How Do You Eat An Elephant? Book Writing Edition: The Power of 500 Words

Posted: October 11, 2021 in Uncategorized

I have in mind to write a 500 word post today. I am starting this post at 9:48 a.m. You might be wondering why I am giving you my word count up front and telling you the exact time I began writing. Well there is a method to my madness. I know a lot of people who want to write a book, and I am sure there are many more that I don’t know. I also know there are a lot of people who start off the book, but very few who do the most important thing, which is to finish the book. Why is this?

I think for many people it comes down to the daunting task of doing all that work. They look at this huge mountain of a project and lose heart. Soon a massive writer’s block kicks in, distractions come along with it, and before long your dream of a book is out the window. I think that’s the wrong way to go about it. 

There is a better way. It all comes down to an old African proverb. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. This is exactly right. A huge project like a book is daunting. The average non fiction book is about 50,000 words, 100 times the length of this post. That’s a lot of work, but what if it wasn’t? What if you broke it down? What if instead of looking at the 50000 words as a whole you broke the book down into chapters? What if you outlined where you wanted the book to go and what the chapters would be about? Suddenly you’re not thinking about such a massive pile of work and it all feels a lot more manageable. The end goal hasn’t changed, you’ve just made it feel a whole lot more attainable. 

From your outline you begin to fill in the blanks. It it’s still too daunting, outline the individual chapters. This breaks the project down and makes it feel even more manageable and before long you’re off to the races. 

I call this post the power of 500 words precisely because that is a very manageable amount. I am currently at 385 words and I have been writing for all of 12 minutes.  This is writing from nothing more than an idea and I have been editing along the way. By the time I finish I will likely have been writing for 15 to 20 minutes. Anyone can carve out that amount of time in a day and if you wrote just 500 words a day, you would be able to write 182,500 words in a year. That’s enough words for almost four books in twenty minutes a day. Now please note, you won’t be likely able to do that many. There are things to consider like editing and rewriting. Not every word you write in those sessions will work, but even so, if you chip away a little bit at a time, a book in six months to a year is a fairly attainable goal. So break it down and give it a try. 500 words a day could change your life. 

By the way the above article is 546 words and it took me from 9:48 to 10:06 to write. 18 minutes. You can do this! Now go and start eating that elephant. 

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