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A Chapter a Day

December 12, 2011

Whatever length of chapters you prefer to read or write, challenging yourself as a writer to accomplish one chapter a day on your novella, novel or non-fiction book is manageable. Truly. Even if you start off with pretty short chapters, as in less than a thousand words, think of them as a beginning. You can just write a page-length chapter a day to get yourself started. Any page length. On a really bad writing day, maybe just write down the basic sketchy idea for the chapter. While you are knocking down a first draft, your chapters almost assuredly are going to be shorter than their eventual finished lengths anyway. They are more than likely going to grow bigger in rewrites. And, sometimes, a short chapter works. Short or long, it depends on the chapter. And your chapter lengths can vary according to the needs of the book. So, just commit to writing a chapter of any size each day.

Look at it this way. If you write an average of one thousand word chapters, and you write a chapter a day for thirty days, you will have thirty thousand words down for your draft. To start with, that’s a nice novella size and a respectable little non-fiction book size too. If you write more like two thousand word chapters each day, at the end of thirty days, you will have sixty thousand words towards your book. You are closer to novel or typical book territory now. But, don’t worry if you only write a few hundred word chapters to start with.

In your rewrites, overall, your chapters will grow longer and therefore your book will grow as well. Yes, you will be cutting words and therefore word-count. But, as you think of more to say on any given little subject, and as you think of better ways to say something you already said but you cut, your word-count will grow. At least it always does for me. Always. Of late, my typical novel draft runs at about sixty to seventy thousand words, and in a typical few rewrites, that manuscript length will grow to seventy-five or eighty thousand words, even when I’m trying to cut and tighten it up. I always find more that I have to say. And I’m always surprised how the novel grows.

So, as a writer, if you want to finish writing a book, start with a chapter a day.

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