It may seem impossible to write a novel in 30 days but that is not the case so long as you’re prepared to put some time aside each day to complete your dream. Because writing a novel is a bit like dreaming “in print”. Anything can happen in a novel: people can live happily ever after, the hero and heroine can meet up despite seemingly overwhelming odds (or not meet up if you’d prefer), it can be set at any time and in any place.
But you need some structure and some discipline if you’re going to write you novel in 30 days.
If you’re to stand any chance of completing your first (or next) novel within this time there are key tips to keep in mind which will help you in the process and will help make sure that this time it actually happens rather than letting the idea just rattle around your head, bugging you.
Set Time Aside For Writing
To get your novel going requires you to write each day. Not every day you feel up to writing – every day – it needs to become a habit and something you look forward to doing.
After all, if you don’t enjoy writing, why are you even thinking about doing this?
There are days when you may not feel like writing but if you are to write your novel in 30 days then depending on the eventual desired length of your new book you probably need to average around one chapter per day.
A lot of novels have 30 chapters, perhaps a few more. They don’t have to be long chapters. In fact, shorter ones can be useful for readers as well so that they can slot their reading in to their daily routine.
Depending on things like font size, page size and paragraph spacing, somewhere around 250 to 300 words per page works well.
And conversations between your characters can add page count without too many words. Just saying.
Doing some math, if a 30-chapter book is 300 pages at 250 words per page then that’s 75,000 words in total.
Of course, you may decide to aim for a “short” rather than a full novel – that’s fine and fits with modern day attention spans and the time it takes to read on a commute to work.
But if it’s a full length novel then this averages 10 pages or 2500 words per day.
Not as scary as it first seems.
When you consider that an entire novel really consists of just 30 or so main parts or chapters, then the work doesn’t seem quite so daunting and it’s easier to plan your novel too.
Come up with a schedule that best fits you and your time schedules.
Some people feel inspired and open minded in the mornings while others work better at night when all is quiet. You’ll know whether you’re a morning or an evening or other time of day person.
Personally, I like to do my writing early in the day when I feel fresher and before life has a chance to get in the way. Other people I know start tapping away at night when the phone doesn’t bleep as often and when there are less distractions from their friends on Facebook, etc.
Consider having a separate writing space from your usual office or work area.
This helps avoid distractions caused by other work that you have not completed and also puts your mind in writing mode because it recognizes that you’re at your writing location.
A lot of people like the consistency of doing this. We’re creatures of habit and part of that habit routine is doing roughly the same thing at roughly the same time. it helps keep consistency in our lives and that’s as much a part of the “being an author” routine as anything else.
Take the time to figure out what’s best for you – but use that time productively – and then do what works bestfor you.
Don’t Be Discouraged On the Way – Don’t be a Perfectionist
When you’re on the path to writing a book in 30 days, there may be days when you face issues like not being able to complete an entire chapter or perhaps not even an entire page. Life gets in the way and makes its presence known.
Or you hit the blank page “writer’s block” problem where the cursor flashes and taunts you but the words don’t seem to get written.
In other cases the story may sound boring and you may worry that no one will like it.
Every best selling author has been faced with such setbacks, so don’t be discouraged.
Just keep on writing a rough draft for now. Preferably with a “brain dump” process where you just let the words flow onto the page, no editing (not even for typos), just type away. This method works nicely for lots of writing but the important thing is to keep the editing for late.
Edits get in the way of the creative flow – they use a different part of your mind that’s much more analytical and that clashes with the creative juices, hindering both the writing process and the editing process as they’re both fighting each other for control of your mind’s focus.
You can revise and perfect your words later – for now, focus on getting some words written.
Remember than when you come to revising and analyzing your novel structure there’s a chance that you may find it’s best to delete an entire section or chapter.
One school of thought on writing essays and presentations is that you just start writing and then when you come to the editing process you delete the first paragraph or two. It’s a bit like warming up a car before the journey begins and if that’s how your writing brain works, fine, go with the flow.
It isn’t uncommon to delete entire chapters but as you get more experienced this is less likely to happen. If you’re keeping your chapters short then at least removing one won’t be the end of the world and if it keeps the pace of your novel up and your readers engaged, it’s for the better.
Sure, go back and read what you’ve already written so that you don’t contradict your plot. You’ll know from some of the books you’ve read and low budget TV shows you’ve watched that can be a problem – it jars, even if you can’t quite put your finger on it,
But if you’ve done your plot outline and character definitions well enough and are writing daily, that shouldn’t be a problem.
It happens more often when you’ve put your writing on the back burner for too long and can’t remember what you wrote a month ago or longer. If you’re writing daily then your memory should be fresh.
And don’t use checking and re-checking as an excuse to procrastinate. Because it is an excuse and unless you’ve gone off on a completely different course, you can almost always change a few words here and there in the editing process.
One of the best ideas on how to get your novel written in the next month is to ignore your inner critic or editor’s voice that keeps holding you back.
Do whatever it takes to quieten those nagging voices and get on with your writing.
Have No Fear
You might not think this is important but believe me it is.
One of the reasons why people do not put pen to paper or stare at a blank screen is because they fear that what they write will not be good enough.
To be honest, your first draft may not be and that is why it is called a draft.
In fact you need to write, write and write before you can edit anything and turn a draft into something brilliant, something worthy to call a novel.
I know from personal experience that you need to write and not worry about the quality of your words. The more you write, the better you become because it becomes more natural.
It’s very much like riding a bike – it takes what seems like ages to learn how to ride a bike and stay upright. Then you move on to driving a car and forget about bikes until you’ve got children. Then you get back on your bike again and wobble for a short while. But nowhere near as long as you did when you were a youngster. And after a few days or weeks you’re back to being confident.
Writing is the same.
If I take a week’s holiday (and my holidays are usually well away from computers), it takes me a day or two to get used to typing on a keyboard again.
The same goes for your writing.
You need to just write freely without any worries that your novel isn’t good enough.
Once you have finished, that is the time to look back and correct anything that needs correcting.
Apart from you, no-one will see your first draft unless you want them to. And I’d suggest that you only share your first draft with really trusted friends who’ll support you.
Start with a Brief Outline
This is called brief for a reason.
You do not want to write a lot.
The size of your outline will depend on how much of a control freak you are and also how far through your writing career you are.
If it’s your first novel then chances are your brief outline will be much more detailed than if you’re almost a robot, churning out novels on demand.
But regardless of where you are in the writing process, if you spend too long thinking about what you are going to write and planning it can be hard to write freely.
It’s called analysis paralysis for a reason.
I’d suggest that your outline should be like this:
- Chapter headings – even if your final novel just has chapter numbers, your outline should tell you what’s going to happen in each chapter. The detail will depend on you – you might get away with “boy meets girl” headings or you might want to write a longer outline.
- Sub headings – these are probably more correctly described as plot twists. So keeping with the “boy meets girl” idea, you could have the things that need to happen for them to meet. Journey to the coffee shop, order placing, talking in the queue, sharing a table, chatting, finding out they have some mutual friends or experiences, setting a second meet. You could use a word processor for this but my preference is to use a spreadsheet. It sound odd at first but I find it’s easier to shift ideas around by moving cells in a spreadsheet than it is to continually fight with the word processor’s instincts on how to organize and number bullet points. So I find it quicker this way.
- Main characters – most novels have a handful of main characters. They usually need a name, a description, some background details. You could treat this the same way as the chapter headings/sub headings so that you can quickly remind yourself of the traits of each character. Sometimes parts of the character history may only be hinted at in your actual novel but it’s useful to have this information at the back of your mind when you’re writing.
- Other characters – if this was a movie or TV show these would be the supporting actors or sometimes the special guests. They might pop into your plot for a page or two, never to be heard from again (the person serving the coffee maybe, unless it’s a regular meeting place) or they could weave themselves into the plot in which case they’re on the verge of becoming a main character.
- Extras – again, very much like a movie. Chances are you won’t need these described in detail but it can help as a reminder that you’ve got – say – an angry crowd of protestors or a bunch of commuters making an appearance. It depends how you like to write.
- Locations – these are the important places your novel uses. The coffee shop – you could jot down a few things such as the range of cakes, the weird names the shop uses for different sizes of coffee, the extras available. Or it could just be a coffee shop if it’s only ever used once in the novel. Sometimes locations play an important part in story lines, other times they could be anywhere. So you might just use “anonymous looking small town” and just sketch out the location in your novel, letting your reader draw their own conclusions.
- Props – the essential items that help the story move along. Some authors like to go into lots of detail so you could almost feel and smell the various items. Others keep it generic but with the occasional “extra” detail to add depth – maybe the way the plastic lid on the coffee cup only ever fits properly if the barista puts it on the cup whereas if the main character does the same, coffee always spills everywhere because the lid flies off. Those kind of details can help bring your characters to life.
- Anything else – if this is a sequel, there could be references to previous novels that reward regular readers. A bit like the way Patrick gets asked if it’s blood on his shirt in one of Bret Easton Ellis‘ novels that was written after American Psycho. Or it could be setting the stage for a sequel of your own.
A brief outline written a week or so before you start will be beneficial.
Let your characters and your mind freely wonder as you write.
Getting your initial thoughts nailed down can make the writing process a lot easier as you don’t have too many things to concentrate on.
Novel Writing Attitude
Another point you should consider in writing your novel in a month is your attitude.
Like lots of other things in life. with writing a book you need to give yourself a time frame or a deadline for completing your novel.
By doing so, you set expectations for yourself.
You might decide to write a goal for yourself to have your outline written in 3 days, the first draft written in 20 days and the final editing process another 7 days.
If you haven’t got a process, start with that.
Write it out – true, this won’t get published anywhere but writing your goals is powerful.
Then print out your goal and put it anywhere and everywhere you’ll see it on a regular basis.
Put the various other dates in your phone or online diary and set reminders for yourself.
Keep a notepad and pen near to you.
Ideas spring into your mind at the most unexpected times and you want to keep them. Physically writing them down is quicker than typing them into your phone and less disruptive to your sleep patterns if you wake up in the middle of the night with an idea to move your new novel forward.
Whenever you have new ideas, make it part of your routine to write them down.
Your mind will reward you by coming up with more ideas, regularly.
It’s a function known as the law of attraction – what you focus on most manifests itself in your life.
So the more you can reinforce your attitude that your new novel will get written (and published!) in the next month, the better.
Incidentally, publishing your new novel is easier now than it’s ever been. I’m over simplifying but basically you upload your document to Kindle’s publishing platform, add in a cover and a description and a few other things and usually within 24 hours you’re a published author.
But that’s getting ahead of yourself.
You need to knuckle down and start writing.
If you need more help, check this out but don’t let that be an excuse for procrastinating. Start writing your outline and first draft now.