If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to write a book in the year ahead, you’re going to have to do several things. One of those things you’ll have to do is...some math.
But don’t worry—I’ve got a calculator!
We’ll do the math together to determine the number of words you need to write each day to complete your book in the year ahead. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find out that this number is within reach. You can pull this off.
You can watch the video, listen with the podcast player above, or read the article.
Average Word Count for Trade Nonfiction Books
The length of a typical trade nonfiction book can really vary: a memoir or biography can be quite long; a gift book, quite short. If you’re writing a typical trade nonfiction book, it might on average range between 45,000 and 55,000 words.
This is arguable. You’ll find plenty of exceptions on either side of that range, and trends shift so that the average changes, but for the sake of this discussion, let’s split the difference and say we’re talking about a 50,000-word book. Yours might be longer or shorter.
Publishers like to think in terms of word counts. After all, there’s a lot of variability in the number of chapters that you might break your content into compared with another author writing on a similar subject: a 20-chapter book and a 12-chapter book could have the exact same word count divided up differently.
So let’s just talk about word count.
Map Out the Number of Chapters
And yet when we think through the number of words we’ll be writing each day, we do need to think about the number of chapters you’re planning. Eventually—obviously—you do have to write the full 50,000 words.
But did you know that if you’re seeking traditional publishing of your non-fiction book—that is, you’re going to seek an agent who then will take it to a publisher, or a friend offered to introduce you to her editor...either way— you’re going to have to provide what’s called a book proposal.
In this book proposal you’ll map out your entire book. You have to explain the book’s concept and content, describing what’s going into it. You’ll provide a table of contents that you’ll have to annotate, providing chapter summaries.
When you submit the proposal to the agent or provide it by request to an acquisitions editor at a publishing house, you’ll include a few sample chapters as part of the complete proposal.
For new writers, I recommend you supply three sample chapters, though an agent may only request one or two. If you write three, you can show these decision-makers and gatekeepers that you can build on your ideas and move this project forward. That’s all you need to write until you get a contract.
So at a bare minimum, you’ll write at least three chapters of your book to be able to submit it with the proposal.
Pull Out the Calculator
Now let’s do the math.
Option 1: Write the 50,000-word Draft in 90 Days
Let’s say you’re going to self publish this 50,000-word book, and you’d like to have a draft done in 90 days.
50,000 words divided by the 90 days, you’ll end up with 555.555556, so we’re just going to round that up to 556.
That means if you write every single day with no breaks at all, you need to write 556 words a day to produce 50,000 words at the end of the 90 days.