"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: Writing a Novel Quickly

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Writing a Novel Quickly

Time is the writer's enemy. 

Finding it - and using it effectively - is the quest of all writers, whatever their level of expertise.

Many people have said to me that writing a novel in 30 days is a great goal but that it assumes that you can write around 2000 to 3000 words a day. 

Fine in theory. 

But how long it takes to write that much varies with the individual.

3000 words may take some writers all day - and if that's the case then it can be impractical to write for eight hours, seven days a week until you've written a first draft.

As you probably imagine, I, too, have lots of commitments to juggle in order to find time to write fiction - so how did I manage to write the first draft of a new novel in just under two months recently?

I tried an experiment - one that I think might help you.

Instead of writing flat out until the novel was finished, I knew I would have to allocate just a little time every day. Ten minutes here, half an hour there - and longer bursts if the time managed to appear.

I set myself a target of between just 500 and 1000 words a day.

Each morning I would wake up knowing that, whatever happened, I would have to write at least something towards that day's target. 

And I never agonized - or even thought about - what I was going to write during the 'novel writing session.'

I found this allowed me to go about the rest of the day's activities without too much guilt -and meant that I had to do all my thinking about the story while I was writing, which I think is a very good discipline to nurture. 

Mainly because 'thinking about writing' is not usually very productive unless you're actually writing...

I used a very rough template - basically a series of twenty dot points that I knew my plot would have to cover. 

I also decided that my chapters could be as short as a liked. 

And that, if I ran out of ideas or things to say, I would move on to the next dot point without beating myself up about it.

I found that at the beginning, writing 1000 words took about two hours sometimes - usually from ten to midday. 

But as I progressed through the novel I managed the 1000 words in about three quarters of an hour - as long as I never went back to edit, re-read or change anything. Of course I was aware that I was most times writing very roughly, probably creating ungrammatical sentences and making lots of typos. 

I didn't let that bother me.

The point of the exercise was to get the first draft down, quickly.

I let the characters tell me the story and lead me wherever they wanted to go. 

The relationships changed from how I'd originally imagined them - and things happened I wasn't expecting but I decided all that was okay. 

In fact, I decided that was the point of writing quickly - to give the characters room to be real and make believable choices, thereby making the story stronger.

At the end of the two months, and 60000 words later, I was amazed at the result - and very proud of what I'd done.

Now, I know how I work. 

I know that when I return for the second draft, the 60000 words will become 80000, perhaps more. 

But the beauty of all those later drafts to come is that, by and large, the novel is done - it's realized - because the first draft is down - the story, though very rough around the edges, is essentially complete.

This is a great psychological hurdle to have overcome - and will be for you if you want to try it.

You can use all of the other tips and techniques I recommend in The Easy Way to Write a Novel but allow yourself time - to work within a more practical framework that suits you and your lifestyle, whatever that may consist of.

And what if you get blocked?

What if you just can't get ANY words out some days?

Don't beat yourself up. 

Stay calm. 

Believe that the ideas will come - and just write anything that comes to mind, even if it's not relevant to the story. 

It doesn't matter - you can always edit stuff out later. 

The main trick is to teach yourself to write without question, to write without criticizing your own talent or ability.

Let the writing process become an invisible conduit between your mind and the page. 

Because that's your ultimate aim - you get what's in your mind down on paper and not let the writing itself get in the way of that, as it can and so often does!

Some days you might not feel like writing - do it anyway.

Some days you might not have the time - find it anyway.

Some days, believe me, you'll feel you're wasting your time and your story is ridiculous, pointless - but you MUST carry on, as have all writers who've made their mark in the past.

Self doubt is the writer's curse, but you must learn to overcome it. And there's only one way to do that:

Keep going, keep doing,

Keep Writing!
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