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Mistake #1: Underestimating the Time Commitment


I am firmly convinced that one of the biggest reasons why so many people want to write a book, but so few follow through, is the time commitment.


The idea of writing a book sounds terrific. A lot of people dive in with great intentions--maybe they start with NaNoWriMo or they write furiously on a long weekend or a week of vacation.


But as happens so often with good intentions, life interferes, and those initial scribbles and ideas slip to the bottom of the priority list as things like work, family, and other obligations demand full attention.


Writing takes time. Estimates of how much time vary widely, but one suggestion is to figure that an average manuscript page of about 250 words takes about four hours to complete (from concept to final proofread).


That means a relatively average self-help book of about 60,000 words could take up to 960 hours!


If a normal full-time job is about 2080 hours per year, that book is basically a part-time job… if you want to finish it in a year. To complete your book in a reasonable amount of time, you will need to devote at least a few hours each day to researching, writing, and editing.


My Mistake: Not Making the Time


I mentioned in my last post that I’ve been writing novel-length fiction off and on for a very long time.


Truth be told, I started writing novel-length fiction in high school, which was in the—gulp—mid-80s. I wrote a couple of novels after high school, too, but then I took a long break.


So in many ways, my most recent foray into writing novels feels like a brand new endeavor.


Well, not brand new.


I went back to writing fiction in 2009, so it’s been ten years now…


In any case, when I went back to writing fiction in 2009, I wrote feverishly for months. I had a lot to say, I guess. I wrote literally hundreds of thousands of words.


And then… I stopped.


For a long time.


It was touch and go for a while. Sometimes I would write a lot in a short period. Other times I would go months without a word. I did manage to publish one novel, and then another, eventually, but I never really got into a good rhythm for producing the words and getting things edited and published.


Until this year.


This year, starting this summer, I put novel-writing back in a place of priority.


Whenever I sit down at my computer to start my writing day, the first thing I do is crank out 1,000 words of fiction.


Before client work.


Before working on my business.


Before answering e-mails or messages (okay, before answering MOST e-mails or messages).


What does that do for me?

  • It wakes up my brain: Cranking out 1,000 words before I’ve fully engaged the internal editor helps me get the creative synapses firing.

  • It makes me more productive: Waking up by diving in makes other projects easier to tackle. I get more done in a day when I allow creativity first thing.

  • It fuels a sense of accomplishment: It’s a little bit like working out—I know that if I do nothing else for the rest of the day, at least I’ve done that.

  • It adds words to my novel: Shocking, right? But I started my latest novel on July 8, and right now, it stands at over 95,000 words.

I confess that there have been some missed days. We had a long vacation in August, and I didn’t have many opportunities to write. I think there were a few days in the beginning that I just forgot. And there have been a couple of days that start out crazy and never settle down, and those ones… well, sometimes life happens.


But I've made up the words on following days, and all those daily words add up.


Now, there’s still editing to do—a lot of editing. In fact, there’s a novel on my hard drive that needs editing. But that’s a hurdle for another day. The truth is that getting the first draft out of the way propels you light years toward the finish line. And the only way to get that first draft done?


Make the time.


Your Success Strategy for Avoiding This Mistake: Make a commitment to write a certain number of words every day—500, 1,000 or more. Or commit to working on the book for one or two hours per day. Try to do it first thing in the morning or add it to your morning routine. You will still need to spend time developing, editing, and polishing the book, but just finishing a first draft will go a long way toward getting the book done.


In two weeks, "Mistake #2: Not Spending Time on Structural Development."


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