Sunday, November 28, 2010

The 90-day challenge: 90,000 words in 90 days!

Many book editors, reviewers and authors agree that there is no formula for the average length of a book. However, many in the industry suggest that, on average, non-fiction books -- memoir, autobiographies, how-to, etc. -- can range between 30,000 and 200,000 words. Whew! That’s a lot of words. Sometimes the thought of writing that many words seems overwhelming. You wonder if you’re really up to the task. Do you even know that many words? Can you pull them together in an intelligible way that actually tells a story that people will find interesting? Of course you can. There are millions of books out there by people just like you who have done it. So, how did they do it? Well, as the age-old question asks, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” 
The key is to break it down. After all, you’re not trying to write a great book in a day, a week or even a month. Writing is a process and it should be approached in that way. It should be an enjoyable experience, not a terrifying, gut-wrenching, teeth-clenching headache. If you go with the middle of the road with regard to the length of your book, about 90,000 words is reasonable. Now, swallow and take a deep breath. You can do this. You really can.
Think about it, if you were to write 1,000 words a day you could finish your book in 90 days. See how easy that was! Okay, it might be easy to say that, but doing it is definitely more challenging. However, it doesn’t have to drive you nuts. How long do you think it would take you to write 1,000 words? Not as long as you think ... if you write with reckless abandon. Seriously, write what comes to your mind. Don’t get distracted by trying to be so literary. I’ve got news for you, you’re not Shakespeare, so please don’t try to write like him. Instead, just write. Use your own voice. You’ll crank out those 1,000 words in no time. If you do it once, you can do it again, and again, and again. And before you know it, you’ll have your first draft of a 90,000-word book in 90 days. 
Ninety days seems like a long commitment in today’s super-fast society. Experts say it takes 21 days to develop a habit. Some say doing something for 30 days helps you stay committed. The 90-day writing challenge, however, is for writers who have an ache, something stronger than desire, more on the cusp of a need; the need to get the book out. Like a woman in labor who says, “I just want the thing out of me.” And truly, she says it with the best of intentions. But as with a 9-month pregnancy, a 90-day writing challenge can be grueling. What if you skip a day? Well, just pick up the next day. Don’t get stuck on what didn’t happen yesterday, just go at it today as if you never missed a beat. If you feel compelled to write 2,000 words, do that. But if all you can do is your 1,000 words, you’re doing great. 
The point is, write ... everyday. You can do it. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself in 90 days.
By the way, this entire blog post is 580 words. I’m halfway to my 1,000 words today. You see how easy it can be!

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