Time to Plan: Part 1 - Mapping It Out
Half a million words in one year is a lot. To be honest, when I came up with the number 500,000 I didn’t think about just how many words that really is. All I knew was that I like big, round numbers and that the necessary daily word count, 1370 a day, sounded challenging but achievable.
That was good enough for me.
It wasn’t until I sat down to plan out exactly what I was going to do with those words that I realized the corner I’d painted myself into. Suddenly, I felt like I was in one of those videos they show elementary school kids to show them the true value of real numbers (Look, kids! This is how many bathtubs half a million marbles will fill!) But instead of bathtubs, I had to fill books.
Do you know how many books half a million words will fill?
And yes, I know all our answers will be different depending on the types of books we write. I see those of you out there who usually write 100k novels rolling your eyes, and muttering, yeah, that’s five books, smartypants.
Well, that’s not what a half a million words fill for me. Not even close.
This is why, no matter what your personal Hella Words number happens to be, doing the pre-work and planning is crucial.
Now, I’m not talking about the differences between plotting and pantsing. We’ll talk about that soon enough. (spoiler: I don’t care, as long as you do what works for you)
I’m talking about sitting down with a paper and a calculator, doing the math, and figuring out how many bathtubs you need and what size.
Now when I did this I was on vacation at my favorite hotel. I had a comfy chair in the bar and an ice-cold Malibu and Cranberry. I’m not saying that this exact scenario is necessary for success. I’m just saying it’s damn nice.
Here’s what I came up with:
I wanted to write the first three books in a new rom-com action series. For me, those tend to come in around 55k words.
55,000 x 3 = 165,000 words
I also wanted to finish the last two books in a paranormal series that I’d stalled out on. Those average 60k words.
60,000 x 2 = 120,000 words
Then there’s this standalone romantic comedy/women’s fiction that’s been in my head for a while now, begging me to write it, but I never have the time. This year I would. That one would come in a little longer at 75k.
So, I had 165k + 120k + 75k
That equals 360,000 words.
Um…I had written down everything I was planning on writing in 2020—six bathtubs full of words— and I was still 140k words short of half a million.
So, I did what anybody else in that position would do. I ordered another cocktail and got to thinking.
Was that really all I wanted to write this year? Really?
Well, no. There was that other romantic comedy I wanted to write. The one I’ve been putting off because I’m afraid that I’m not a good enough writer to do it justice. I might as well give it a try. After all, what’s a little existential fear when you’re facing a 140k word deficit?
That left 65k. Another full novel.
Two novellas that could help fill out the backlist of a little side project I’ve been working on during 2019. Those novellas usually run between 30-35k. Two would bring me just over the finish line.
For those of you keeping track at home, that’s nine projects. Nine bathtubs full of words. Some bigger. Some smaller. But most importantly, all of them mapped out.
Now I just need to get on to step two of my planning process — Outlining. That’s what I’ll be doing through most of November and December. (Don’t worry Pantsers, I won’t bore you too much with the details.)