Another Update on the Book

The status of my book is as follows: as of this morning I have written 80,000 words in chronological order from the start, checked over at least once. The first half of those are in sufficient state to be put in front of an editor; the other half probably could as well at a push.

I reckon the final word count will be between 90,000-95,000 words, leaving me with 10,000-15,000 to go: the ending. Of those I have written somewhere around 5,000 in first-draft form, meaning I have about 10,000 to write from scratch. I know what I’m going to write, I just need to work out the structure of the ending such that it balances both within itself and the rest of the book. The way things are looking it will be 12 chapters plus an epilogue.

Once I have finished writing the ending I will go back over the second half that I’ve not properly scrutinised, and then print the whole thing out and go back over it again with a red pen making adjustments and improvements where I think they’re needed and trying to spot any mistakes or overused phrases. I’m hoping all of that will be done sometime around June or July.

Then I’ll need to get it in front of an editor. My aim is to get an edited, fully-formatted version out there ready for marketing by September: that will be a year from when I first started. Then I suspect the real effort will begin…

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15 thoughts on “Another Update on the Book

  1. Good work, sir. As Robert Heinlein said, you have to finish what you start writing and then publish it, so you are well on your way.

  2. “I reckon the final word count will be between 90,000-95,000 words, leaving me with 10,000-15,000 to go”

    Ha! When I had written 30,000 words of my own long-form story I thought I was halfway. By the time it reached 200,000 words, I was just trying to get the thing finished. It eventually weighed in at 235,000. But good luck and hopefully you have better discipline than I have.

  3. Hi,
    The advice on creative writing is to write as much as you need; your editing process should then cull 10% of what you have written.
    As a self-publishing author, I can only suggest that the editing process is scrupulous ahead of sending it to a publisher–they are looking for reasons to reject rather than accept a book, it is that competitive.
    Get others to read it (for fun), as I do and gauge their overall view of the work. If they do struggle to read it, as some have with what I have written (OK, it may not be their genre), then you need to work it over.
    Another tip is to leave it aside and work on something else before returning to the piece for editing and try to read it as you would someone else’s work.

    Interestingly, your approach to writing seems to mirror mine: a premise and a conclusion and some idea of what goes between but then you set to and it falls into place (with considerable effort). Well done on where you are–with what you have to do, the first (and most painful effort) is over. I have two unfinished novels sitting around awaiting my return to them because I stopped working on them–so just keep going, forget reworking until you finish.

  4. But good luck and hopefully you have better discipline than I have.

    I’ve certainly tried! Thanks!

  5. As a self-publishing author, I can only suggest that the editing process is scrupulous ahead of sending it to a publisher–they are looking for reasons to reject rather than accept a book, it is that competitive.

    Ah, I’m intending to self-publish. I have thought about it and I reckon the only added value a publisher can bring is in marketing, which *might* result in greater sales. From what I have read about traditional publishers they seem like a nightmare. My book doesn’t fit into one of the pigeon-holes they demand: it’s realistic, romantic fiction written from a man’s perspective and takes a swipe at third-wave feminism and how it has corrupted a vulnerable young women. I can’t see the oh-so-modern women who dominate publishing houses these days signing off on that.

    Also, I read they treat you like shit: they assign an editor who is somebody’s relative who doesn’t know what they’re doing, and they will drop you like a stone if your book doesn’t fly off the shelves on the first day. I reckon my efforts would be better put into marketing the book myself (and keeping a greater share of the revenue) than trying to get a traditional publisher to pick it up.

    My ideal scenario is I self-publish, it gets some traction, and a publisher comes knocking (as what happened with The Martian). That puts the author firmly in the driving seat. Of course, that’s my ideal scenario: the reality is likely that I’ll shift some copies in low numbers and that’s about it. But it’s worth a try, sort of a personal ambition sort of thing.

  6. An aside on self-publishing: I am all in favour of it as (I have discussed this with you before, Mr Tim) but a few months ago I came across a lady selling her self-published book at a cosy, it-has-a-cafe bookstore stocked with mostly second hand books. But this woman, newly retired from nursing, had written a book of her early days. As this possibly mirrors the public’s general love of medical dramas she must have felt the market was good. She was selling her book for eight quid and, er, it was somewhat slim.

    In the spirit of encouraging such ventures I bought one for my wife to read — not my cup of tea; I am still ploughing through the Sci-Fi series that prompted the Netflix series ‘The Expanse’ — and stood chatting to the ex-nurse. She had, in forty minutes sold two books and at that rate her four hour ‘shift’ would bring in a nice sum of nearly £100, less printing costs of course. Still, a reasonable haul for a Sunday afternoon’s standing around.

    But, she did say to me that her book had mistakes in it and she was going to correct them and print a ‘second edition’ as it were. And my goodness, was she right: there were typos on every page. I am not sure she understood that proof-reading on screen is hard (if she even tried that) and in a way it made the whole venture a bit pointless. My wife was irritated by not only the spelling errors but also that the woman had set the hyphenation to being less than six letters which made some horrible short words on two lines. There were also numerous paragraph ‘widows and orphans’ which when you know they shouldn’t be there, really make the reader want to stop reading.

    Yes, leading and word spacing can be not only your friend, but give a book the impression that someone cared.

  7. Out of interest- why a word target of 90-95k? All my stuff has never been written with much of an eye on word count- and surely the rise of the ebook makes counts even less relevant?

    The first thing I wrote ended up at 145k pre edit, the second 200k plus and the third looks like ending up somewhere between 110-140, depending where I go with the ending section.

    The second book, I’ve put to one side as I am aware it has structural issues and some killing of darlings is required, but i cannot see it ending up any more than 160k.

    All this tells me is that writers have their own length and pace they tend to fall into- are you sure yours is 90 odd thousand words?

  8. Out of interest- why a word target of 90-95k? All my stuff has never been written with much of an eye on word count- and surely the rise of the ebook makes counts even less relevant?

    From several guidelines I read on the internet.

    My guess was that people will give the first three chapters (about 25%) of an unknown author’s work a go, after which they’ll decide whether to finish it or not. If they are wavering, unsure about where the story is going or whether they like the style, they’ll probably push through the remainder – but only if the book is a “normal” length. Asking somebody who is not familiar with your work and to whom you have no been highly recommended to plough through 120k+ words is a big ask IMO. Once they know and like you, things are different.

    What is extremely important for me is that people finish the book and think they’ve had value for money. The guidelines I read put it as:

    Below 70k – too short, not value for money
    80-90k – perfect
    90-100k – safe enough
    100k-110k – editors likely will ask you to trim it
    Above 110k – too long

    This seems reasonable to me: I’ve ditched books before where the author seemed to lack discipline, keep things moving, and keep things concise.

  9. Yes, leading and word spacing can be not only your friend, but give a book the impression that someone cared.

    Absolutely. I take this deadly seriously with my day-job. Hopefully the same thing is true for this blog too: I’d like to think there aren’t many typos, grammatical errors, and examples of general sloppiness.

  10. @TimN

    Fair enough- and exactly the answer I’d expect from an engineer 😉

    “This seems reasonable to me: I’ve ditched books before where the author seemed to lack discipline, keep things moving, and keep things concise.”

    As a devils advocate- I’d argue that you were finding the style (or editing) of the book deficient, rather than the word count being wrong.

    Nineteen Eighty Four clocks in at 89k, but if you’d held a gun to my head and asked me to guess at the length- I would have put it at 60k- clarity of prose and streamlined plot makes it fly.

    Compare that with Brave New World or the Martian Chronicles at 64k each: both of those were a harder read- and I would have guessed a higher count for both- probably 85k ish.

    For my stuff, I always want to do a rewrite. The 200k beast is sat awaiting my mustering the energy for exactly that. I think I may chop the damn thing in half if I do proper rewrite. Looking at it now, I’m reminded of a couple of plot branches that need to be entirely removed, and there’s a set of scenes near the start (and strangely- your book and this one share some themes) that don’t work and redoing them entirely is probably the best way of resolving the issues I have with them.

    Have you thought about a second draft?

  11. Fair enough- and exactly the answer I’d expect from an engineer

    Ahahaha!

    As a devils advocate- I’d argue that you were finding the style (or editing) of the book deficient, rather than the word count being wrong.

    Quite possibly. There were whole chunks of that blasted Girl With The Dragon Tattoo trilogy that should have been edited out and binned.

    Have you thought about a second draft?

    Nah, I fine tune my stuff, never re-write. One of the skills I think I have is that I can get a very good draft done first time (I never rewrite my blog posts: fine tuning and catching typos only). I can also write pretty quickly.

  12. Ah- if only I had your chops: a rewrite is a must for me.

    I think editing is a talent, rather than a skill: whenever I ‘edit’, I end up either rewriting or I just push words around. In the latter case, I end up with something that is different, not necessarily better.

    I find that a rewrite drops the superfluous stuff, and the story, character and message (if applicable) emerge clearer as a result. I find, in other words, that I end up with a version of the story that does what it needs to do, without superfluous scenes, characters and descriptions.

    Having done this process with two of the three things I’ve produced, I shudder when I look at the first draft and see the missteps…

  13. Ah- if only I had your chops: a rewrite is a must for me.

    I think editing is a talent, rather than a skill: whenever I ‘edit’, I end up either rewriting or I just push words around. In the latter case, I end up with something that is different, not necessarily better.

    I find that a rewrite drops the superfluous stuff, and the story, character and message (if applicable) emerge clearer as a result. I find, in other words, that I end up with a version of the story that does what it needs to do, without superfluous scenes, characters and descriptions.

    Having done this process with two of the three things I’ve produced, I shudder when I look at the first draft and see the missteps…

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