One Bite At A Time

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

How do you eat an elephant? It's an old joke and the answer is you eat an elephant one bite at a time.  It the same way to accomplish any huge task—one action at a time. Recently I began to write another book.  It doesn't matter that I've done it over and over through the years. Each time it looks daunting to write an entire book manuscript. No matter what others will tell you for everyone getting started is hard. The writing in the middle is hard and finishing is hard. Yes the task is difficult and looks impossible. So how do you get it done? One bite at a time.

What is the deadline for completing your book? If you don't have a deadline, then I suggest you set one. After you have a deadline, how many words a day are you going to write to complete the deadline? Make sure you build in some extra days for the unexpected (happens to everyone) but make sure you hit your deadline.

Or maybe your goal is tied to your social media. You want to reach a certain number of followers on Twitter or a certain number of connections on LinkedIn. Are you actively working on these networks? Are you posting a number of times each day? Are you connecting with new people? Without your regular actions, then it will be hard to increase your presence and meet your goals.

Do you want to appear on more radio shows or podcasts and talk about your latest book? There are thousands of radio stations and podcasts  which use guests on their program. These bookings do not happen just sitting back and waiting for them to call. Your phone will be silent if you wait. Instead, you need to be actively pitching the producers of these programs.

Or maybe you want to write more magazine articles? Waiting for the phone to ring will likely not happen. What proactive steps are you taking to either go ahead and write the article then submit it to the publication? Or you can write a query letter and send it simultaneously to different publications and get an assignment?

Many are surprised that I have written over 60 books through the years. There are several keys in this process but one of the most important is consistent writing.  It is a matter of writing one paragraph, then another paragraph which becomes one page then another page. It is the same process as eating an elephant—doing it in bite-size pieces.

Do you break your writing into smaller pieces? I'd love to have your tips and insights in the comments below.


How do you eat an elephant? Learn the secret in this article from this prolific writer and editor. (ClickToTweet)

 W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. His work contact information is on the bottom of the second page (follow this link).  His latest book for writers is 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to SucceedOne of Terry's most popular free ebooks is Straight Talk From the Editor, 18 Keys to a Rejection-Proof Submission. He lives in Colorado and has over 200,000 twitter followers


Karen Cioffi said...

Terry, this is such a helpful article. A lot of big writing projects can feel overwhelming, but as you say, take it one bite at a time. This is how I approach my bigger projects. I don't think of how big it may be, I just write, one word, one paragraph, one chapter at a time. While you do need to look at the whole, writing it in chewable sized bites makes it a much less daunting task.

Terry Whalin said...


Thank you for this comment. With big projects it is easy to get overwhelmed and stalled in this process. Breaking it into small pieces and moving forward is important for all of us in this important work.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Lol, I am tired of biting at my memoir. But here's the thing. I kept biting and I'm seeing a trio of hashtags indicating THE END. PROOF OF THE PUDDING!

Terry Whalin said...


Yes finishing and getting the finished book is always a great feeling that biting has paid off. Thanks for this comment.


Linda Wilson said...

Great article, Terry. It's so true that setting a big goal and then smaller goals helps one move forward step by step. If you want to succeed, that is. Lately, I've been at Zoom meetings where one or two writers have said they can't get out of their own way, therefore nothing gets done. Too much worry about finding an agent, finishing the book, whatever reason holds them back. But it's not hard to set goals. I have to put mine in writing. Then I chip away at them and come up with articles, new stories, and ideas for promoting my book, one step at a time!

Terry Whalin said...


Thank you for this comment and the ideas in it are terrific. Yes as writers we take on many different roles of writer, promoter, communicator and others. The key is not to be stuck in the learning portion and to be taking action every day--writing, promoting or whatever you need to do to meet your personal goals. It's not easy and if it were everyone would succeed at it. One bite or step at a time is critical--taking steps or bites.


deborah lyn said...

Perfect Terry! -- one bite at a time and with consistency!

Terry Whalin said...


Yes the consistency is what makes the difference: Bite after bite or page after page.


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