• Chris OBrien

You're creating a body of work

Updated: May 1

"I'm going to write the next mega-bestseller."


"I'm going to write the great American novel."


"I'm going to turn my entire life's worth of stories into a book."


That's a ton of pressure to put on a book. Especially if it's your very first go at it.


This type of pressure makes you feel like the book has to be perfect. "I have so much to say, I need to get it all out there. And every sentence needs to be flawless."


But you have more to say than 200 pages can contain. If you look at all of the writers throughout history, professional and hobbyists, very few wrote just one book.


For example, Grapes of Wrath was John Steinbeck's 9th book. East of Eden was his 20th, published 33 years after his first.


Fyodor Dostoevsky published his first book in 1846. Crime and Punishment was six books and 20 years later. The Brothers Karamazov, widely considered his greatest work, was the final book he ever wrote (published 34 years after his first).


20 years. 33 years. 34 years. This is a long game!


Your first book is as much about learning how to write a book as it is the stories in the book itself. After you finish the first book, you'll be inspired, probably have some new ideas, and have the confidence to start a new project. You've done it before. You'll cover new ideas in book two, new stories, new characters.


Steinbeck built a body of work. Same with Dostoevsky. Same with the 60-year-old author in Indiana doing this as a fun retirement hobby who now has six self-published titles on Amazon.


When setting goals for your book, try these thoughts instead:


"I'm going to write a book. Who knows how many copies it will sell. But it will be one of several books I'll create."


"I'm going to write a novel. After that, maybe another novel. Maybe a book of poetry. Maybe a children's book. I've got a lot of stories to tell."


"It doesn't have to be one biography. I'm going to turn my childhood stories into a book. After that, maybe one focusing on my career. And another on my memories with my kids. Maybe another book entirely focused on my Dad."


Book 1 isn't the finish line. It's the starting point. You're creating a body of work.


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