Ten Strategies to help us write a whole book.

Rachel’s question raises further questions.  Why would a good writer find it hard to write a full-length work, a book?  Short stories, no problem, novellas, no problem.  A book?  Ah, that will take me three years….

Partly it’s what we tell ourselves, isn’t it?  I’m great at editing, a brilliant short story writer, but a whole book?  Well, I suck at that!  Actually, no, you don’t, because a book by any other name is simply a word count with a couple of zeros on the end.

So, I’ve dreamed up ten strategies to help us write (which means: finish) a whole book – Yes!

  • Stop calling it a book.  Call it a prospectus, an outline, a fairy story, a compilation of our favourite characters’ lives.
  • Just write, for a whole day, and see what you end up with.  Ignore the word count, and focus on the movement of your fingers over the keyboard.  To help with this, don’t think about it, don’t rationalise, don’t answer the phone, and when our significant others ask us what we are doing, we don’t have to reply.  When we do, let us reply with minimal information.  The goal is not to get distracted.
  • Don’t censor.  Editing is one skill, writing is quite another.
  • Fall in love with your characters and write all about them.  Notice how they think, why they might not be very nice, what they might do next.
  • Throw out the plot plan.  The best characters lead the author, who merely has to observe, suspend disbelief and transcribe.  Truly, it is not up to me to force my characters.  It is up to me to observe, listen and record.


  • Don’t judge, correct spelling or worry about inconsistencies. These will all be taken care of later.
  • Don’t think about whether a plot development – which is not yours and which belongs to your characters – is realistic or feasible.
  • Enjoy the feeling of being simply the typist taking dictation.  It is not your story.  You are simply the recording clerk.
  • Don’t print off your work, but do save it every day onto a pen drive, CD or similar.  If you put a lot of time in, your valuable work deserves to be protected from disaster.
  • Allow your characters, scenes and scenarios to unfold, while you float over the whole thing listening, nodding and being generally agreeable.  The secret is to have fun, not save the world.
  • Don’t aim for a particular word count.  I am reliably informed that long books are in vogue, so give full rein to your imagination.
  • Ring fence and respect your desire, not your time.  Keep that flame of enthusiasm bright, and if you are like me, avoid timetables – though you might like to believe that you will set aside two days a week to do nothing but write, it will drive you crazy if those two days never happen.  Instead, write in between doctor’s appointments, while waiting for the plumber, just before you have to take your daughter to her fencing club…..

Thanks for reading.

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