Thursday, January 10, 2008

900 Words

Over the last several months I've read a lot of novels by James Patterson. Some I really liked. Some were so-so. Some I never finished. Patterson is a book factory, churning out book after book with the help of a legion of ghost writers. The many hands involved in the production of his books probably accounts for some of the inconsistency in quality. No judgments here. A book is enjoyable or not, no matter how it was written and especially in the world of entertainment reading, the bottom line is, did you have a good time when you read the book. If so, the writer or writers did their job.
However, while wandering through Patterson Land, I did notice a couple of things that might be of use to my fellow writers. The main thing I noticed about Patterson's books is that one of his primary methods for giving a book a fast pace is the use of very short chapters. An average chapter is only three pages long and none are longer than five. Mr. Calculator tells me that this means that in a 123,000 word novel, about 415 printed pages in paperback, Patterson has 137 chapters of about 900 words each. Now from a writing standpoint this is kind of interesting. 900 words a day is a pretty small goal. If one were to only write a 900 word chapter every day (about four pages of a double spaced manuscript), one would have a novel in 137 days or roughly four and a half months.
As a test, I wrote such a chapter this morning, just to see how long it took. I got 900 pretty good words in 45 minutes. They'll need some editing, but there you go. So if the idea of writing a whole novel seems insurmountable, you might try for 900 words a day. Start tomorrow and by the end of May you could have a novel.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

there were no comments... I agree with what you said though