Big book. 300,000 words to do it right.

Figure a good, rich scene runs 2500-3500 words on average. Say 3000 words for convenience’s sake. That’s 100 full scenes.


First, I need to finish breaking out the issues and interactions and conflicts for each of my themes. Give myself a full 5-day week to work this out.

Then, working from the theme break-out:

  • 100 scene cards and Sentences Lite—figure 20 a day as a GOOD day’s work.

5 days, or one work week.

  • One week of schedule padding. 
5 more days.


300,000 words in 260 work days (12 months, 5-day weeks, 4.3-week month)
1153 words per day.
300,000 words in 130 work days, (6 months, 5-day weeks, 4.3-week month)
2308 words per day.
2500 words per day.
  • Acknowledge that even if I can find people to hire to cover all the other stuff that I need to have done so that I can focus on writing, I’m going to have to spend some blocks of time (probably one full week a month) on other commitments—things that ONLY I can do. That’s 30 working days gone over a six-month stretch. I can either add words to the daily count, or accept that I’m going to have to add an extra six weeks to my best-case schedule.

300,000 words in 100 work days, (6 months, 5-day weeks, approx. 3.3-week months)
3000 words per day.
300,000 words in 200 days, (12 months, 5-day weeks, approx. 3.3-week months)
1500 words per day.

  • I’ve done 3000 words/day before without breaking a sweat. Of course, I’ve done it before while driving myself absolutely crazy, too, so there’s no guarantee. But that’s what I’ll figure. 3000 words per day, and figure on a best-case first-draft completion date of November 2nd, 2009, and a WORST-case first-draft completion date of May 3rd, 2010.
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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and indie-publish my new ones.

5 comments… add one
  • hollylisle Apr 21, 2009 @ 10:10

    Hi, Steph,

    This book is the reason that I killed myself for about 8 months writing the Think Sideways course—I had to create a way to pay the bills while I wrote a book that DOESN’T have a publisher, and that may not sell, but that I have to write, and that I want to write completely BEFORE I attempt to sell it. Actually, “C” was the project that drove me to do the course, but then I had the idea for “Dreaming the Dead” and it was even better… So now I have TWO books that I’m writing out of love and mad passion and sheer insanity, and the fervent belief that I’m good enough at this that if I write a book that contains no compromises—that is the flat-out utter best I can do—I’ll find someone who loves it as much as I do and who will publish it.

    It’s a risk. It’s a helluva risk. I’m hoping that writers keep signing up for Think Sideways, because that’s my safety net against having to take a contract, and all the compromises that go with it.

  • steph-osborn Apr 18, 2009 @ 21:26

    Ok I want to know what publisher you’re using for a book with that word count! I have a 240K book that’s the first in a series (it’s that big because it contains the origin story as well as the first adventure) and can’t find a publisher ’cause it’s too LARGE! It struck and I wrote the rough draft (still 215K words) in 2 months, pouring through me. And some say it’s some of my best work yet. I want it out there!

    He’p me! Pwease!

  • BJSteeves Apr 16, 2009 @ 22:04

    Wow! Very ambitious schedule. Following your blogs and writing for more than a few years, I know what you can do when you put your mind to something, and I have seen you do projects like this before.

    I’ll be rooting for you all the way. I can’t wait to read it!

  • TinaK Apr 16, 2009 @ 17:36

    Oh God Holly – I have missed you writing. This is a wonderful post and I wish you luck with finding someone who can help with all the admin stuff so you can get back to the work of writing.

  • vanity Apr 16, 2009 @ 13:58

    3000 words per day… Wow, that is a lot (at least by my standards). I like to do the maths from time to time as well, but it’s quite difficult keeping up with the pace, so perhaps having a worst and a best case to finish somewhere in between is indeed a good idea.

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