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How to (Finally!) Write Your Book

If you've ever tried to write a book, then I'm sure that you've heard a multitude of the following empty platitudes at least once.

  • Create a memorable main character.

  • Plan out your first draft.

  • Just start writing! You can't edit a blank page.

While these phrases can be great motivators and give you somewhere to start, simply having someone tell you to "plan out your draft" and then "get writing" isn't anywhere near clear enough to be actual advice. I too, am one of those people who needs a little bit more structure to be successful and I've figured out exactly how I need to break down my books to write them effectively. Luckily, I've created a guide with actual, actionable goals that you can also use to get the ball rolling on your book.

Logistics: The Nuts and Bolts

From a numbers perspective, it's usually best to break your writing goals down into word count as opposed to pages or chapters. The amount of words that will fit on a page and the number of chapters you'll end up with will ultimately change depending upon how you choose to format your book. However, the word count will always remain the same.

Katee Robert The Dragon's Bride Alexander Harlowe Savage The Love Hypothesis Ali Hazelwood

Depending upon what genre of book you're writing, your word count will vary however, the guidelines don't tend to change all that much within genres. Of course there will always be exceptions to every rule, but even those exceptions don't tend to stray too far away from the range. Here are some examples:

  • Middle Grade Novels: 30,000 - 50,000

    • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl (30,644)

    • The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis (36,363)

    • The Outsiders - S.E. Hinton (48,523)

  • Young Adult Novels: 50,000 - 90,000

    • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J.K. Rowling (84,799)

    • The Giver - Lois Lowry (43,617)

    • The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins (99,750)

  • Contemporary Fiction: 70,000 - 90,000

    • Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng (88,000)

    • The Hate U Give - Angie Thomas (95,981)

    • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman (84,000)

  • Literary Fiction: 50,000 - 100,000

    • The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger (60,000)

    • Cry, the Beloved Country - Alan Paton (83,774)

    • Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen (99,760)

  • Romance: 50,000 - 90,000

    • Alexander - Harlowe Savage (51,943)

    • The Love Hypothesis - Ali Hazelwood (95,750)

    • The Dragon's Bride - Katee Robert (47,500)

  • Science Fiction: 80,000 - 120,000

    • Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card (100,609)

    • Jurassic Park - Michael Crichton (117,645)

    • Starship Troopers - Robert A. Heinlein (84,769)

  • Fantasy Fiction: 80,000 - 150,000

    • The Hobbit - J.R.R Tolkien (95,022)

    • Eragon - Christopher Paolini (157,000)

    • Six of Crows - Leigh Bardugo (137,000)

  • Epic Fantasy: 180,000 - 300,000

    • The Eye of the World - Robert Jordan (310,191)

    • A Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin (296,901)

    • Gardens of the Moon - Steven Erikson and Ian Esselmont (226,635)

  • Speculative Fiction: 70,000 - 100,000

    • Brave New World - Aldous Huxley (63,766)

    • Scythe - Neal Shusterman (102,433)

    • Cemetery Boys - Heather Brewer (88,000)

  • Suspense/Thriller: 70,000 - 90,000

    • A is for Alibi - Sue Grafton (76,481)

    • Shutter Island - Dennis Lehane (81,666)

    • Heartsick - Chelsea Cain (93,416)

  • Gothic/Horror/Supernatural: 70,000 - 100,000

    • The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson (64,597)

    • Pet Sematary - Stephen King (136,445)

    • World War Z - Max Brooks (85,500)

The Breakdown: Actionable Goals

Once you've chosen a genre, you'll want to pick a goal for word count. If it's your first book or you're not quite sure what to choose, go ahead and pick the bottom end of the range as chances are you'll end up adding content throughout the revision process.

Then, you'll want to break up that number into smaller, more achievable pieces in a way that fits in with your schedule.

For example:

Alexander was originally a NaNoWriMo project, so the goal was 50,000 words in one month. Dividing that number by the 30 days that are in November, I was left with about 1,667 words per day give or take a few. If that seems way too daunting, I totally get it so just for fun, this is what that number would look like if spread out between two and three months.

  • Two Months: 833 Words/Day

  • Three Months: 556 Words/Day

Now suddenly, that number doesn't seem as daunting anymore. Personally, I like going with the "mandatory words per day" tactic, it helps me light a fire under my ass and treat my project like an official deadline. Additionally, as an incentive not to skip days, I always have to make up the words I missed on the next day I write and believe me, one day of writing 6,000 words had me avoiding skipping another day for the rest of the month.

how to write a book

Another way you can break it down is by week or even by month if your schedule is too busy or hectic to sustainably commit to writing every day. When breaking the word count up by weeks instead of days, we get something like this.

  • Two Months: 6,250 Words/Week

  • Three Months: 4,167 Words/Week

The Bottom Line

Hold yourself responsible but don't overwhelm yourself with an unreasonable goal. It's okay to write at your own pace, just make sure that you are holding yourself accountable to meet the expectations you set up for yourself.

For more advice on writing from articles like this one and plenty more fun, spicy romance content make sure to follow me on social media and check out my Patreon for bonus content and updates about Live Q&A's coming up later this year!

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