Why the First 5,000 Words of a Book Are Easy to Write


As I work on book ideas, map out proposals, and tap away at sample chapters, I have noticed one consistent trend: the first 5,000 words are easy. Then the rest ranges between trudging through a mud pit and swimming against a rip tide.

Progress can be made, but it won’t be easy.

I typically find the first 5,000 words to be a breeze since I can see an idea or story clearly. I know how I want to begin, why it’s important, and who I’m writing for. I don’t need piles of research to get started since I’m focusing on launching or summarizing the story/idea.

However, once I move beyond the first or second chapter, I run into my information/story wasteland where the initial enthusiasm and sparks fizzle. Though I want to do nothing more than write, I need to do something else.

A book requires outlines, research, brain storming, and a lot of planning. An editor from a major Christian publisher once mentioned that Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz is one of the most carefully planned books out there, even though readers often think it reads like he just wrote down random stuff that came to mind.

In planning the books I want to write over the next five years, a significant part of the process involves very little writing. In fact, the writing will be terrible if I don’t have the structure and substance on hand. I may be able to write a clever sentence or tell a fun anecdote, but at a certain point readers will wonder where it’s going and what I actually have to say.

Getting beyond those first 5,000 words to a substantive book is quite difficult. It’s way more challenging than I would have guessed. However, if you invest enough time in laying the groundwork of your book on the front end of the process, you’ll find that the rest of your book will begin to flow, even if it’s not as easy as those first 5,000 words that seemed to walk out of your head and onto your screen with hardly a nudge.

Outline, research, and review your plans. Take your time, and dive into your writing when you have enough pieces in place. You just may break free from the mud pit or figure out a way around the current’s pull.