stopping by! Yes, writing for a blog and writing a novel are two different beasts as I’m sure you know by now. 🙂 Congrats on hitting 60k words…it’s no small feat. If we enjoy what we write, someone else out there will too so I doubt you’ll have to worry about it finding the trash bin. 😉 Good luck with the book, and the many more I’m sure will come afterwards!

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