You might feel like there’s never the perfect time to start writing your novel.
You might feel like there’s not the perfect window right now where you’ll be able to get it done.
There are so many ways to write a novel. I’ve talked about how if you’re pressed for time, you can always find 10 to 20 minutes a day and write a little bit. If you write 200 words a day, you can complete a novel in just one year!
But what if you want to get a first draft of your novel completed quickly and not slowly? What if you could write an entire novel in just a single month?
I’m telling you it can be done. I’ve written nineteen novels, and I’m currently drafting my twentieth. More than half of these books I’ve written in four weeks or less. Four weeks or less, I’m serious!
This is not to say the book is necessarily done after four weeks. There’s still lots and lots of revising to do in the months to come, of course.
But the key to your success as a novelist is being able to write and complete a first draft.
It can be messy. It can be flawed (actually, it should be messy and flawed or you’re some kind of genius).
But you know what? You will be finished!
And a so-so first draft of a novel is a lot more useful than a partially written first draft, or a first draft you’ve been thinking about for years but have never actually started.
How do you write an entire novel in 30 days or less?
First, figure out a time of day you can commit at least two hours to your novel, three if at all possible. This can be split up into different parts of your day. This can be done all at once, early in the morning, or around noontime, or late at night. Whatever works best for you,
Second, figure out the word count for your genre and decide on a target word count for your first draft. If you’re writing a middle grade novel, for example, you should aim for 40,0000–50,000 words. If you’re writing a young adult novel, aim for 70,000–80,000 words. For most adult genres, 70,000–80,000 words is the sweet spot. Only in science fiction and fantasy should you necessarily aim for more.
Third, do the math. How many words a day do you need to write in order to finish your book in 30 days? If 70,000 words is your goal, you need to get down about 2,400 words a day.
Again, you can split this up if you want. Aim for 1,200 words bright and early in the morning, then another 1,200 words late at night. Figure out what you need to do to make your goal always. Yes, on the weekends, too. You need to commit to this schedule seven days a week.
But only for a single month! Think about that novel you want to write right now. Imagine if your first draft could be done… just one month from right now.
On Sunday, June 2nd, my new YA novel Fear of Water was just an idea in my head. It was this thing I’d been thinking about for more than two years.
I started writing the first chapter on Monday, June 3rd, and now, a little over two weeks later, I’m already nearing the 45,000-word mark! I’m already well over halfway done with the first draft and it hasn’t even been three weeks.
You can absolutely write a novel in a single month if you put your mind to it.
Just treat the writing of your novel as a part-time job. Treat it like a new exercise regime. Treat it seriously.
The only way this fails is if you get lazy. If you feel sorry for yourself and worry your latest chapter doesn’t work. If you miss a day of writing and the next day and ultimately give up.
No matter what, do not give you ever. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you are allowed to screw up often in your first draft.
I’ve screwed up in the first draft all the time. The first draft of my MFA thesis novel in 2017 was such a disaster I had to cut 30,000 words at a later date and rewrite the middle of the book from scratch. That, of course, is worst case scenario. You probably won’t have to cut 82 pages of writing like I did.
But even if something like that happens, it’s okay! Because at least you have the bare bones down. At least you’re well on your way to writing a great novel.
I’m currently on the tenth draft of my MFA thesis novel, and it’s far and away the best thing I’ve ever done. The first draft didn’t work too well, but now, two years and nine revisions later, the book has developed into something special.
The most important thing you can do for your novel writing career… is to write the first draft of your novel. Don’t keep delaying it and delaying it.
It’s summer right now. You might have more free time than usual. Even just a little bit of free time makes a world of difference as a writer.
So start today and not tomorrow, will you? The world needs your stories. You don’t have to slowly and preciously work on the first draft of your book for months and months and months.
Write it in one month instead. I’ve done it many times before, and you can do it, too!
Just believe in yourself, and believe in your story. You can do it!