Posted in Writing

How to Finish Your Novel by the End of the Year


So you want to write a new novel this year?

There’s a novel you’ve been dying to write since January but you just haven’t been able to find the time to get started on it yet?

I know the feeling. Life gets busy, and you can never find the right moment to begin that project you’ve been thinking about for months.

I’ve written before about how it’s possible to write a novel in a single month…

I just did it this summer, actually! My twentieth novel, a YA thriller called Fear of Water, I started on June 3, 2019, and finished on July 3, 2019. 31 days, a single month, to write 81,000 words.

I’ve always been attracted to writing novels really, really fast because novel writing takes up so much of my mind while I’m deep in the process that I actually find it helpful to reach THE END as soon as possible.

This isn’t always the case, however. Two summers ago I spent 10 long weeks writing a super intense thriller novel that nearly sent me into a depression by the end of the process because it was such a dark story, and spending week after week in that mindset was getting to me.

Finally reaching the end of that particular book was like emerging back into sunlight!

So, yes, when the time is available, I prefer to write first drafts of novels really, really fast. Last December/January I wrote a 60,000-word middle grade novel in 24 days. In 2014 I wrote a 63,000-word MG novel in just 21 days, just three weeks! Still my all-time record.

But writing an entire novel in a month might feel too intimidating. Four months? Now that’s do-able!

Tomorrow is September 1, 2019. There are now four months left in the year.

You might think your time to write a new novel this year has passed you by, but there couldn’t be anything further from the truth. You can still write your novel this year… and you can finish it, too!

Now you don’t need to try to write your whole book in September. You don’t have to do it in one month if you don’t want to.

The problem with writing books in just 30 or 31 days (or shorter) is that, yes, you need to have big chunks of the day available for you to write. That new novel I just wrote this summer I spent on average three hours every day working on it. Some days I went as long as five hours.

And for most of us, that time just isn’t available. You might have an hour totally free to work on your novel. Maybe even two hours. But three or more? Forget about it!

So unless you’re really, really fast and know exactly what you want to do in your novel, you’re probably going to need more than a month.

If you want to complete a novel by December 31st, take it from me: you can do it! You have no excuse to not complete your first draft by New Year’s Eve. You know why?

Because you can write the first draft of your novel in four months time.

Four months can often be the perfect amount of time to write a novel. It’s a short enough time to keep you constantly focused on your book while also long enough to let you only write a little bit with each passing day.

Let’s do the math again, shall we? Let’s say you decide you’re going to write your novel in four months. If you started the book tomorrow, that would make for 122 days total. 122 days to write the first draft of your novel.

If you’re writing a young adult novel or an adult novel, you should aim for at minimum 70,000 words in your first draft if you can. 70,000 words is a fantastic word count goal if you’re just starting out!

If you want to reach 70,000 words in 122 days, that’s 574 words a day. Just 574 words!

I’d bet if you could find just one hour a day to put all your focus on your drafting, you could probably reach that amount every single day.

What’s so cool about that small amount is that you could always aim for 574 words… and then go longer! Aim for 574 words and if you really get going, maybe you’ll reach 800, 900, even 1,000 words or more.

That happens to me all the time. I’ll aim for 2,000 words and end up writing 2,500 words. There’s nothing ever wrong with going long!

800 words a day for four months is 97,600 words. A fantastic length for a first draft.

900 words a day for three months is 109,800 words, the exact length of the first draft of my MFA thesis novel I completed in August of 2017.

If you want to instead aim for just 70,000 words in your first draft, that of course would be about 574 words a day. To finish your novel this year, you don’t have to find time to write 2,000 words a day, or even 1,000 words.

Just 574 words a day will do the trick!

You can write your novel this year! Don’t let anyone else tell you differently.

I very much believe in the practice of creating a writing schedule for your novel writing and then keeping to that schedule seven days a week. I don’t know about you but I find it much easier to write a little bit of a novel every day than write a lot of a novel just one or two days a week.

On the last five days drafting my latest novel I was averaging about 3,500 words a day in four or five hours time, and I soon got severely burned out. To the point where I needed to step away from the laptop for a considerable amount of time after I finally reached THE END.

Four hours or more staring at a screen trying to write your novel might sound like fun but eventually it does become super exhausting.

But 574 words a day? You can totally do that in an hour. Maybe even half an hour. When you get started, the end of the novel might feel like a million days away, but then a week will go by and then two weeks will go by, and you’ll suddenly find yourself making significant progress.

And once you hear that ringing cry heard all around the world — Happy New Year! — you’ll suddenly find yourself with a completed novel.

Start tomorrow, not next week, not next month, and definitely not next year. The earlier you begin, the earlier that novel will get done. Just believe in yourself, believe in your story, and get started.

You can do it!

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