Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Write a Novel in a Month? Here's How You Can Do It

I know what you're thinking: 
It can be done, but not by me. I'm way too busy to write a novel, much less do it in a month.
Actually, you have more time than you think. We all do. The fact of the matter is that most people don't look hard enough to find it. For example...I'm a full-time freelance writer and publicist, plus I have about 1.5 million little side jobs I do during the week. 
Or is it 1.6? I'm not quite sure. 
And yet I'm a novelist, too. Writing a novel is all about finding your creativity every day - even on the stressful ones. It has to do with a sense of routine - even if you don't think you'll be able to get into one. Let me tell you: It can be done, because I've done it, and so have lots of other writers. With just a little push, you can write an entire novel in one month. 
Yes, you too can be the next literary wizard. 
How do I write a book? Seriously. I'm lost. 
When people say that they don't know how to write a novel, I like to quote this line from Alice in Wonderland: 
"Start at the beginning. And when you get to the end, STOP."
There you go. Simply start writing. But getting started might seem a little bit daunting. Well...don't scare yourself! Begin small. You might be working a full time gig and juggling college classes or summer odd jobs, but that doesn't mean there's no time for writing. Set aside a single hour a day for writing. Whether it's in the morning or in the evening doesn't matter. Just find one hour. You can do it. Use that hour to write something. It doesn't even have to apply to your novel; just write something creative. Get your brain in the habit of being imaginative at the same time every day. Pretty soon, your imagination will be impatiently waiting for you to sit at the computer and write. 

How do I make myself write every day? 
Writing is fun. It's not supposed to be the equivalent of medieval torture. Lighten up, people. 
Once you've found your hour, give yourself a goal. One page. Two pages. Maybe five. For myself, I like to write between 1500-3000 words per day creatively, and I do it in the early hours of the morning - before the rest of my day even begins. Do the same. Give yourself a word goal (or page goal), and reach it every day, even if it's not the most inspired piece of work in the world. It doesn't matter. As long as you're writing, you're winning. 

I wrote a hundred pages. Then I burned out. Help!
Don't be doing that! For those who are new to the whole writing-a-novel thing, it's sometimes best to create an outline. I'm talking a simple bullet point list of things that are going to happen in your story. Where it begins, where the middle goes down, and how the plot is resolved at the end. Write out all of your ideas. Play with them. Mix them up. Have fun with it. You might be surprised what you come up with. An outline will help you chart your story as you go, remind you where you are, and keep yourself inspired, because you know that there is definitely an end in sight. 

I find it difficult to sit still and write.
Oh, wow. Doesn't everybody get the wiggles every once in a while? I know I certainly do. And because I'm what you might call a "pink collar worker," computer and secretarial work is my middle name. I'm constantly looking for an excuse to get up and walk outside. A lot of people don't realize how much like they like to move around until they're forced to sit still for a certain period of time. Make life easier on yourself (and everyone around you), by breaking up your work. If you're finding it hard to sit in one place and concentrate, get up every thirty minutes, take a drink of water, and look out the window. Sit back down and do another thirty minutes, then go walk outside and and pet your dog. You get the idea. Every so often, give yourself a little break. A tiny escape. That's how I do it. I strategically place my water glass on the other side of the house so I can get up and walk to reach it - it's not what you'd call an epic workout, but that simple 20 second break will break up your writing enough to keep your brain going. 

Okay...so if I finish this novel...then what? 
DON'T STOP WRITING! Keep writing every day. Short stories, journal entries, letters to the editor, research papers. I don't care. Just keep churning out the words, okay? Let me give you a final illustration. I love to play the piano, but I've never been able to read notes. I play by ear, and learning to play movie scores has always been a hobby of mine. When I was visiting Disneyland in Jr. High, I was one of those unfortunate people they plucked out of the crowd to play a piano solo at the Coca-Cola Corner on Main Street USA. If I remember correctly, I played the Haunted Mansion theme song. There was a local Hollywood piano teacher there. He said, "You've got the talent, but remember this: Never stop playing." Well...in high school that's exactly what I did. I stopped playing. I was busy with other things and I pushed my keyboard under the bed. It took me years to get back into the habit or practicing the piano again. Way too long!

So what's my point? Don't stop writing, either. It can take a long time to get back into the routine of doing it. It's very easy to stop, but very hard to start. Make yourself do the hard things now, and you'll enjoy wonderful things later. Get out there and write that book!


  1. I always wish I had done the "outline" thing sooner. When I was a teenager and dreamed of writing novels, all the writers I admired were the kind of geniuses who just sat at typewriters and banged out full books. When I tried that, I really did get 100 pages in, then I was lost. Sometimes, authors must be willing to concede to being demigods instead of gods.

    1. Well, some books can be written that way. I didn't really have an outline for SOE. It depends on the depth of the information in the novel...an outline is just an aid to keep ideas organized and tension rising appropriately.


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