You want to write a novel, right? Come on, don’t be so modest. I know you want to. And you know what? That’s one laudable pursuit. Raise that paw and give me a collective high-five dudes and dudettes.
So, how about you write that masterpiece of yours in, let’s say... One week?
Hey, come back here. I ain’t done talking to you. It’ll be worth your while. I promise.
Because if a *bleeping* flake like I can do it, you can do it better (RESEARCH springs to mind). About a bajilion times.
Writing a novel is quite the feat, more so if you try to do it in one friggin’ week. Because, you know. That’s, like, 168 hours, minus grabbing something to eat and going to the potty. A quick aside: I learned to appreciate diapers.
Unsavory jokes aside, while it seems like a Brobdingnagian endeavor, it is manageable. Note that I didn’t say easy.
If you’re up for this Crazy ride (Capital C, baby!), give me a minute or two to give you the skinny. Show you the ropes. Ease you in. Be the Rorschach to your Night Owl. Uh, right. Enough metaphors. Let’s get crackin’.
I have the annoying tendency to prove people wrong. No, Stefan you can’t drink five six packs and pass the breath test. No, Stefan don’t put that fork in the toaster. No, you can’t wrap it in an aluminum sheet. That yogurt looks past its expiration date, Stefan, you shouldn’t eat it.
Dares and acts of bravado can get you into a lot of trouble. Writing a novel in a single, piddling week can too. Take a day to prepare mentally. Get some chores done. Most importantly tell your spouse, partner or parents what you’re about to do. That way you will avoid awkward scenes when you suddenly start behaving... oddly.
My mother told me actually that I was muttering the word MANUSCRIPT in my sleep. That happened around day three or four. Imagine how I behaved around day six or seven.
This may run contrary to some advice on the interwebz, but generally, pick the one novel you always wanted to write and stick to it. The reason is simple, really. You need enough drive to be able to see this trough. If you don’t care about the characters it’ll be one tough ride. Bleed on the page. Not literary, please.
Writing slams can pull the best out of you. When I sat down to edit the novel I wrote, I found out that I subconsciously put a lot of my inner demons on the page.
My ongoing battle with depression. My fear of losing people that are dear to me. My parents’ divorce. My problems with alcoholism and marijuana. My paralyzing fear of failure.
Then add all your interests into the plot and setting (or things that zing you as John Brown says) and you got a winner. For me those things were anime, comic book heroes, Shinto mythology, love triangles, Shakespearian tragedies, George R.R. Martinesque plot twist and a smart-ass Harry Dresdenish narrator.
All of this I stuffed into a 60.000 word YA novel. The concept? A cross between Sailor Moon and Watchmen. Sounds silly? Maybe. But it was a blast to write. I am going to query this novel actually, so wish me luck. Excelsior!
Another way to phrase this would be “write or get off the pot”. You got a daily word count goal of 8 or 10 thousand words. That’s more than your average short story. Sure, there’s time to spend with your pets, get the laundry done or have a raging fistfight with alien invaders, but be sure try to clock in at a thousand words an hour.
It may be hypocritical of me to say this, since I played hooky more often than I care to admit, but I had to compensate for my little adventures by writing well into the wee hours. That will screw up your sleeping schedule so be aware of this particular pitfall. I know, I know, people who write novels in glass houses shouldn’t... words and typing...throw word counts... hypocrisy...something...
Meh. Next one.
When I decided to write a novel in the space of a week I went to my mother’s place. I live in Banja Luka. With some 250 000 inhabitants there are a lots of interesting people to be found there. There are also numerous bars, two movie theaters, Uncle Mujo’s monthly all-you-can-eat event and a few strip clubs (or so I heard).
In Teslic, where my mum currently resides, there’s not much to distract me.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to change locations (not all across the States at least), you should just keep your distractions to a bare minimum. If all you got is a blank page on your LCD screen your Muse will start prancing, biting, pinching and demanding to be entertained. Muses are fickle. They tend to ignore you until they get bored. Bore your Muse intentionally and you will see a series of miracles unfold.
Have I mentioned that there’s no internet connection in my mum’s house? Key point, right there.
Now, you probably have a day job. Or Academic obligations. I understand that. This weekend I’ll have to write my thesis and a plethora of assignments I left on ice because I wanted to write my novel (“Conventions of Transcription in Serbian-English Translations “ isn’t as fun a topic as it sounds). I even shirked College for two days. I let my professors know beforehand.
The thing is, I really want to do this novel writing gig as a full time job at one point in my life. It might be a silly ambition, but sacrifices are sometimes necessary. I will let the obvious human sacrifice joke stand. I am more refined than that.
...and shoot your inner editor. Not in the face, mind you. You’ll need that guy later. The Inner Editor (also known as Homo non shutupix in make-believe Latin) is somewhat like Steve Urkel. He is smart. He is lovable. He knows his stuff. But, hoo boy, do I want to ball-gag him. For purely pragmatic reasons, of course.
Remember, you can fix everything LATER. I even changed a character name half way into the novel. No big deal. That’s what revision is for. That’s why we have word processors - to quickly fix our mistakes. And to write raunchy joke emails. A writer an agent and Steve King went into a bar... Uhm, yeah. Let’s keep moving.
I am a heavy smoker. Awww, come on, stop booing. Pretty please with KFC sauce on the top? Okay. Thanks.
The truth is, nicotine and caffeine are great energizers. As long as you can take your vices in moderation (this coming from the guy who smokes two packs a day), you’ll be fine. I tend to eschew energy drinks, because they taste yucky, but a friend of mine swears upon those.
Different strokes for different folks, I suppose.
Fruit. Ah, juicy, tasty fruit. Let me get this clear: your body isn’t a temple. It’s the Chinese wall. And you’ll need every bit of mortar and every brick to survive this taxing ordeal. If you stuff your body with junk food the Mongols will come along and start effin’ shizz up. I know that because I watched the South Park episode. Cheetos and Doritos come after you finish the novel.
I prefer bananas, oranges, apple slices and grapes. Yum.
One the prime reasons for my success. Music. Find songs that resonate with your characters and themes. Compile a neat soundtrack that will keep you motivated to churn out those words. I know quite a few writers who prefer working in silence, but I say prepare a soundtrack anyway. You can listen to it while working out, or while you eat.
My novel is set in Tokyo, so I listened to a lot of contemporary Japanese music (which is a sophisticated way of saying J-Rock) . Movie OSTs are especially good.
Write a romantic scene to the theme song of Dirty Dancing and try not to break out in tears.
I recently discovered that I am a discovery writer. Which is weird. It’s like being a dude all your life and suddenly you find out you’re a chipmunk. Who has a rock band.
Discovery writing can be thrilling. You chug along and, holy smokes, end up surprising yourself. You can work with an outline at the ready if it suits you, but don’t be afraid to add things on the run.
Your protagonist needs a radiation proof mutant ninja buddy? Who rides a steampunk unicorn named Precious? Let him have it.
Be always sure to have enough material in your mental buffer if you’re discovery writing. Be at least one step ahead. It’s a touchstone of sorts, so you don’t get lost in the vast, frightening place of plot-land.
With all that being said, the year has a lot of weeks. If you are ill, are expecting a baby or awaiting guests who will stay a couple of days don’t do this. Your health and family are more important than writing a novel. While I do not condone procrastination, I prioritize some things over writing. If you are committed to writing a novel this way there’s just the page, the scantily clad muse (male or female, take your pick) and you.
That’s a no-brainer, really. You know this as well as I do. No need to belabor the obvious. J
You are awesome. You really are. It’s not easy to write a novel, much less so if you’re doing it in a week. Kudos to you, sirs and ladies. Tap yourself on the shoulder. Boast a little bit. Let everyone in twitter land know it.
As Chuck Wendig once said (a far more loquacious fellow than I can ever hope to be) writers tend to be ashamed of what they do. Pray tell why? You are the spiritual successor of Homer and Shakespeare. Of Dickens, Lovecraft and Howard. It’s easy to denigrate someone else’s writing efforts.
Lot of folks on their high horses like to chuckle at you?
Ignore them is what I say. Or, if you’re anything like me, get into a fist fight (if you win, they have to read your novel and line-edit it).
That novel is YOU. Nobody can write the same novel as YOURS. It might have a similar theme or nigh identical plot (heck, the Simpson probably did it), but no-one can take your authorial fingerprints and copy them.
Us adults (I am 22, but indulge me), like to say funny things. Stop dreaming. Stop fantasizing. Be responsible. Yada yada yada.
Don’t let people treat you like Beavis and Butthead. Aim for the stars. Tell your stories. Writing a novel in a week might be just the first step. I don’t know you. I communicate to you via a blog post. But if you are a writer (published or not, doesn’t matter) and love telling stories I consider you a friend and brother/sister.
Place your palm on that screen and give me a cyber high-five, will you?
There’s the argument that a novel written in the space of seven days may... You know... Suck.
I am not qualified to judge that, nor is my opinion viable. However, I do know that Frankenstein and Dracula were written in a couple of days as a part of a dare.
The truth of the matter is that you can only write and edit.
That’s the extent of your control. Leave judging the merit of a literary work to folks like Howard
Just write the best novel you can. And then do it again, ad infinitum.I’ll be rooting for you from the other side of the Atlantic.