I don’t like to dawdle.
When I decided to write my first novel, I gave myself three months to do it. Rather, I gave myself one month to write it, one month to edit it, and one final month to read, re-read, edit and re-edit it.
By the end of that experience, I realized I only needed two months to get the novel written and polished to my liking. The final month is now reserved for reading and final edits before I send the thing off to beta readers.
I DON’T KNOW HOW INTENSE YOUR NOVEL IS, BUT I DO KNOW THIS: IF IT’S TAKING YOU A YEAR TO PUT IT TOGETHER, YOU’RE PROBABLY BEING A PERFECTIONIST
I’m not saying anyone should feel rushed to write, and granted, some stories take a high magnitude of research or methodical compilation, but, for everyone else, there’s something to be said about just getting the thing done.
Once it’s done, then you can start polishing it, but when you’re first starting out I believe it’s imperative that you get the first draft done as soon as you can.
If you have any intention of making a career out of this, then meeting due dates is inevitably in your future. And if you have any intention of being successful with your future career as a novelist, then you need to get pretty stellar at trusting your instincts and learning your writing flow.
All of that comes with setting expectations and meeting them, regardless of how horrible the initial experience(s) may be.
My tactic? Put a calendar on the wall with a due date for your first draft and meet that date, no excuses.
FIRST NOVEL DOWN COMMITMENT CALENDAR
[Click the image below to download the calendar.]
WHAT’S MY SECRET FOR PUMPING OUT A NEW NOVEL IN SIXTY DAYS?
Simple logic declares that I either write 2,000 pristine words a day and end up with a 120,000 word book (not too shabby for a 60-day project), OR I use my Noveldom method to create a full story without allowing perfectionism, creative censorship, days off, or brain farts slow me down.
My secret? Using the Noveldom method in tandem with living out a montage of no-bars-held creative snowballing.
STEP 1: Write five sloppy chapters a day for five days straight, totaling 30 chapters.
This idea came from two sources: James Patterson’s Masterclass and Stuart Horwitz’s Finish Your Book In Three Drafts. Both author’s suggest writing your first draft as fast as you can to get the idea out of your brain and onto the page. The first draft doesn’t have to be pretty (in fact, it oughtn’t be at all), it just needs to get done. Some author’s choose to leave out all dialogue in this draft; on the other hand, I don’t stop myself from writing anything. The key to this step is to not censor your writing, just let it flow.
STEP 2: Edit the sloppy draft, take notes, and gather your bearings; you're about to dive into the madness all over again.
Next, I take 2-3 days to go over everything I’ve written and compile notes. I write down what works, what doesn’t work, what would be cool to add in, what details I want to include, what details I want to eliminate, what I want my readers to know in each chapter, and where I think I need improvement. Once I have a complete list of notes, I take 1 day to wrap my head around what I want to tackle first, what my enhanced vision of this story is, and what I need to do to pull it together.
STEP 3: Enhance each chapter by 2,000 words, tackling 2 chapters a day.
By the end of this step, I am well into week three and have a twice drafted story that is roughly 120,000 words (spanning +/-30 chapters). By now, you can see that letting go of creative hangups and working at a hare’s pace helps push your story along, build confidence in your storytelling, and leaves you with a legitimate chunk of novel. BUT, the works not done yet!
STEP 4: Edit your second draft with a fine tooth comb for 1 week.
This edit will end up meaning a lot to your final novel and by the end of it, you’ll be halfway through the First Novel Down Commitment Calendar. This edit is messy, it’s serious, it’s extensive, and it’s often times my least favorite part of this process. But I’m learning to find love for it. For now, I still cling to the words that I slash out of my draft. While I know they only hold back my story, they’re also proof of my creative ability and cutting them out seems cruel. Nevertheless, this step is crucial to creating an intelligent and captivating piece of art. Take a full week to read and edit, read and edit, read, read, read and edit.
STEP 5: Apply your edits in the third draft (the Peaks of Draft) over the next 3 weeks.
This is when I take the bulk of my time to creep through spicing up my novel. For three full weeks (21 days, no days off), I sit down with my edit notes from my second draft edit session and officially bring my novel to life. Up until now, it’s been a sort of Frankenstein; unable to make sense to anyone but myself, a mess the likes of which even Picasso would look down upon. But in this three week session, I give my characters fitting dialogue, I enhance my exposition with whatever detail it’s clearly missing, I round out my climax to be explosive and unpredictable. And I take my sweet time doing it, sometimes even 1 chapter a day.
STEP 6: Final read through and edits.
If all’s gone well and I’ve treated my creative brain with kindness, I’ll be looking at a ridiculous story that makes sense and sounds great, a story that flows as strong as a raging river and feels right as rain in a dusty desert. I will feel proud of the work I’ve created, no jade glasses necessary. If, by the end of this final read through and edit session, I’m unhappy with the work I created, I’ll take the time to assess where I went wrong and what I can do to salvage the work.
Are you up for the challenge?
Head over to my partner post for the First Novel Down Commitment Calendar, the First Novel Down Challenge, to accept the challenge of writing your first novel in the next sixty days.
And don’t be a slouch! Follow the rules of the challenge, or find more than just your posture suffer for it.