How can I write more?

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Photo by Raphael Schaller on Unsplash

Dear Julie,

Even when I put a full day of writing in, I only ever seem to be able to get a max of 1000 words down. Do you have any advice for upping my daily word count?

Adrienne

Dear Adrienne,

Eat more chocolate.

Love,

Julie x

…No, wait. That is BAD ADVICE. Let me start again:

Dear Adrienne,

For word-oriented people, writers seem obsessed with numbers! We compare ourselves to each other all the time. We look at how many words others write per day, how many books others sell, how many books others have written, how many hours a day other writers work, how long it takes other writers to write a book, how many pages other writers’ chapters have, how many words are in other writers’ books, how many main characters other writers…


How do I keep writing when it’s hard?

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Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

Dear Julie,

Sometimes when I’m writing it’s so easy and fun and fluid. Other times, every sentence written feels like having a tooth pulled. How can I get through those difficult times when writing feels unnatural and chore-like? Especially when I’m working to a deadline and don’t have the option to step away for too long!

RM

Dear RM,

OH, ME TOO. Isn’t it awful? Here is a list of fourteen things that might help you. Your mileage may vary.

1) Chocolate.

2) Booze and/or caffeine and/or petting a friendly animal.

3) The Pomodoro technique: set a timer for a short-ish amount of time — say ten or fifteen minutes. Promise yourself that you will write for that entire time, and then afterwards, you will give yourself a five-minute break, also timed. Then start again. The marvel that is Kate Harrison taught me this technique and it really works. …


How do you find your distinctive writing voice?

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Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

Dear Julie,

I’ve been writing a novel for about a year with a few stops and starts and I’m nearing the end (finally!). Reading back through, I feel as though the voice and tone changes as the story progresses. Perhaps this is because of what I was reading at the time of writing certain chapters or maybe it has more to do with my style improving during those weeks and months when I was able to write with more regularity. Is this something all authors deal with when they’re writing over a long period of time? In some parts, there are whole perfect chapters, which read as though a stranger wrote them, whereas in other places I’m mortified at how stunted and awkward things seem. …


Between finishing a manuscript and getting feedback

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My desk, mid-edit.

As always, I celebrated too early.

I had champagne when I finished the first draft of my manuscript. Then, I edited it, and when I was finished, I sent off the manuscript to my agent and I had some champagne. This was last Thursday. She told me she would read it as soon as possible.

Friday, I waited. It was a bank holiday. I reasoned that my agent wouldn’t be working so I shouldn’t be anxious. I was anxious anyway.

Saturday, I waited. I knew it was unreasonable to expect that my agent would be working on the weekend. Everyone deserves the weekend off. I shouldn’t expect to hear from her until, say, Tuesday earliest. …


Does it ever get any easier to write?

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Photo by Tonik on Unsplash

Dear Julie,

How do you get over that feeling of not being good enough when you’re writing? I love writing, but I have so much self-doubt. Does every author go through this or is it a sign that it’s not meant to be?

Linda

(Warning: the following answer makes copious use of all caps.)

Dear Linda,

Here’s the real answer: YOU DON’T EVER GET OVER IT.

I have never, ever, EVER met a successful author who feels that they are good enough. There may be some out there, but I haven’t met them yet. When a group of authors get together, if the coffee or wine is flowing, sooner or later they are going to start talking about how rubbish they are, how their book is going badly, how they don’t think anyone cares, how it used to be easy but now it’s not, how they’re pretty sure all the negative reviews are true and that they really might as well give up…


Editing, and how I feel about editing

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My desk right now.

I didn’t write my novel-writing diary last week because I was too busy editing. I’m still too busy editing, but this week I realise that it will probably be helpful to talk about how I edit, and how I’m feeling as I edit, because it might help other authors find useful tips, and reassurance that they are not, in fact, necessarily wrong for feeling bad.

How I edit

My rough finished manuscript was about 85,000 words. Ideally I would like the finished draft to be 90–95,000 words, but I know that I usually under-write and so more words generally get added in subsequent drafts. My editor almost always asks me to add more. I do work with a lot of writers who over-write and who have to spend a lot of time cutting in revisions, so I know from experience that it works both ways and it’s rarely worth panicking if your word count in a rough draft is too short or too long. …


How long should my book be?

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Photo by Diane Alkier on Unsplash

Dear Julie,

I need help with length and structure! How many words should my manuscript be? It’s a women’s fiction book with a dash of romance. How many words should I be aiming for total? How many words per chapter? How many chapters? So many questions!

Sarah

Dear Sarah,

The answer to so many writing questions is so often ‘Well, it depends.’ It’s nice to have a question with a definite answer, for once.

Well, almost definite.

The length of most mainstream print-published women’s commercial fiction novels is between 80,000 and 100,000 words. Occasionally you might see a longer one; very rarely a shorter. Historical novels tend to be on the long side and romcoms tend to be on the short side. If you aim for about 90,000 words you won’t go far wrong, and you’ll have room to expand or cut, as is necessary. …


How do I avoid being boring online?

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Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

Dear Julie,

You are a great author to follow on social media. I’ve been trying to use Twitter and Facebook more as an author, but I’m always doubting myself and never know what to post, so my feed comes across as dull and impersonal. How can I make my posts more interesting and personal to help readers get to know me?

Judith

Dear Judith,

Thank you so much! I’m glad you enjoy following me on social media.

A lot of authors are told that social media is absolutely essential for reaching readers, but you know, I am not sure this is true. …


How do I know when my work is as good as it can be?

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Photo by Mark Fletcher-Brown on Unsplash

Dear Julie,

I have completed four books. I know the earlier ones were good ideas but badly executed.

Now I am going back to the fourth one in order to practise my editing skills.

My question is: How will I know when it really is as good as I can get it? I know I have been guilty of doing what all writers do—sending something out too early and wasting everyone’s time!

I have culled adverbs, removed adjectives, done all the things most often suggested in the editing process. …

About

Julie Cohen

I’m a Sunday Times bestselling novelist and creative writing consultant. My latest novel is SPIRITED. Twitter: @julie_cohen

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