Wednesday, April 14, 2021


THE WRITE PLAN (TO DRAFT YOUR NOVEL, IN ONE MONTH) - Plan on writing a novel in one month? It’s easy to dream, and much harder to achieve. My suggestion: go into this with a goal and a plan. Maybe you want to participate in NaNoWriMo. Or maybe you have a vacation, a chunk of free time, and want to finally write that book. Fine, but how? Before I wrote my first novel, I had no clue where to start, and had only ever written short stories up until then. I dreamed about writing a book. There was a goal, but no plan. Need structure? No matter where you’re starting today, follow these tips. Your writing will be the better for it. I recommend considering 2 important factors, before jumping into a fiction project: 1. Set an end goal, and 2. Develop a plan. 

Set an end goal - NaNoWriMo begins on November 1st, with a target of 50,000 words. This can be a good approach, but can also be scaled up, or scaled down. Only have one week? Shoot for an average length short story of 7,000 words. Don’t have a lot of writing experience? Start with smaller incremental goals, and build up stamina over time. 

Develop a plan - In a “pantser” approach, writers draft freely, without a clear goal where the story is headed. But if your time is limited, consider not wasting that valuable asset. Have a system, and there is no need to invent one. Years ago I stumbled on Book in a Month by Victoria Schmidt quite by accident. I go back to it time and time again. Start with the section on creating an outline. Create scenes, character maps, turning points, generate backstory and identify potholes. Write the whole damn first draft, or as much as you can muster, straight through from the opening sentence to the last line. Don’t write and edit at the same time! If you aim to reach the full 50K word count goal, I recommend setting up the outlines, characters and plot points in October — ahead of time. 

The limitations - No, you won’t end the month with a complete novel. It won’t be ready to “hit send” to agents or publishers. You might pull that off with a short story, but probably not if it’s your first time. What will you have? A first draft; which must be shared with critique partners, and rewritten based on their feedback. Perhaps by that point it will be ready to self-publish or submit to publishers. Don’t skip professional editing if you’re going to independently publish. 

It’s not easy to write a fully complete novel, but it can be done. Who knows? If you have a good hook, well-paced plot, and put in the work, it might even be a great novel. You’ll never know until you try. Want to do more? Please consider donating to the organization that brings this event to life.

This post was first published on Medium in November 2020: