How to Write Your Novel's First Draft in Only a Month
Writing a Book in Thirty Days
With the upswing and potential of self-publishing, it seems everyone's writing a book these days (and some are doing better than others; consider the success of Hugh Howey's post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel, Wool).
However, writing a book can be an immersive, time-consuming process--especially if you have a full-time job, children, and other responsibilities. So, how do you find the time? Will it take you years to write your novel?
The answers is yes, you can find the time, and no, it won't take you years! Every year, almost 300,000 people participate in November's National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and 40,000 of them complete a 50,000 word novel--so it can be done.
No need to wait until November--you can write a book in any month of the year by following the tips below.
Prepping to Write Your Book
I've worked with a lot of aspiring and self-published authors through my editing business, and what surprises me about so many of them is that they don't like to read. I can tell you honestly that these authors are NOT the successful ones, and they are generally not strong writers.
In order to write your novel, you absolutely must read. Before you pick a day on which to start writing, spend some time reading. Think about your novel's plot and what genre it falls into--then go pick up some other authors' work in that area. It won't make you less creative--in fact, good work should inspire you!
In addition, being an avid reader is also like sitting through a grammar, structure, and plotting class without realizing it--you will start to absorb the mechanics of good writing.
Picking up a few books on writing doesn't hurt either--White & Strunk's "The Elements of Style" and Stephen King's "On Writing" are both excellent bibles to have before you begin.
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Setting Goals for Novel Writing
To kick-off your month of writing, first pick a date on which you know you have few commitments, and make a firm commitment with yourself to sit down at your laptop. If you need to create an outline, do that a few days before you begin (you can also put together a loose outline in your head while you shower, while you drive to work, while you mow the grass--anytime that your body is occupied but your mind is free).
Next, decide how long you think your novel will be--don't get too ambitious with the first one and decide you're going to write a 200,000 epic saga. Fifty thousand words is a good goal.
Let's say you've decided to go with 50,000--over the course of thirty days, that's roughly 1,700 words a day. Generally, a typed, double-spaced page is 250 words. So, you'll be writing six and a half pages a day.
Does that make sound more doable? It probably does! Once your creativity gets flowing you may even pound out more pages than that!
Put each day's page requirement on your planner calendar, and don't deviate--six pages a day, possibly more on weekends, and you can write your novel in a month.
Dealing with Writer's Block and Self-Criticism
Let's say it's Day 10, you've been flying along through your novel and feeling like you're the next Suzanne Collins--and then you hit a wall. What do your characters do next? Where does this story go?
That happens to almost everyone at some point or another. That doesn't mean you should step away from the keyboard and just give up on your goals or your ideas. And it certainly doesn't mean you should start editing your book from the beginning as a way to distract yourself--you want to write a first DRAFT in a month, not a perfectly polished masterpiece (even greats like Hemingway had editors, and you'll need one too). If you spend too much time going over the parts you've already written, you will never finish a first draft.
When you've hit that wall and are doubting your talent or drive, just keep writing anyway. So what if it's implausible, the character wouldn't say that, you hate the scene--you can fix it during your first edit after the month is over. Have the discipline to keep writing. You will break through the wall, and any parts that hate in your novel at the end are easily fixed by hitting "delete."
Additional Tips on Writing a Novel in Thirty Days
The Next Steps
With enough determination, you can finish your book's first draft in one month. When you type that last sentence, sit back and be proud of yourself--you've accomplished something many people dream of!
Rest for a few days and then recruit a few trusted (and honest) family members or friends to read your novel and give you feedback. Then, go back in and rework the parts you don't love.
When you feel you have a strong draft, turn to a professional editor for a content analysis of your novel, and get feedback on plot, characterization, pacing, and other novel mechanics, as well as things like grammar and style.
Whether or not this particular novel gets published, you're an author! Congratulations.