Writing a Book Is Messy

In the past decade, I have written and published more than 40 books, novellas, and short stories either solo or with a partner. I have never looked too closely at the process for me. I was always just excited to get across the finish line with a completed book. That feeling of accomplishment. Being able to look back on the adventure your characters went on and looking forward to the next one.

But at the start of 2019, I switched to writing books full-time. This has allowed me to take a closer look at my process. To figure out how quickly I can write a book. To find out where I’m wasting my time and what helps me create a better book.

Hands down, the most dangerous thing for me has been math.

Yes, math.

Math makes finishing a book faster look easy, but it’s a dangerous, evil lie.

Let’s do math first.

I can comfortably write 4,000 words per day – particularly if I have a plot outline. (Yes, I’m a hardcore plotter. It definitely makes working with a co-author much easier. Plotting doesn’t work for everyone. This is just my approach.)

In fact, if I’m sprinting with friends and start writing at 8 am, I can have my 4K done before noon. Pretty freaking awesome!

Now 4K per day times 5 days per week = 20K

And 20K times 4 weeks in a month = 80K in a month. That’s a book!

See how easy that looks! Write a book a month.

Even now, that looks seductive.

But what that doesn’t take into account is marketing, bad writing days, illness, family emergencies, editing, plotting, re-plotting, cover art searches, research… so much random freaking research.

I’ve wanted writing to be this neat progression forward. The words steadily building in an orderly fashion toward my goal. It doesn’t work like that for me.

Today, I thought I’d show you the progress I charted for the last two books that I worked on.

The first is the latest Unbreakable Bonds book, which will be out in July. We haven’t shared the title yet, but it’s coming.

For books, I co-write with Rinda, I set a goal of 35,000 words since I’m writing approximately half the book and the rough draft of the book should come in around 70,000 words.

As you can see, the first day starts strong and then life goes to hell. I work again… then more hell. And then I’m a bit all over the place until I make my goal and deadline.

But the one to keep in mind in this chart:

This one proves that each word helps to fill the bucket a little bit more. Each word gets you one step closer to the top of the mountain. This one is my favorite chart because I can set smaller goals of hitting 20,000 words total and then 25K, and 30K.

Then, I have the third book in the Exit Strategy series, which I just finished the rough draft for over the weekend. This book had a rough draft goal of 70,000 words because it’s a solo project.

Again, you can see that I’m complete rubbish at the beginning. I believe I took because a friend was staying with us for a few days and then I was working on edits for the Unbreakable Bonds book. But this one saw more consistency in the last 10 days because I was sprinting every day with friends. They helped to hold me accountable to hit my word goals each day. It felt great to hit my goal before 2 pm each day. And it reminded me to stay focused on the days that I was still working in the evening.

The tally chart looks even more fantastic than the other book.

The key thing that I’ve had to learn is that I’m not going to be consistent every day. It’s just not going to work out that way. The beginning week or two are going to be rough as I poke at the plot and characters. They don’t always want to immediately talk to me and a plot I feel in love with in the beginning could have major holes that need fixing along the way.

The other thing is that I have to adjust my daily writing goal. I typically start with a goal of around 2,500 per day, but that usually rises to 4K because of days that I don’t write. I have to stay flexible.

And finally, just get my butt in the chair and write. All words get me one step closer to my goal. Even the bad ones. Because in the end, you can’t edit a blank page.

Now, I’m off to work on revisions for the Exit Strategy novel.