How to Write a Book: My First Manuscript

A copy of a manuscript sits on a table.How many books have I started throughout my years? How many notebooks crammed in my bookcase with ideas, characters, and unfinished chapters? 10, 20, 100? Something like that.  Always started, never finished. Until now.

The Contest

Several months ago, I discovered a contest in a magazine. 20,000 words or more of romantic fiction on a fun, fearless, female. $10,000 prize money to the winner. After months of piddling around, working on another book, this seemed easier. More concrete. And, my favorite thing of all -deadlines.

Writing for myself, I only ever amble. Slowly turning out pages whenever the mood strikes me. Working with a tenuous timeline of “someday”. Fun, but not productive.

Romantic fiction? Not my style. Three months to write it? Not my timeline. Word count? Not something I kept track of. This would be hard. This would be a challenge. This would require commitment.

This would be what I needed to see if I could actually do this.

How I Built This

In the style of my boyfriend’s favorite podcast, here’s the story of how I built this. From Hemingway to Stephen King, I’ve heard 500 words a day is what you should aim for. I’ll tell you now, 500 words is nearly nothing. It’s two well rounded paragraphs.

Instead, I took the approach Lauren Graham used when writing her book -you take an hour to work on it. You isolate yourself from distractions, and you just work on it. It doesn’t always have to be writing the book itself. It can be writing about what you’re going to write, mulling through ideas and character arcs instead of doing it. It can be writing in a journal about how much you hate that you’re writing the book. Anything as long as you’re writing and working on it.

An hour is easier to keep track of than a word count. It’s also discrete. I can absolutely commit an hour to do something. Maybe if I feel like I’ve hit a stride, I’ll move into two hours or three hours, but one hour is a fair, small amount of time to give up.

Then you just do it until it’s done. To be fair, I didn’t write every day. I was lucky to get three or four days a week. But even at that rate, it happened.

NaNoWriMo -Next Novels and Beyond

Short spurts of writing to keep me sane is bread and butter. But you want to be a millionaire? Novels are where it’s at. For years, I’ve heard of NaNoWriMo, which is National Novel Writing Month. Every year in November, people accept the challenge to attempt writing 50,000 words during the month, presumably to jump start or complete their novels. Frankly, with a full-time job, that seemed impossible. Now? Not so much. A little more discipline, and I could be churning these out every month.

At least that’s the idea. And whether or not anything comes from it, I’m pretty excited to have a completed manuscript to call my won.


One thought on “How to Write a Book: My First Manuscript

  1. Pingback: Discipline: How to Get from the Couch to the Wine 10K | The Chemistress

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