Thursday, June 4, 2015

How to Write a Novel in 25 Days

Happy Thursday! I'm on the very last leg of writing a 70,000-75,000 word novel this week. As I type this, I have four scenes left to write, so I should have it done by Friday. That means I completed the first draft in 25 writing days with three rest days, for a total of 28 days.


I'm writing a story for the Love Inspired Blurb to Book Contest. In March I sent in a hundred word blurb with my first page. Among the hundreds of submissions, the contest judges chose twenty five in the historical category to move on to the second round, and I was one of them (so was Erica!). I then submitted a full synopsis of the story and the first three chapters. On May 15th, the judges announced the top ten authors moving forward, and again, I was thankful to be chosen (so was Erica!). Now the full manuscript is due on July 15th.

Since I have another story releasing July 1st, and a writing retreat at my house starting July 8th, I needed to get my first draft finished as soon as possible. I still need to make revisions and edits, and I still need enough time for my critique partners to read it and give me feedback.

So how did I get it finished in 25 writing days? Today I thought I'd share my writing plan, in case you're curious or you'd like to give it a try (this would work great for NaNoWriMo).

1. Brainstorm
This is one of my favorite parts of writing a novel. I love to sit down and think of all the possibilities. It's even more fun when I can brainstorm with my writing friends. If I can't, I'll often pick the brain of my husband, mother, sister, friends, or even my daughters. It's amazing how many ideas you can generate. I usually give myself a good week to pull together all my brainstorming notes. With this contest, I was able to brainstorm a little with my critique partners before I sent in my first entry, and then I had time between the judges' announcements to brainstorm.

2. Plot
I'm a plotter, but I also let the story take me unexpected places when I'm writing. To get a story written in 25 days, I had to plot this one out pretty extensively. I have a spreadsheet with all the elements I need to include in each story I write. For instance, in the first chapter, I need to make sure to show the home world, the inciting incident, (for Love Inspired) the hero and heroine need to meet, and so on. My spreadsheet it my best friend while I write. When I get writing block, I simply go back and look at what I have coming next and it's already there. I had to plot this story during the second stage so I could write a full synopsis. Having the plot in place definitely helped me write as quickly as I did.

3. Schedule and Daily Word Count
After each scene is created in my plotting spreadsheet, I make a schedule. For my other stories, I try to write one scene a day, five days a week, for a total of 7,500 words a week. But for this story, I have a much smaller window of time to complete the first draft. I chose to write two scenes a day, six days a week, for a total of 18,000 words a week. I was aiming for about 72,000 words total, so that meant it would take me four weeks to write the story.

4. Sabbath Rest
I always give myself at least one day of rest in my writing schedule. Usually, I take two days off a week, but since this was a special situation, I only gave myself one day off. This is so important. There's no better way to refuel than to rest. I try to unwind with my family around a campfire or watching a little television. Anything I enjoy away from writing.

5. Perseverance, Determination, and Diligence (which means: write, even when you don't feel like it!)
This is probably the most important element to finishing a story in 25 writing days. There are definitely moments when I don't feel like writing, but I do it anyway. There's no secret formula or magic potion to make this happen. It's just pure dedication.

6. Keep Notes
I have to keep something close by to take notes, because inevitably, I'll be driving down the road and I'll get a revelation about my story. I've found if I don't have something handy to take notes, I'll forget. Often, this is my iPhone and I can just speak into the notes app. When you're writing a story in such a short time frame, it's almost always on your mind. This is a good thing (most of the time!), because it means your brain is working on your story, even when you're not sitting in front of your computer.

7. Read the Previous Day's Work and then Keep Going!
I've found the biggest time sucker is re-reading large portions of story I've already written. If I do this, I tend to start editing and I don't get in as much word count for the day. My trick for this is to simply re-read what I wrote the day before (and only that much), making small corrections as I go, and then move forward to get my word count in. There will be plenty of time left over to re-read the full manuscript later.

8. Sacrifice
This is the hardest one sometimes. It means, instead of watching television at night, I write. Instead of doing something I might enjoy with my mom and sister, I write. Instead of...I write. I usually volunteer at VBS, but this year I had to pass. I also had to back out of a few things I really wanted to do, so I could find the time to write. I never want to sacrifice time with my husband or children, so that means other things have to go.

So there you go! Eight tips for writing a story in 25 days. It isn't easy, and my husband will tell you the laundry has piled up and the toilets need to be cleaned, but surprisingly, I've still been able to do a lot of fun activities with my children, and wrap up the end of our homeschool year.

I usually devote three hours a night, after the kids have gone to bed, to get in my 3,000 words a day. Some nights it's a little longer, and some a little shorter. Some days I'm able to sneak in my word count earlier (like this week while my kids are at VBS for three hours every morning). The trick is to be flexible, which I suppose could be number nine above.

Your Turn: If you're a writer, have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo, or written a book in a month? If you have, what are some tips you've found helpful? If you're a reader, what surprises you (if anything) about the writing process?

Gabrielle Meyer:
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  1. Great tips!! And great job getting your story completed!! Good luck!

  2. You're writing way faster than I am! :) I'm getting there steadily, interspersed with contest judging, book promotion, and life in general. I'm counting on the fact that the closer to the end of a story I get, the faster I write. :D

    1. I have so much going on in July, I had to write fast. I'm generally a fast fast-drafter, anyway--but this one was really fast. :) I finished my last novel (107,000 words) in about seven weeks. But, yes, life and other responsibilities tend to get in the way. Good luck, Erica!!

  3. Congrats, Gabrielle - a lot of writing in a very short amount of time!! I knew very little about the process of writing a book a couple of years ago - when God led me to become an encourager of Christian Fiction authors. In reading their posts re: writing, I discovered so much in a very short period of time: a lot of plotting, research, edits, promo, and many other tasks are involved in addition to the time devoted to the actual writing; most writers wait years before ever having their first published book; most authors don't become wealthy from their writing; etc., etc..

    I found that writing isn't for "wimps", short and simple. I've read many writers/authors comment that writing is something they feel compelled to do - regardless of financial gain, reader following, or fame, etc.. If they're Christian Fiction authors, their writing is led by God - or should be - and in addition to entertaining and educating the reader, I've found that many have goals of using their writing to inspire by helping readers become aware of/understand other's problems and the need to reach out, realize the need for a deeper relationship with God, and/or aware of the way following God's plan for one's life works to their good.

    My emotions while reading Christian Fiction have run the gamut from tears to anger, to laughter. I have been inspired numerous ways - the greatest being spiritually, experienced joy and peace, been educated on so many topics, etc.. Christian Fiction is a blessing in my life - for which I thank God continually, and wish to thank the many authors whose words have spoken to my heart!!


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