Thursday, May 31
It's Not Just About the Numbers: How Many Books Can You Write in a Year?
There's been a lot of insightful and interesting posts on how many books a writer can/should/needs to write in a year. It's certainly something to think about, since ebooks are shortening the amount of time it takes a book to release, and the more indie authors out there, the more accustomed to fast releases a reader will be.
It used to be that one book a year was normal for an author. Now we have authors like Matt Forbeck doing his 12 in '12 challenge and Elizabeth S. Craig writing three to four a year. Tonya Kappes asks if one book a year is slacking, and Roz Morris discusses why one book a year suits hardly anyone. In the middle of all this, there's some peace from Jody Hedlund who says how finishing a novel is a miracle in itself. I think it's awesome they can do this. However...
I read these articles and I'm filled with one part inspiration and one part desperation. How can I keep up? Should I keep up? What's an author to do?
First, step back and breathe. There will always be those who write faster than you, same as those who write slower. Writing is not a competition.
Then figure out what you're actually capable of doing. Which isn't as easy as it seems.
I write about 1500 words a day (in the mornings) on most days. Not a huge word count by some standards. I write five days a week, so that leaves me with 7500 words a week. Let's be even more generous and say I only get 1000 words a day done, and 5000 words per week. Four weeks a month, 20,000 words per month, 60,000 words in three months, which equals a first draft for my market (young adult/middle grade).
By those basic numbers, I could essentially write four books a year. Even more if I'm writing for the younger end of middle grade, which is in the 20,000 to 30,000 word range.
Sounds perfectly doable, right?
I've never written a polished draft in three months, so that's out. Let's say I aim for two books a year. Write it in three months, revise and polish for three months. Six months, twice a year seems absolutely feasible with this math.
Again, it never works out this way. (I've tried) Books don't write as quickly as I planned and I spend more time revising than I expected. And then I feel bad because I can't do what my math says I should be able to do, especially when I keep hearing how much faster I ought to be writing.
It can make a writer crazy.
It makes me crazy.
I'd love to make the math work, but I also know it's not all about the numbers. Not every writer is the same or has the same process, let along the same ability to write. Authors with no day jobs who have been writing for years might have a better routine and more time to put it to use. Authors with kids and jobs and families might not have the time or the stamina to put out multiple books. And some books just take longer to write for a myriad of reasons, same as some take less time.
I know how this push to publish more makes me feel, so I can only imagine how it makes someone still trying to get published feel. It's hard enough without this added pressure.
But I hope it helps to hear you're not alone in this.
As for me, I'm doing my best not to let it bother me (too much). I'm trying to let it inspire me to be more productive and make the most of my writing time to get the books I want to write out there. I'm trying not to let it make me want to curl in a ball and feel that I'm not getting anywhere in my career. That I'm not good enough if I can't write multiple books a year. I'm reminding myself that the roughly 260,000 words a year I write for this blog counts for something, too.
And yes, it's still hard sometimes.
How do you feel about the pressure to publish more, and churn out book after book? Does it scare you? Inspire you? Anger you?