Size Matters: How to Write for a Long Project

Size Matters: How to Write for a Long Project

It’s no secret that size matters… especially when it comes to writing and creating a sellable product.

You might be great at turning out 500-word blog posts or short articles. But what you’d really like to do is write an ebook or an ecourse to sell – and you’re not accustomed to writing in a longer format.

Long-form writing is a whole different game. You can’t wait for inspiration to strike, and you don’t get that instant gratification when you finish, hit ‘publish’, and see your first positive comment within the hour.

But it can be done. And it’s worth it – both personally and monetarily.

Step 1: Plan Before You Start

When you’re writing something short, you can get away without planning. You’ve probably written blog posts that flowed from start to finish without needing to consciously think about them much.

When you’re writing an ebook or an ecourse, you can’t just jump in on page one and hope for the best. (Well, you can. But that’s a fast route to throwing away half your work.)

You need a plan.

At a minimum:

  • Know what the ending is. What should the reader have learned or be able to do by the end of your ebook?
  • Write down the major steps along the way. You might not know the details of every chapter, but you can at least jot down a heading for each one.
  • Aim for ‘enough’ – not too little and not too much. Your ebook isn’t going to work if you try to cover everything – nor will it work if it’s just an expanded version of a blog post.

Get another writer to look over your plan. They might spot a new angle or a missing piece that you couldn’t see.

Step 2: Create a Timetable

If you’re used to writing short pieces, you probably complete them in a day or two. Seasoned bloggers can often whip out a post in an hour if they’re having a good day.

When it comes to a big project, you can’t finish the whole thing in a rush of inspiration. You need to figure out a timetable that lets you write steadily and consistently. This is particularly crucial if:

  • You’re working for a client – you’ll need to hit the final deadline, but you may also need to meet milestones along the way
  • You’re working on something with a lot of moving parts – like an ecourse launch, where you won’t only be producing the course itself. You’ll also need to market and promote

Allow yourself a lot more time than you think you’ll need. A health crisis or family emergency can knock weeks out of your plan – and you may well find the writing itself takes longer than you’d estimated.

Step 3: Keep Going

This is a rather obvious step, but it trips up a lot of writers.

You need to keep going.

When you’ve only written 500 words of a 20,000 word ebook, it feels like you’ll never finish. That’s why you’ve got a timetable – so you can see how those pages will gradually add up.

You probably know writers who produce breathtaking prose – but who never complete anything. When it comes to making a living from your words, perseverance trumps raw talent every time.

Step 4: Get Accountable

One of the best ways to keep going is to be accountable to someone.

You’ve already seen this at work in your writing life: you publish blog posts three times a week because your readers expect it, or you write a monthly short story to share with your writers’ circle. Someone is waiting for your words – and that helps you sit down and write.

With big projects, you’ll want someone to keep you accountable. That might be:

  • A writing coach or business mentor
  • Another writer who’s also working on a long project
  • Your Twitter or Facebook friends

These people don’t necessarily need to do anything: all that matters is that you check in with them regularly and report your progress.

Step 5: Be Prepared to Revise

I can often turn out a blog post in one draft plus a quick polish – and perhaps it’s the same for you. Short pieces of content may come out pretty-much-right the first time.

But long projects don’t work that way.

However much you plan, you’ll find that your first draft has missing sections – and repetitive bits. You might need to merge two chapters together, cut a third and add an entirely new fourth. You may cut out an entire lesson from your ecourse and weave it into the remaining lessons in little pieces.

Allow plenty of time for revision. Get feedback on your first or second draft, so you know what’s working and what needs fixing. You can get away with clumsy, confusing passages in a blog post – but your readers will demand higher quality in something they’ve paid for.

Are you stuck on a big project – or scared to get started? Let us know in the comments, and maybe we can help you get going!

Post by Ali Luke

Ali is a writing coach who works with bloggers, novelists and copywriters to help them find their right size. She blogs at Aliventures and firmly believes a rich life feeds into great writing. Check out her mini-book on stronger blogging right here.