How long should it take to write an article? Or a chapter of your book? Or even a page?
A standard 8-1/2” x 11” page contains approximately 600 typed words with single spacing or 300 words with double spacing. (Word count, of course, depends on font and size.) Blog articles average between 400-600 words, which equal one typed single-spaced page. Chapters vary in length, but book pages usually contain about 300 words. So one single-spaced page would equal two book pages.
Whew! Now that we have the math out of the way, we’re back to the question: How long should it take?
Some writers write quickly. They can fill a page in 30 minutes. Others are slower. It might take them an hour or two. Still others agonize over what to write and how to say it and spend days in misery before they have a final product.
Which way is right?
However your brain works is the right way for you. Slow or fast doesn’t matter. What’s
important is that you write. Writing doesn’t come easily for everyone. Maybe marketing is your passion and you can create marketing campaigns in your sleep. Don’t compare the two.
I can write a blog article fairly quickly, as long as I’m clear on the topic and message. My novel, on the other hand, is more like going to the dentist. Anxiety, worry, uncertainty, avoidance, all come into play. I love my dentist but I’m never sure how the visit will turn out. I love my novel but I’m often unclear what comes next. So I do what I can quickly (blogs) and I take time when I need it (novels).
I took a break from writing today and pulled out my Sudoku game. I’d chosen an Expert level, which I work on in stages, and before I dug in I thought, “It’s been a day since I last looked at this. My eyes are fresh. I bet I’ll see something I didn’t see before.”
The same thing applies to writing. Is your mind alert? Are your eyes rested? If you’re
physically tired you’ll fall asleep in the chair. If you’re mentally tired you won’t know if your words are making sense.
You don’t have to complete your article or chapter in one sitting. Let your creativity flow. When it stops flowing, take a break. Start another activity that rests your mind—walking, reading, doing some chores—then come back to the writing when you’re refreshed. It will make a world of difference! You’ll see things you didn’t see before. Thoughts will flow again.
Once you’re finished, save what you’ve written and walk away. Give yourself a day, or at least a few hours, before your final edit. Let your brain ponder what you’ve written. I
always come up with different ways to phrase an idea or an important piece I forgot to add. Remember, you’re reading for clarity. Pretend you know nothing. Does it all make sense?
To recap, don’t try to write the way someone else does. Do what works for you. Make sure you’re rested. Read for clarity. And take as long as you need.
Now for that Sudoku game. I wonder what I’ll see this time.
Photo by Grafixar, morguefile.com
Welcome to Paris, the city of lovers, horrible coffee, and some of the world’s most impressive art. The story centers around Julien Garnier, a high school student barely getting by in his classes, who yearns to be among the ranks of artists exhibited at the Louvre or the Musée D’Orsay. Alas, his drawings are technically precise at best. But that doesn’t stop his hunger or his appreciation for the masters, particularly a Renoir painting titled The Girl in the Garden. While he starts to fall in love with Clio, the painting’s beautiful blonde, other works of art come to life in mystifying and terrifying ways. And it’s up to Julien to discover why and how to stop the onslaught of decay.
This is the first Daisy Whitney book I’ve read. I was attracted by the gorgeous cover, the romance, and the art. I love the way she depicts the magical aspects of the paintings, how she vividly paints the scenery and people so that they appear before you. I agree that it’s refreshing to have a male character as the lead in a romance, and I also particularly liked weaving in the Muses. Popping in and out of paintings, visiting Monet’s garden, strolling over bridges, kissing under a starry night, all of those excursions seemed perfectly at home and quite romantic.
I did feel that a lot of the description seemed more apt for a female lead. Loose tendrils, cobalt-blue morning light, dreamscape of water, eyes etched in pools of radiant blue. Gorgeous phrases, but do teenage boys think that way? And since Julien IS a teenage boy, I imagine he’d be much less restrained with Clio during their makeout sessions. There were also periods of formality with the dialogue that felt out of place. And I wasn’t sure why she called the book Starry Nights since it’s all about The Girl in the Garden.
Those few negative comments aside, I would recommend the book. It’s a fun romp, a quick read, the descriptions are wonderful, I loved the smartphone in the catacombs, and I seriously want to investigate behind the paintings. Maybe I can call up Julien and ask for a tour.
Goals give your characters something to dream about. Motivation gives them a reason to follow their dreams. And then they live happily ever after. Right?
Absolutely positively NOT.
That house doesn’t just build itself. The wedding doesn’t just materialize with pomp and circumstance. The families aren’t always nice and pleasant. Trouble brews. Emotions get out of hand. Things go awry.
And that, dear writer, is conflict.
In order to have a story worth reading you must have conflict. You need to stir things up. Fine and dandy equals boring. Page-turning books are based on trouble, trouble, and more trouble.
Outer conflict shows up as an obstacle or obstacles that get in the way of the goal. That house the hero plans to build for his wife is a lovely idea, but issues plague him from the start. The contractor comes down with the flu and can’t manage the job. The hero finds a replacement contractor who seems dependable but turns out uncaring. The crew arrives late and leaves early. The work is slipshod. And the contractor demands more money. Then the families decide to have a say. The hero’s mother pushes him for a showdown with the contractor, and if he won’t do it she will. The heroine’s dad starts showing up on site and giving the hero and the contractor advice, which aggravates the situation. Work comes to a halt.
The hero wants to quit. But he’s made a promise to the heroine. And his fear of being a failure, his inner conflict, will come to pass if he doesn’t see this through. So he struggles, daily, with his mental war. Positive: I can do this. I can work out all the problems. I’m educated, I’m logical, I’ll just appeal to everyone’s sense of fairness. Negative: This is crap. Forget all this. Forget everybody. Who cares about getting married? I don’t even love her anymore.
Can you see where this is going?
Conflict keeps the pages turning. Conflict keeps your readers guessing. They wonder, “How bad is it going to get?” So the question that you keep asking is, “How can I make it worse?”
The trick to a good story is to weave the GMC (Goal, Motivation, Conflict) throughout your book. You don’t start with the goal, then switch to motivation, then focus on conflict. They weave together. They dance with each other. The hero finds a good contractor to start and things look good. Then the contractor gets the flu. Not so good. The hero digs inside for motivation and finds a replacement contractor. Things are looking good again. Then he finds out the new contractor is a jerk. Not so good. And so on.
Filling out the chart with your main characters and their GMC gives you the strategy for your book. [See the prior articles on Goals and Motivation.] With all that information you know your characters strengths and weaknesses. You know how to build them up and take them down. You know how to make them succeed and how to fail. You’ve become the master storyteller.
Photos by hotblack, Jusben, kakisky, morguefile.com
I’m an ardent reader of Jodi Picoult and I have been since I first read My Sister’s Keeper. I’ve slowly made my way through her repertoire over the years. There are still a few I’ve missed, but I am catching up. And I know I’ll be as disappointed as her many fans when I’ve read them all and have to wait for the next one. As a writer, I have a love-hate relationship with her. She’s so good I feel I’ll never measure up. And she’s so good that I’m constantly
learning new ways to hone my craft.
My latest read was House Rules, the story of a teenager with Asperger’s who gets caught up in an unexpected murder and can’t find his way out. I wonder at Ms. Picoult’s proclivity for dealing with legal issues, for all (or most) of her books eventually weave in the law. But it does make for interesting reading, especially when penned by such a clever hand.
Jacob, the teenager with Asperger’s, is obsessed with forensic analysis. He watches his favorite crime show every day at 4:30 p.m., takes detailed notes, and even constructs crime scenes in the house. I don’t have children but I remember how trying my younger brother could be. I can’t imagine a mother dealing with Asperger’s or in-house crime scenes, but combining the two must be utter hell. Ms. Picoult’s attention to detail—clearly painting the character’s thoughts and emotions, drawing us into their worlds—is phenomenal. I felt like I lived with Jacob and his younger brother. I could see him stimming (flapping his hands or beating his fingers on his legs). I anticipated his next crime analysis. I wanted to yell at the people who didn’t know or understand him better and tell them to just lay off. Those are the signs of an expert writer.
I did have a little trouble near the end of the story. A scene between Jacob and his mother and a question and answer at the trial didn’t ring true to how the characters had been portrayed. I felt they wouldn’t have said what they did. [If anyone wants more specifics, let me know. I don’t want to spoil it for the rest.]
If you haven’t read House Rules, I highly recommend it. The information that you’ll gain about Asperger’s is life-changing, even if you don’t know someone affected by it. I’m always a little wary about her subject matter—murder, kidnapping, missing children, etc.—but Ms. Picoult doesn’t emphasize the gore or the violence. She’s more interested in the emotional impact on her characters and how it affects their relationships. And since I’m fascinated by relationships and why we choose to do what we do, her books are perfect for me.
Lastly, my favorite line from the book: it’s about the name Frank and adverbs. You’ll know it when you read it.
By Vanessa Lowry
The smartest companies focus on content marketing as a way to engage customers and to attract potential customers. Entreprenuer.com describes content marketing as, “the creation and publication of original content -- including blog posts, case studies, white papers, videos and photos -- for the purpose of generating leads, enhancing a brand's visibility, and putting the company's subject matter expertise on display.” Marketing guru Seth Godin says, “Content marketing is the only marketing left.”
So, how can your published book fuel content marketing for your business? Here are 9 ways:
1. Create a Powerpoint presentation highlighting key messages from your book and post it on SlideShare. Have your book designer create a master slide background featuring your book cover and your website url.
2. Create “shareable quote” photo graphics using the cover of your book and short quotes pulled from its content. (From your Powerpoint presentation, you can export the slides as “pictures” to post as individual jpgs on your social media sites.)
3. Post photos! Here are just a few examples of photos you can share:
• Opening the box with the first printed copies of your book
• Book signing events: The signage announcing your book signing; a shot of you at the signing table; reading to the group from your book; a close-up on your hand with pen and a stack of books
• Speaking gigs: Have someone take a photo of you at the podium during your presentation; with you signing a book at the back of the room; with you gifting a copy of the book to the organization leader or the speaker coordinator
• A screen shot of your book on Amazon
• A photo of the cover of your e-book showing on a Kindle, iPad, Nook or other tablet
• Have readers send in a photo where they are holding your book
4. Create a free sample chapter pdf
and build your email list by requesting an email address prior to download. I created this type of pdf for Wendy Ellin. Download it here. http://wendyellin.com/enoughisenoughbook/
5. Create a free 30-second Animoto book trailer
directing potential clients to your website book page. Read this article where I explain how to do it and include links to two sample videos. http://www.wordsofpassion.com/1/post/2013/04/create-a-30-second-video-to-promote-your-book.html
6. Ask a Quora question that relates to your book content
. Respond to all who post an answer and share the link on your social media pages.
7. Develop a 20-minute talk related to your book’s content
, along with a handout that includes your website and book information. Contact business and civic groups like Rotary, Kiwanis, and associations related to your industry and offer to speak on this subject. (Most of these groups don’t pay speakers, but will allow you to sell your books at the back of the room.) http://connect4leverage.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/improv-handout.pdf
Create a blog post listing five (or ten) books that compliment the topic of your book. Have your book listed in your blog post as a resource related to the topic. See how Jeff Bullas did just that with a list of ten books that inspire him and a plug for his book at the end. http://www.jeffbullas.com/2013/02/15/10-books-that-inspired-me/
9. Give interviews
. Use your book to open the doors to interviews. The popular BlogTalkRadio.com site has shows listed by category and subtopics. You might also check the listing of shows on Empower Radio (empoweradio.com), BusinessRadioX.com, and VoiceAmerica.com. Listen to a few archived shows before reaching out to the show host. Be prepared to tell them why your topic will be
of interest to their listeners and what qualifies you as THE expert to be interviewed. If possible, send a copy of your book to the host in advance of your interview. You’ll be able to promote the show prior to the interview and also share the show archive on your social media sites after your
With all of the social media sites, there are many options for where and what to share. For small businesses or authors with limited resources, let your enthusiasm be your guide. Focus on the sites and shares that are the most fun for you. Post a variety of links, images, and quotes; interact with those who comment; measure results; and enjoy the process.Vanessa Lowry is a marketing consultant, graphic designer, author, radio host and speaker. She leverages nearly 30 years of design and marketing expertise to support book authors who are self-publishing. Her four collaborative books are: 30 Days of Gratitude; Improv to Improve Your Business; Publishing as a Marketing Strategy and The 28-Day Thought Diet. Find more articles and radio podcasts on marketing and promotion at www.connect4leverage.com.
@VanessaLowry or Facebook.com/Vanessa.Lowry
Your characters need goals to keep the plot interesting. If they have nothing concrete to strive for, if their emotional journey is as bland as oatmeal, then what’s the point of the story? Goals give them a reason to dream. The hero wants to build the heroine her dream house. He wants her to be happy (his dream) and he’s going to be the one to provide what she wants. That’s the stuff of romance.
But what makes him go after the dream? What gives him the courage? What makes him think he can complete it? Know that it’s worthwhile?
The answer is motivation
. (This is the second part of the GMC chart.)
We’ve all heard of get-rich-quick schemes. Winning the lottery. Investing in that perfect property. Inventing the next high-tech gadget or discovering the fountain of youth. We yearn for the easy life. We just want to kick back and lie by the pool or watch TV and have the money pour in.
But how many of us actually get rich quickly? Not many. Most of us have to work hard for our money. We can’t wait around for things to happen, we have to make
them happen. I write because I want to share my message, to help other people share theirs. If I did nothing, people wouldn’t know that I can help them.
The hero in your story has to pursue his goal. His outer motivation
(external forces) comes from the heroine. She’s wanted that dream house since she was a little girl. She doesn’t care how long it takes and she won’t marry him until the house is finished. Maybe his mother wants grandchildren and is pushing him to get married.
The inner motivation
(emotions) is about how he came to be the person he is. What are the emotions that run his behavior? Maybe he’s a perfectionist and he constantly criticizes everyone he works with. He could feel insecure about dealing with such a large project or covering his insecurity by acting superior to others.
Behavior affects not only the person in question but everybody around him. If he’s weak and unsure, the heroine could pick on him, nag at him, walk over him. If he’s a people pleaser he’ll do everything in his power to satisfy everyone but himself. And he’ll feel guilty or angry with himself because of it.
Without motivation, the goals will never be achieved. With motivation, the path to the goals becomes a fascinating journey.
Please visit the Book Editing
page at Words of Passion for a more in-depth look at story structure. Photo credit: ssg, PhotoExpress.com
When I started writing I thought romance novels were just about the love. Guy meets girl, guy gets girl, guy loses girl, guy solves problems and gets girl again and they both live happily ever after. End of story. What more could you want?
There’s more to life than romance. Of course people want to fall in love, be in love, stay in love. But flesh and blood people also have families. They have friends, careers, and hobbies. They get hurt and they bleed, they laugh and they cry. And all because they have dreams. A husband wants to give his wife and kids a good life. A young woman wants to be a dancer. A skinny kid who’s
pretty good at basketball hopes he’ll be the next Michael Jordan.
Those dreams are your characters’ goals. The things they’re pursuing in your story. They have to matter. It’s not enough for your hero to have a hankering for a candy bar. The goal needs to be something big. Something important. Something worth fighting for, worth getting emotional about.
There are two kinds of goals
: outer goals
and inner goals
. (These are part of the GMC – Goal, Motivation, and Conflict.) Outer goals are concrete, like having your hero build the girl a dream house before they can get married. Inner goals are what your character needs (on an emotional level). Does he need love? Does he need to feel good enough? Does he need his father’s respect?
Ask yourself the following questions:
1. How much effort does the goal require?
A candy bar takes a walk or drive to the store. Not much effort. Building a house takes hard labor, buying the materials, drawing up the designs, hiring people to do the labor, etc. Can your hero handle this?
2. How much time will it take?
If the store is close by, the candy bar is a quick purchase. Not much to write about. The house project can take months, maybe even a year. Will your hero sail through the process or will he crack?
3. How many people are involved?
The candy bar involves one person going to the store and perhaps a cashier at the checkout counter. The house building involves your main character, family, the architect, homeowner’s asso-ciation, the people at the various materials’ companies (tiles, flooring, lighting, appliances), the contractor. Can your hero deal with different personalities? Does he get frustrated easily?
These goals and questions apply to most types of stories. The more invested your characters are in their goals, the more interesting the story and the higher the stakes. One major rule to remember is that when the goals are reached the story is over. So don’t let your characters reach their goals too soon.
What are your characters’ goals? Are they worthy?
[Photo credit: dancerinthedark, morgueFile.com]
When I look at the title of this book the song “Born To Be Wild” comes to mind. I’ve always liked the music but I never identified with the lyrics. I’m not a wild child. In my high school yearbook my friends wrote “stay as sweet as you are.” I didn’t smoke pot or take LSD, I tried cigarettes in college but I didn’t like the taste of smoke and I couldn’t light matches, and I have had a few drinks over the years but I don’t like alcohol enough to get drunk.
Cheryl lost her mother at an early age and spiraled into a hellish existence because of that. Losing what she loved, what she knew, what she depended on made her a little crazy. Most of us can relate to that. Our lives are made up of routine and habit. We don’t deal well with change, even when we choose it. So when tragic circumstances are forced upon us, we resist, we rebel, and sometimes
we go haywire.
But deep inside her the wish to be at peace led her to a miracle in the making: hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). It didn’t matter that she had no hiking experience or that the trail is over 2000 miles or that she planned to do it alone. [I know from my own experience that sometimes it’s better not to know what you’re getting into.] But as I turned the pages and read about her journey, both mental and physical, I found myself thinking no way, no way, no way would I hike the trail and I wondered how the hell she did it. My excuse is that I’m tall and thin and not athletic at all. I hate camping, I whine when my backpack weighs more than 10 pounds, and my body hurts even when I’m just sitting around. What kind of fool would attempt to hike the PCT for 3 months through all kinds of weather? Not I. But then again, I didn’t lose my mother when I was 22.
The intimate tone of Cheryl’s writing pulls you into her journey, through the grit and the pain, over desert and stony paths, through the rain and the muck, across snow-covered slides, up into the mountains and down into the valleys. You feel the agony of blisters and thirst and raw, bleeding skin. You see the beauty of fresh snow and pristine lakes and the ruffled fur of a fox. You ache as she hurts. You rejoice when she sees with new eyes. As Lance Armstrong wrote in his book, it’s not about the bike, and for Cheryl, it’s not just about the hiking. Putting one foot in front of another gave her the opportunity to push past her endurance levels, to test her body and her mind, and to give her heart a place to grow and expand and forgive.
I admired her fortitude, her determination, her drive to complete her goal. The PCT is not for the faint-hearted, and even experienced hikers have given up. I admired her for continuing even with extreme pain. I admired her for expressing her emotions as she hiked, for getting in touch with the truth of her feelings. I want to do that, but I’m often unwilling to get down and dirty with myself. I also greatly admired her writing. You will keep turning the pages. You won’t be able to put this down. And you will be the better for reading it.
[P.S. – A dear friend gave me this book last year and I don’t remember who it was. So if you read this, give me a shout so I can thank you, again.]
Picture courtesy of hotblack, morgueFile.com
Stephen Covey, author of the incredibly popular leadership and time management “bible,” The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
, made famous the saying, “Begin with the end in mind.” And that, my friend, is what you must do when writing your book: begin with the end in mind.
Whether yours is a book about how to start a daycare center, a memoir recounting your years living in Beijing, or a spiritual guide through the practice of yoga, taking the time at the start of your writing journey to consider how you might wrap up your fantastic story will become one of the biggest favors you’ve ever done for yourself. I coach my clients and students to develop three logical endings to their books; three possible ways to wrap up the
content they’ve outlined in my super simple outlining system that I teach (it totally works for any kind of book and authors LOVE it!). As the content of the book unfolds, inevitably one of those three endings will become the obvious choice. Oh sure, most authors wind up making some adjustments to the initial description, but always, as the writing progresses, it leads to one of the endings, making wrapping up the book a much simpler and enjoyable experience.
So then, the obvious question is how to develop the three endings. Here are a few to consider depending on your book’s genre. Using your creativity, you might be able to apply endings across genres, so stay open to possibilities:Memoir and Autobiography
1. list of lessons learned
2. how it all changed you
3. reunion with someone mentioned earlier in the book
4. twist of fate
5. birth (because after all, death can be a downer!How-To and Self-Help
6. recount the main points
7. application of the main points
8. success story of you, a client/customer or a celebrity
9. poll or survey results
10. case study or in-depth testimonial Novel
11. reveal the hidden character (murderer, benefactor)
12. girl gets guy or vice versa (it’s overdone, but still wildly popular)
13. suspicion (leave readers hanging; allow them to decide what happens next or whodunnit; great way to make room for a sequel)
14. return of a character assumed lost, dead or otherwise removed
15. destruction, death, loss or termination Spiritual and Motivational
16. how the insight or revelation can be applied
17. examples of popular/famous missed opportunities
18. results of others who have used the methods described in your book
19. potential outcomes of not doing what’s taught
20. why and how you continue to practice the principles mentioned in your book
Select three possible endings for your book. Describe them in as much detail as you can; this should take about a page or two each. Then, set them aside as you craft the content for your book. These endings will become a welcome support when you encounter writer’s block. Read through each ending and take the time to determine if your writing thus far is leading you in one specific direction or if what you’ve written has taken you completely off track.
Trust the process and have fun with it! How will you know when/how to wrap up your book?
Anita Paul, known as The Author's Midwife, coaches aspiring authors to write a phenomenal book and helps current authors use their existing books to leverage their business. She is the author of Write Your Life: Create Your Ideal Life and the Book You've Been Wanting to Write
, and is the creator of the Write Your Life
program, through which she has created a dynamic system to Write Your Book in 90 Days or Less
. She has owned The Write
Image for 15 years, and has had her freelance articles featured in over 25 publications in the U.S. and Canada. Anita is also the host of "Book Your
Nouns and pronouns need agreement in writing. Single nouns go with single pronouns. Plural nouns go with plural pronouns. Here are examples of correct agreement and incorrect agreement.
loves to read. She
reads at least one book a week. [Your mother (one mother)—single noun. She—single pronoun.]
loves to read. They
read at least one book a week. [Your mother (one mother)—single noun. They (more than one)—plural pronoun.]
The incorrect agreement example may seem a bit silly. Or too obvious. No one would do that, right? Well, the next example dropped into my inbox this morning.
doesn’t care about you. They
care about their problem
want to know if you can solve it
There are several errors in the last sentence.
1. Your customer
is a single noun—one person. So the second sentence should begin with a single pronoun like he
is a plural pronoun and doesn’t agree.
2. Their problem
compounds the issue. The single pronoun should continue but doesn’t. Their
is a plural pronoun (more than one person). And since their
is plural, problem
should also be plural (problems).
3. The second they
works with the first They
, but neither of them agree with the first sentence.
(in the last part of the sentence) agrees with problem
, but neither of them agree with They
The correct way to write those sentences is as follows:
doesn’t really care about you. He
cares about himself
and his problem
wants to know if you can solve it
." [You could substitute she/her for he/him.]
When you’re talking to your clients or customers, you want to get personal. Using “you” and “your” makes more of an emotional attachment with your readers. But how do you avoid the “he/she, him/her” sticky mess?
The easy answer is to use plural nouns. Begin with your customers
and follow with their
. (Your readers assume you have more than one customer. And if you don’t, just pretend.) Make sure the subsequent nouns and verbs agree.
"Your customers don’t care about you. They care about their problems, and they want to know if you can solve them."
Don’t despair if you’re not good at grammar. Not everyone is. Words of Passion offers coaching on specific grammar issues to get your writing where you want it to be. Drop me a line at email@example.com
or call 770.623.8303 to schedule a consultation.