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The Big Damn Writer Advice Column

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It’s that time of the week when I answer your anonymous questions about writing and all that stuff connected to it. Every Thursday, I’ll be answering two questions from the Big Damn Writer Question Box.

Q: My weekly writing goal is 2,500 words. I just came across a romance author who stated in an interview that her weekly writing goal is 15-25K words. Aaand now, I’m curious. If a 50K-55K novel can be produced anywhere between two to four weeks, wouldn’t that mean that an author would be coming out with something like at least twelve books a year? Does anyone do this? 

A: Here’s my answer, and it’s not going to be popular with some writers I know. But that’s just how it’s going to be. Yes, you can absolutely write a fifty thousand word novel in two weeks and yes, you can get twelve books out a year. All you really have to do is write five thousand words a day for ten days, and that’s not an impossible goal. But I don’t have a super high outlook with regards to the quality of such a book.

I know I’ve told this story before, but at a conference once, an author on a panel was asked how long it took her to write a book, from idea to publication. She said idea to publication, ten days. Ten. It takes her seven days to write it, a day to self-edit, and then a couple days to format it and set up sales channels, etc. She skips having someone else edit her work because it slows down the process, which makes her readers unhappy. They want as much new material as she can write, as fast as possible, and since they loved her books, there can’t be much wrong with them, right? It’s this story that made me absolutely skeptical of the quality of work authors with monthly or bi-monthly releases because the timeline doesn’t allow for another human being to put their eyeballs on their work. So, yes, technically this can be done. Whether or not it should be done is entirely subjective.

That said, there are some authors who’ll have twelve releases in a year, but it’s because they just acquired the rights to their backlist and they’re self-pubbing them, but that’s a whole different thing.


Q: Hi, Jenny. How do you deal with trouble writing the beginning of a story? I have a work I’m stuck on where I keep feeling the need to redraft the opening chapter. I do have a broad outline for the chapter, but whenever I try to write it, I can’t find a flow that feels right. Any tips?

A: Remove chapter one from your file. Save it somewhere else, separately, so you don’t see it when you open the document. Keep going forward. When you finished the whole story, go back to the beginning. Now that you know how everything else feels, you’ll be able to write the first chapter to the flow of the story, rather than trying to invent the flow of the story as you write the first chapter.


Bonus Question: Can you do a fantasy casting for the Boss series? 

A: Indeed, I have done that in the past on my Tumblr. You’ll find the fantasy cast here.


Wanna see your questions get answered (or just wanna air a grievance?) Put it in the box!

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Here for the first time because you’re in quarantine and someone on Reddit recommended my Fifty Shades of Grey recaps? Welcome! Consider checking out my own take on the Billionaire BDSM genre, The Boss. Find it on AmazonB&NSmashwords, iBooks, and Radish!


  1. DS

    Craig Ferguson as Ian! I love it! All the picks are delightful.

    July 27, 2017
  2. This is OT and also as a Troutlander who’s more of a Troutlurker I hesitate to request help here, but here goes:

    There is a Star Wars novel called Aftermath that has been very divisive in terms of its writing – in that it’s somewhat choppy. Staccato. That sort of thing. The story itself is told in first person present tense; these things* have drawn ire of many readers, but their criticisms have been, to my ear, somewhat snobbish. (I did find the choppiness a little irksome and the writing definitely isn’t brilliant so at first I was inclined to let the comments pass. But the first person/present tense thing gives me pause. I’ve heard similar put downs of romance and YA novels (indeed there have been direct comparisons between Aftermath and YA by its detractors)). I’d love to rebut their remarks with a list of great novels that utilise these features, but every time I go to do so my mind comes up blank. Can anyone help me?

    Please and hopefully thank you!

    *There’s also the fact that it’s drawn ire** from … certain types of people for having gay characters, which I’m fairly certain has coloured people’s criticisms – but right here I want to focus on the things I can’t so easily respond to.

    **I do not apologise for using this phrase twice in quick succession. It is an awesome phrase!

    July 28, 2017
    • Mel

      First, I’m glad you do not apologize because “drawn ire” is indeed a great phrase.

      Second, there are quite a few first person narrative books that I’ve read that I really enjoyed and it can be great in the right hands.

      – Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (Stephen King) is a good example, it’s told entirely in first person from Red’s perspective where Andy is the main focus, we just don’t get inside his head.

      – Odd Thomas (Dean Koontz), the first book is really good and also told in first person by Odd. I adore the first book.

      Those are two I can think of off the top of my head.

      July 28, 2017
      • Hey Mel,

        I must apologise for taking so long to respond. I was waiting for an email notification which, oddly, never came.

        And thank you for your help! Funnily enough, though I’m a fan of Dean Koontz, I’ve never read Odd Thomas, and nor have I ever read any King novel so those would never have sprung to mind. Which is great as I’ve now both literary ammunition to repudiate, rebuke, rebut and other re-somethings as well as got two new books to look forward to. Again, thank you 🙂


        August 7, 2017
    • Mike

      Here are some great books that are written in first person present.

      The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan. (A Carnegie Medal finalist)

      American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis (Say what you like, but it is a modern classic)

      Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

      July 31, 2017
      • Hey Mike, love your name 😉

        American Psycho … is going to be a difficult one to put forward in an argument, for obvious reasons – but it does have that prestige that you mention, which may make those who are snobbily anti-FPP think twice (providing the snobbiness theory holds true). Crossan, too, should help with that argument, owing to its status as a medal finalist.

        Can’t say I’ve read Kafka on the Shore but I’ll check it out. Thank you for your help, I really appreciate it!


        P.S. Sorry for taking so long to respond; I rely too heavily on email notifications.

        August 7, 2017

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