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How to Write a Novel in Six Months, Week One: Mapping out the Six-Month Plan
I have read all kinds of books that tell you how to complete the first draft of a novel in this or that amount of time and while it all sounds very sound and logical, nothing ever really spoke to me. I tried the NANOWRIMO route, but a month is too short a time for this writer to pound out a novel. Stephen King takes no more than a few months and Jodi Piccoult has a consistent nine-month routine - like she's birthing the thing!
Ten Percent a Week
Nothing really hit me until I heard William Bernhardt speak about his five-month plan. In it he allots 10 weeks to drafting - ten percent a week for ten weeks. Doesn't that seem so do-able? I'm a numbers girl so it really made sense to me. Breaking it down further, even if I took weekends off, I'd only be on the hook for two percent a day. That's nothing. Right?
Sure you could break it up a thousand different ways, but I like the symmetry and simplicity of ten and ten. I'm writing mainstream fiction, which is supposed to be about 100,000 words or 400 pages. I'm figuring on 10,000 words or forty pages a week. Bernhardt starts with 60 scenes, but I've since learned I'll need more like 80 at an average of 1250 words each. Again with the numbers - that's 8 scenes a week. If I double up on Mondays, that leaves just one scene a day for the rest of the week - catching up on weekends if need be.
The Six Month Plan
In Week 1 I made my plan, got into the mental state, and enlisted a friend or two to go down this road with me. (However, you may prefer to go it alone.)
Weeks 2 - 5 were purely for planning and research. I read a lot of different methods for structuring a novel and sort of mashed them all together, taking elements from each and combining them in a way that made sense to me. You can find out the resources I used in the next article in this series, Week 2, Resources on Structure. You'll want to come up with a system for working out your story points (I used index cards), write character sketches, and research publishers and/or agents.
Week 6 is for outlining. This is where I'll flesh out the story points into the number of scenes I've settled on and get them into a preliminary order. I'll go even further into outling in Week 7, detailing the beats of the scene, as well as my character's objective and obstacles faced in each scene. During Week 8 I'll write the synopsis. This is a small amount of words, but working through this will help me catch any holes or problems with the outline so far.
By Week 9 I'll have a fairly detailed outline to work from. People have asked me whether or not I'll get bored writing from such a detailed plan. The truth is I don't know. I haven't tried this method before. What I do know is that I personally work well within constraints. I believe that if I have a specific set of characters in a particular situation who are trying to accomplish a certain goal - one scene at a time - I can focus on writing creatively rather than worrying about where my story is going. We'll see!
Weeks 9 -18 are for drafting. Again, it's 10% a week for ten weeks.
Week 19 is a celebration/sanity break.
In Week 20 I'll go back and add transitions to make scenes flow smoothly together. In Week 21 I'll do a full read through, making some serious notes! Weeks 22-24 are reserved for the first revision.
Wish me luck!