I’m about to let you in on a secret that will help you write that book that’s been dying to get out. The best part is, you can do it without having an existential crisis.
It’s been too long since I’ve posted anything about writing in the trenches in this genre I love so much. Back when I was locking myself away in my room, tapping out words and getting nothing but rejection or worse, silence, I never dreamed I’d be in the position I’m in today. Sure, I did it with the goal of legitimate publication (whatever your own definition of that may be), but I just never thought I’d have a year like this one with three books coming out and writing four more for three different publishers for next year.
I’m not a full time writer. Writing doesn’t have health benefits, and if you’ve stopped by the blog and chain, you know I need them for my wife, who is the queen of auto-immune diseases. So I have a full time job that is more than that – it’s a solid career that can’t be ignored or pushed to the side. I have two amazing kids – teens now –the same number of cats, old friends, new friends, things to do and places to see every day.
The question everyone asks me is, ‘How in the world can you manage to write several books a year? Do you sleep? When’s the last time your family saw you? Or you saw the sun?’
My answer is usually that I just sit down and write because I truly enjoy the process. And yes, that is part of it. But what is the process?
Basically, what works for me is something I’ve called The Thousand Word March – or TTWM if I’m too lazy to say or spell it out. When I started working with editors, I quickly found out that they think and talk in terms of thousands. Discussing the length of your work in progress, whether it’s a story, novella or novel, it’s all about word count, not the number of pages or file size of your Word document.
They’ll say, “I’d love it if you could get me that novel under 95,000 words, but no less than 90,000.” Or if you’re pitching a novella, they might say, “Anything between 28,000 and 50,000 words will do it.”
So, if they’re thinking in thousands, I had to rethink the way I worked and made my own projections. My first horror novel, Forest of Shadows, was a true labor of love. I worked on it for almost five years. When people asked about my progress, I’d tell them I was 185 pages in and so on. Come time to pitch it to the sole publisher I sent it to (fodder for a later post), I proudly stated it was 550 pages.
But to an editor, 550 pages does not translate. The number of pages I write will never equal the print pages in a book because of font and paper size, spacing, etc. It turned out my 550 pages equaled over 100,000 words, which was a little more than Samhain wanted at the time. So, I had to do some editing to get it under 95,000.
When it came time to write my next book, I came up with The Thousand Word March to wrap my head around the best way to proceed. Knowing that my editor would like something between 85,000 and 90,000, I looked at the calendar to see how long it would take me to get the first draft done. Since my editor also hinted that he’d like me to write two books a year for him, I knew I couldn’t just cruise along at my own speed. That’s a good thing. It prevents procrastination from rearing its ugly head. Nothing works better than a fire under one’s posterior.
Staring at the calendar, I thought, if I just did 1,000 words a day, I’d have a 90,000 word book completed in three months. Hmmm. A thousand words a day. I could do that. I don’t have tons of free time, but I almost always have time to write 1,000 words. In fact, as I started working on that book, I realized that even on a day when the words were hard to find, I could accomplish my mission within an hour. So, if I set aside an hour and a half each weeknight, I could hit my writing goal, that extra half hour spent doing all the other things a working writer has to do, like marketing, responding to emails and maybe tooling around with a short story.
On weekends, I shoot for 2,000 – 3,000 words a day. This way, I can finish ahead of schedule, giving me more time for editing later on. I know it sounds like a lot, but when you work at it all the time and get into a rhythm, it’s really not so bad. In fact, I’ve found that by writing on Saturday and Sunday mornings, before the day drains my brain, I can write far more in less time. The key is to get at least 7,000 words in a week so I can meet my goal of a full novel in three months.
Weekends are also a good time to catch up on days you might have missed during the week. Look, we all have lives to live and you can’t always find the time to write. Here’s what my past week looked like :
Monday – 1,900 words (I doubled up knowing that Tuesday was my day off, so to speak.)
Tuesday – nothing (It was St. Patrick’s Day and I’m Irish. ‘Nuff said.)
Wednesday – 1,100 words
Thursday – 1,000 words
Friday – 1,000 words
Saturday – 2,300 words
Sunday – 2,500 words
So, if my goal is 7,000 words a week, even taking a day off, I was able to write 9,800 words, putting me ahead of the game. Total time spent writing, marketing and other stuff – 10 hours. When you think of it, that’s not bad at all. I still had time to work, cook meals, watch movies, spend time with my family and friends and read. I read at least two books a week. I can’t function without my books.
Where do you find 10 hours? Look no further than your TV or YouTube or any other time suck. Turn ‘em off for a while. I promise, they’ll be there when you’re finished. Think of it as a reward for a job well done. What’s more important, watching housewife cat fights or creating your own work of art?
Some weeks are going to be far more productive than others. If you lock your mind on The Thousand Word March, you’ll always know exactly where you stand and what you need to do to accomplish your goals – all without having to become a crazed recluse.
Look, I know there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to writing. Everyone has to find their own way, just as they find their own voice. This is what works for me. If you’re struggling or feel intimidated by the blank page, give it a shot. The Thousand Word March can take you to some pretty amazing places.
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Samhain and I want to make your Friday the 13th the creepiest ever. From now until March 15th, my first two ghost novels, FOREST OF SHADOWS and SINISTER ENTITY are only 99 cents everywhere ebooks are sold. If you’re new to my madness and just read ISLAND OF THE FORBIDDEN, this is the perfect chance to catch up on where Jessica Backman’s obsession with the dead began. You’ll think twice before visiting a haunted house, learn what an EB is and why it’s sometimes best to let the dead rest in peace…or turmoil. So fire up your Kindles and Nooks and iPads before time runs out on the best offer Samhain has ever made!
The dead still hate!
Something dreadful happened in the remote Alaskan cabin. Something monstrous. The shadows are closing in…and they’re out for blood.
“With Forest of Shadows, Hunter Shea combines ancient evil, old school horror and modern style. Highly recommended!” — Jonathan Mayberry, New York Times bestselling author of Rot and Ruin and The Dragon Factory.
“Forest of Shadows is a frightening, gripping story that left me too frightened to sleep with the lights off. This novel scared the hell out of me and it is definitely a creepy ghost story I won’t soon forget.” —Night Owl Reviews
How can you escape the ghost of yourself?
The Leigh family is terrified. They’ve been haunted by the ghostly image of their young daughter, Selena. But how can that be, when Selena is alive and well, and as frightened as her parents? With nowhere else to turn, the Leighs place their hopes in Jessica Backman, who has dedicated her life to investigating paranormal activity. Accompanied by a new partner who claims to be able to speak to the dead, Jessica will soon encounter an entity that scares even her. And a terror far worse than she imagined.
I just got this ‘Mail a Bigfoot’ postcard with my delivery of squatchy goods from the International Cryptozoology Museum. You can cut out the Bigfoot parts to make your own little hairy guy. I’m going to mail my squatch to one lucky winner. All you need to do is drop a comment on this post with a way for me to reach you. I’ll do a random drawing in a week and announce who gets to adopt Mr. Foot. :)
If you can’t get to the museum in Portland, Maine, you can visit it online, check out the curiosities, shop the gift shop or simply donate to keep the wonder alive. Visit their website for more!
Meanwhile, my new Bigfoot has made some fast friends here in the Shea compound. BFFs already!
Night Owl Reviews has a pretty cool event going on March 1st through the 25th called FIND YOUR NEXT GREAT READ. I’m pretty darn excited to be part of the fun. Island of the Forbidden will be one of those featured reads. Here are the details :
Find great authors and books during this giveaway event! Read book blurbs and get entered to win awesome prizes!
For this scavenger hunt you will be reading book blurbs and filling in a missing word(s) from a sentence in the blurb.
You will be entered to win Amazon Gift Cards and eBooks.
Winner Announcement Chat: March 30th at 6pm PT / 9pm ET in our chat room
For all you hardcore readers out there, this is custom made to feed your addiction! Come join the fun.
OK, I realize that was a bit of a cheeky title, but it’s true! The Monster Men take a deep dive into a wonderful book about the vixens of Hammer. It’s the ultimate coffee table book for horror fans. We also give some reading recommendations to warm up your cold winter nights.
Crack open a beer, turn down the lights and step into the Monster’s Lair!
You know I can’t have a book release without the Monster Men discussing it over beers and peanuts (both off camera, of course). Get the inside scoop on Island of the Forbidden and how it relates to Sinister Entity and Forest of Shadows. When I wrote this one, I added a bunch of horror movie references. Jack and I discuss a few of the horror clues peppered throughout the book.
You’ll find that the little island I’ve created is no safe place for the likes of Gilligan and the Skipper. If you like a good ghost story with teeth, this is it.
Note on the set my favorite Christmas present – actual drive-in movie speakers! I have a dream of building a working mini drive-in in my yard some day. All will be welcome to watch classic flicks under the stars.
It’s a cold and windy day here in the northeast. With the wind, it’s been below zero for a few days. A perfect day to just sit and write and look at the ice and snow outside my window. I’m working on a new cryptid novel right now. The manuscript and I are in the honeymoon phase where everything is peaches and cream. That should end in a week or so, then it’s on to the real work in this relationship. I love my muse, but we don’t always see eye to eye.
What have you all been doing to stay warm? And for those of you who live in warm weather, when can we come visit?