In January, we tackled the topic of “megalobibliophobia” (the fear of large books). Specifically, we covered some helpful tips and strategies for reading a long, intimidating book. But as I wrote, I had an epiphany: many of the same fears that come with reading a long book also apply to writing a long book. So, as promised, here it is: “Megalobibliophobia, Part II (Writers’ Edition).”
Most authors ask two questions at the start of every new project: How do I go about writing this book? and Will anyone read it?
These questions become even more daunting when you have a gut feeling your book is going to be . . . long. Suddenly, you have to worry about organizing tens if not hundreds of thousands of words into a coherent whole without getting overwhelmed. You need to keep your characters, settings, and timeline of events straight. And, somehow, you need to stay steady and motivated through it all.
It’s not easy, but it can be done! If you’ve got an idea for a long book, I’ve put together a few tips on getting started, staying motivated, and seeing your project through from page one to the end.
Make a game plan
One of the trickiest things about writing a long book is making a clear game plan. Before diving in to Chapter One, you need to prepare by making sure you have a thorough understanding of the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the story you’re telling.
Start by writing a brief summary of your book’s premise. Keep it short, maybe four or five sentences, but be sure you cover the inciting incident of the story, its central conflict, and its resolution. From there, draft a rough outline of events that will carry you from that inciting incident (Point A) all the way to the conclusion (Point B). Along the way, make note of any particular scenes you want to include. When you’re finished, you’ll have a timeline of events to use as a roadmap for your manuscript.
If your story includes a large cast of characters, you may also want to create a detailed character list or family tree to help keep track of them. Sketching out a map of your setting can also be helpful, especially if your story is geographically complex.
Once these tools are in place, you’re ready to start drafting!
Establish a writing routine
One of the best ways to stay on track during any writing project is to set a regular writing routine that complements you and works with your schedule. Are your creative vibes strongest in the morning, the afternoon, or the evening? Do you like writing at home, or are you more of a wanderer? Do you prefer a laptop or pen and paper? How much time can you commit to writing each day?
Once you find the writing niche that enlivens your creative spirit, commit to blocking out a certain amount of time each day or week to your project. You’ll be amazed at how much progress you make, no matter the length of the book.
Set manageable goals
At the start of a writing project, it can be very tempting to think, Oh sure, I bet I can write three, four, maybe even five chapters a day! When you’re excited, your project is new, and your motivation is at its peak, it’s easy to imagine sitting down and whipping out your manuscript in record time.
Yet, the painful reality is that at some point, especially if you’re tackling a long and complicated subject, you will experience writer’s block. There will be days when you sit down at your desk and stare at a blank screen or page without a clue of where to go next. The important thing to remember is that all writers experience slumps like this, and they do pass eventually.
There will also be days when, no matter how hard you try to sit down and follow your writing schedule, life gets in the way. Don’t let frustration set in—life happens! If you aren’t able to return to your regular schedule after things settle down, work to find a new writing schedule that fits..
The moral of the story is that while goals are great for keeping you motivated and productive, they must be realistic and achievable. There’s nothing more discouraging than consistently missing your goal.
So don’t beat yourself up if you do happen to fall short; instead, concentrate on the progress that you did make. And, pat yourself on the back and celebrate the days when you exceed your goal!
Join a writing group
When it comes to writing, two, three, four, or five heads are almost always better than one. One thoughtful comment can break through writer’s block or spark the key idea you’ve been searching for to complete your book.
Sometimes, we can get this feedback from close friends or family members, but local writing groups are another great resource for testing your book and getting authentic feedback. Writing groups are also a great source of inspiration and motivation. Your fellow members will help keep you accountable to your writing goals and provide moral support when you find yourself in a writing rut. There are writing groups all across the country; do a little research today to find the one nearest you!
Partner with a professional editor
When your manuscript has made it through this gauntlet, partnering with an editor is often the next step toward publication. A good editor will offer a fresh perspective and can catch the little details that you, as the creative engine behind the project, may not have been in the right frame of mind to catch. At the Write Place, we offer several levels of editing to fit each author’s budget and preferences.
Writing a book is hard; at times it can seem almost impossible task, especially when you find yourself writing a particularly long book. However, in spite of the challenges, it can also be a rich and rewarding experience. So don’t be afraid to become the author of a 500+- page book! With planning, determination, and support from friends, family, and fellow writers, you can make it happen.
“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.” – Ray Bradbury
“The Chipped Table of Dakar,” – noodlepie, http://www.flickr.com/photos/87585644@N00/9817006646, via http://photopin.com, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/