Writing Books/book


Dear Cathy,
  I am writing my memoirs from the 60ís and want to understand a few things about writing a book before I get too deep into it.  I recently found notes that I put down after I got out of the navy in the early 70ís and they were way to funny not to compile into a book.
1.    What is the average number of words I should work around for a 250 page book?
2.   What font and font size should I use?
3.   I want to double space.  Is that a problem?
4.   I am having a couple friends reviewing the pages as I draft them.  Too risky?
5.   As my writing is not what it used to be, what is the best way to make it more colorful, readable, and marketable once my 1st draft is done?
6.   And of course, what is the best way to market it?

Thanks, Dick Schlueter
Richard Schlueter
Senior Manufacturing Engineer
Ikonisys, Inc.
Five Science Park
New Haven, CT 06511
Ph: (203) 776-0791 ext. 210
Fax: (203) 776-0795

Hi, Dick!

Here you go:

1.  250 pages in trade paperback format (which is what memoirs usually are printed as) would be around 62,500-63,000 words.

2.  Font should be Courier New and size should be 12 point. If you want more details on formatting, I wrote a very comprehensive list of manuscript formatting guidelines on a writer's website called AbsoluteWrite, where I frequent (and am one of the moderators.) There's also a very good Memoir/Life Story forum there where you can ask the locals any questions that come up in the course of your writing.  Here's a link for you to the guidelines. Then just click on the main thread to go to the front page.


You'll find a discussion on this link about word count too, and how to calculate it as you type. Oh, and here's another link on the same site to a glossary of publishing terminology that will come in handy as you start the writing process:


3.  No problem. Actually, it's required by 99% of the publishers out there.

4.  Risky in what way? It's your memoir, after all. If you fear them plagiarizing you, I wouldn't. After all, it's pretty easy to research a memoir to see who had what background in today's Google-able world. If it's more a matter that you feel they might "contribute too much" and water down your voice, well...that's a real problem, and every author faces it when they send out a book for comments. You'll simply have to believe in yourself and what you write, while balancing it with accepting good suggestions from people you trust. I will tell you that a "book by committee" seldom works. It's YOUR book so just remember not to try too hard to please everyone. Take the suggestions you like, ignore the suggestions that don't work for the book. But thank everyone kindly for taking the time to read it and suggest. :)

5.  My best advice is to read other memoirs on the market. Since yours is a humorous memoir, rather than a serious one, look for ones books in the store (or library) with a similar tone to what you're trying to achieve. You can always ask a librarian or book manager for suggestions if there are too many to choose from. Remember too that the thesaurus and dictionary are your friends! Most of us become enamored with particular words and use them over and over until the reader wants to beat us over the head with the book. Vary your word choice and look for synonyms that will spice up the text. If the book is funny and well written, the marketing will follow.

6.  Market it to WHOM? To a publisher, or do you plan to self-publish and market it to the general public. If to a publisher, I'll have to be blunt and say that memoirs are a hard sell right now unless you had a very memorable life that touched on a key event or talks of overcoming a challenge. One that recently hit the shelf that's been doing well in the reviews is "Look Me In the Eye" by John Robison. It tells of his life with Asperger's Syndrome.

Feel free to hit the follow-up question button and give me more details if you like, and I'll try to steer you the right way.

Writing Books

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Cathy Clamp


I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.


I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

©2017 About.com. All rights reserved.