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I am a writer - late developer since I wasn't published until I was 50. I have now written 23 novels, numerous short stories and articles.


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Friday 5 February 2010
Anxiety keeps popping up with the members of my group and I’m not sure why - but it certainly seems to be catching. Perhaps it’s the time of year puts us in the dooms. So, today, it’s shrug off the worries and WRITE! A lot on this list are repeats but since the angst keeps repeating it seems valid to keep covering the subjects. How long should my book be? I wish I had a fiver for the number of times I’ve been asked that. The obvious answer is, “How the hell should I know?” However word count is a constant worry to the members of my group. If a publisher states the size of books they are looking for, then adhere to it, E.G: Little Black Dress require 60 -80,000 and they say strictly so they mean it. Mills and Boon romances require 50,000 Mainstream anywhere from 90,000 to 180,000. The point is if a book is good the length can be sorted out after. I would still suggest you simply write the book. In my experience, I’ve found that a book has a natural length, but, when a it is finished, it is easier to cut than to add. Don’t waste the energy worrying about it. How many words should I do a day? As many as you are comfortable with. There are those who thrive on goals but if you are a worrier then perhaps you should be cautious. If you set yourself a goal what happens if you are tired? The risk is that what you’ve done will be rubbish. And if you’ve set yourself a goal which you have not reached, knowing the angst that a lot of writers suffer from – guilt will creep in. For me, word count shows me where I am in the book, it’s not a competition. How long should a chapter be? The length that your story dictates. There are passages that meander, need space. Others need a shortness perhaps to create tension, conflict, to surprise, to shock. # How often do I use a hook? Should I end a chapter on a hook? Should I start a chapter with a hook? Excuse me but I feel a rant coming on. I don’t understand this obsession with hooks. Is it from TV with the producers conviction that we can only concentrate for five minutes and that like a soap opera we need to end on cliff-hangers? There is nothing wrong if they occur naturally but it is when a hook is contrived that I feel it does the work no favours. What gets overlooked more than anything is that the most powerful, the most genuine, the most important hook of all is a good story, a strong plot, well told. How many viewpoints can I have? Again, it’s up to you. Too many and you make life difficult for yourself, controlling them. I don’t like rules about writing but there is one that if ignored can lead to difficulties - is the character you have chosen for the viewpoint strong enough to sustain a whole novel? And if multiple, can I write each one so that they are distinct one from the other. How many parts should my book have? A similar question was asked on Romna the other day and set up a big debate. It’s another useless worry. When writing a book you are creating your world, your dream, you’re not cooking, there is no magic recipe. All these worries destroy the flow, and worse even than that it destroys the joy which writing should be. And last – write it, finish it, type The End. Then decide if it’s too long, too short, are the chapters complete as they are, is there enough to keep the reader reading, is the viewpoint working, is it better to divide in parts? And ENJOY!


  1. Enjoy???? Gosh that's what's been missing lately :-)

  2. Thank you. It is easy to get too bogged down with all this.

    Right, I'm off to get on and get writing.

  3. For me, if I'm not enjoying what I'm doing then disaster strikes and the words won't come, and there's no sparkle in the ones that do. This is not the same as thinking it's all crap - often it isn't necessarily so - but in this case there's no thinking, it is crap!

  4. Annie, your last point is exactly right. I really do have to enjoy what I'm writing.

    Sometimes it's enjoying it as one does with childbirth, but if it's a struggle every day to write the thing, something needs fixing.

  5. I've only just found your blog, Anita. And I'm glad I have. I've been obsessing about word length but feel a lot more relaxed having read your thoughts on it.

    Now, an afternoon spent enjoying the editing of my last few chapters.

  6. Excellent advice as ever, Anita!

  7. I read so many advice sites, that I almost frightened myself away from my dream. I want to write the book, not panic all the way through. I am now on edit one and have realised I need a new chapter to uplift a weak area. A few months ago this would have freaked me out, now I have learned from folk like yourself, and am taking it in my stride.