Wednesday, June 11, 2014

How to Write Your First Novel in Eight Weeks

If you’re like me, you have dozens—maybe hundreds—of novels you started squirreled away in various locations on your computer and around your house. But between work, work, more work, sporadic sleep, and making sure your family still recognizes you by making an occasional appearance at a function (dinner is TOTALLY a function), it’s hard to get more than a few spare moments to scratch out your thoughts on paper. It’s even harder to carve out any spare time if you’re in school or have little ones running around the house, or both.

However, writing a novel can take less time that you think. A few hours a day can get a rough draft in of your novel completed in less than four weeks. Yep, that’s right, FOUR WEEKS!

Ok, but who actually has a few hours a day? Possibly people with part time jobs, I imagine. Maybe people who are currently on summer break (teachers, you couldn’t pay me enough to do your job, but I get awful jealous about your summer!). Not people who have kids, I’m pretty sure. But, do you have an hour a day? Maybe that hour where you normal sack out in front of the television, or read before you go to bed? What if I told you that you could write for an hour a day and have a full novel in six weeks?

The nitty gritty:

1.       Have a goal

Young adult fiction (which is my favorite to read) averages 50,000-70,000 words. Adult fiction runs a little higher, middle grade, or kid’s novels, run a little less. What kind of book are you writing? That’ll make a difference.

According to author Dean Wesley Smith, “Most professional writers can average about one thousand words an hour, when going on a novel. Not in the struggle of the beginnings, but once the novel is underway. So, simple math says that to write a 90,000 word novel, you have about 90 hours of work.”

While I’m not a math whiz, that tells me you can write 50,000 word in 50 hours. At an hour a day, that’s 50 days. 50 days is LESS THAN 8 WEEKS!

2.       Have someone keep you accountable

You know that annoying friend that reminds you about your diet every time you reach for a cookie? You need them to help you with this. Have them call, heckle, encourage (or whatever they call it) as often as you need to make sure you’ve written your 1,000 words that day.

3.       Write like your life depends on it

I always wrote my most inspired papers for college under that 24 hour deadline. Adrenaline accesses something in the creative part of my brain, allowing words to flow like the otherwise don’t. Is that you? Schedule your hour right before your favorite television show, and don’t turn the TV on until you’re done.

Or, hey, are you extremely committed to writing this novel? Take some vacation days from work, mix up a few margaritas, and go to town! If you wrote 5,000 words a day, you could complete a 70,000 word manuscript in 14 days!

4.       Eliminate distractions

Shut off the wifi to your computer. I always wonder how much more I would accomplish in life without Facebook! So, cut off your access. In fact, I make a game of it: if you hit 1,000 words before your hour is up, you get 5 minutes of Facebook. If not, you write another 500 words.

The Meat and Potatoes
You can know all this, but it only makes a difference if you actually sit down and write. Don’t get discouraged, even if you think what you’ve written sucks. Ernest Hemmingway said, “All first drafts of anything are shit.” It can be refined, perfected, and edited later. Just get those words down on paper!

People like me can hardly wait to read what you write!

Any other tips for writers? What works best for you? Please share!


  1. Great advice! And I can add that I work full time with extra overtime, and I can usually get through a draft in a month. It's just a matter of determination, reducing distractions and keeping to a goal.

    1. Wow, that's incredible! I really want to be able to do that... Adding you to my list of heroes :) Can I contact you if I'm short on inspiration?

    2. I'm not sure that I'd be very inspirational, but sure!

  2. I wish I could write my novel in 8 weeks. Time consuming but love the tips.

    1. Libby, i agree. Some days its hard (read: impossible) to get an hour in, but I'm definitely making a go at it! Of course, I have no children currently, only work about 40-60 hours a week, and the kids I watch on my off days have a nap time. I think that makes a huge difference!

  3. That's nonsense. If you've ever read Stephen King's On Writing, even HE doesn't write 1000 words per hour! Sure, it CAN be done. I actually wrote my last novel in three weeks (the first draft), but not by writing one hour a day. I don't care who you ask, they will tell you... You reach spots in your novel where you must research to get your facts right, you have to think about the right way to go, etc, etc, etc.. No one, and I'm mean no one, can write 1000 words per hour, every hour. It just doesn't happen. I agree with Krista Quintana, it is a matter of determination and reducing distractions. But putting a word count of 1000 words per hour adds too much stress and will ruin your creativity, IMO. 2000 per DAY? Yes.

    1. Sue, thanks for your input! I can see what you're saying, and yes, some days 1000 words per hour will be impossible, I imagine. I think it depends on what genre you are writing. For me, on days when I'm flying along, I try to get ahead for those days when I need to research or when I have to figure out how to get my characters to Point B. I'm I reading this correctly, that you have a daily word count goal, but not an hourly goal?

  4. Great Article, I find I write the best alone in the back deck outside. Being outside on a peaceful day rushes creative flow and I can reach over a thousand. I recommend using a place that brings on the creative flow. I have a blog and I use a 15 min. rule instead of an hour. yeah, you can put in more if, you can but everyone has.15 minutes.Stop by and check it out. it may work for anyone who can not do an hour. ~ Hugs Regan Starr