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Monday, March 25

How to Get an Extra Novel Written in a Year

how to write a novel
By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Getting more books written is the goal of many writers, but finding the time to write more can be challenging.

Like many writers, I have a list of book ideas I want to write. Some are nothing more than basic premises, while others have decent outlines and are just about ready to go. The problem with this well of ideas, is that I don’t have time to write them all—even when I love the idea and want to write it.

Over the last several years I’ve spoken of a middle grade fantasy I've wanted to work on. I’ve had other obligations and other books in the works, and this project kept getting pushed back. But a few months ago, I got an opportunity to “sneak” this project into my writing schedule.

I joined a critique group.

You’re likely wondering how this is going to help me write an extra novel this year. Here’s how:

This is a small group—just three people. We’re all middle grade/young adult writers. We meet face to face once a month, and submit up to twenty pages to review (around 5,000 words).

how to get more written
Small steps lead to long journeys
Since this was a kidlit (MG/YA) group, I’d have to submit a kidlit project. But both my current writing projects are adult (my urban fantasy series and my new science fiction series). But my little middle grade fantasy was perfect for this group. And all I had to do was manage to write two chapters a month, which for middle grade, is around 3,000-4,000 words. 4,100 words a month hits 50,000 words in twelve months, which is a middle grade-sized novel. Hitting 4,000 words a month is only 133 words a day. That's not a lot of words.

Now, I don’t write 133 words a day on this project, though others certainly could if that fit their schedules. But I often have small blocks of time that are too short to really get into my main project, and I can easily dash off a few hundred words on a small side project. I'm also spending one or two main writing sessions on it a month (which can cover the entire 3,000-5,000 on a good day). On the days when I hit my word count goal for my main project, I shift over to this one and work a little more. It all depends on how I’m feeling and where my muse is taking me.

(Here's more on 6 Ways to Double Your Writing Speed)

How two chapters a months can help you write a novel in a year


This is working for me several reasons:

how long does it take to write a novel
Don't forget: Plan ahead 
1. The book was well-outlined ahead of time. This means I don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out what to write when I sit down to write. I need to know how the scene I’ll be working on will unfold and what needs to be there when I start, and a detailed outline does that. I spend a few minutes reading the previous chapter to get back into the feel of the story, but that’s all.

2. The scenes are short. I can complete an entire scene in one sitting, which helps keeps the momentum going. It’s easier to stay in the writing groove this way.

3. I have accountability to finish. My critique group is expecting chapters, which pushes me to write a little more every month. I don’t want to be the only one without something to submit.

(Here's more on A Less Lonely Way to Get More Writing Done)

4. I don’t expect perfection.
This will be a first draft, and probably a rough one at that. I know it’ll need work next year, but by then, I’ll be done with both my current projects. If not, revising a draft during the month one of my larger books is being critiqued or with my agent (or editor if I sell it year) is easier than squeezing a whole first draft into the same space.

how long does it take to write a novel
A little goes a long way
5. I know I can always finish it faster if I get the time. Writing is a funny thing, and sometimes it goes faster than we expect. If I get my other two novels done and have time, I can put all my focus on this one and get it done early. That frees me up to outline the next project for next year’s crit group.

Writing a novel takes time and effort, but over a year, you can get a lot of writing done. Look at this writing math. In a year, you could write:
  • 50,000 words by writing 137 words a day, 961 words a week, 4,167 words a month
  • 80,000 words by writing 219 words a day, 1,537 words a week, 6,667 words a month
  • 100,000 words by writing 274 words a day, 1,923 words a week, 8,333 words a month
  • 120,000 words by writing 329 words a day, 2,308 words a week, 10,000 words a month
That’s around a page a day, which isn’t much. An hour a day would be enough for most writers to hit those marks. You can see how it adds up over the course of a year.

(Here's more on 3 Ways to Boost Your Word Count Every Writing Session)

I’m sure there will be days when it’s harder to get into the groove or remember the full story, especially the farther along I get, but that’s what the outline is for. It might also be hard to stay on the main project if that hits a wall and the side project is more fun. But at least I’ll have another project to work on, and that might even get it done faster. And getting books written is what this is all about.

So how about you? Does this sound like something you’d want to try?

For more help on plotting or writing a novel check out my Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structure.

Go step-by-step through plotting and writing a novel. Learn how to find and develop ideas, brainstorm stories from that first spark of inspiration, develop the right characters, setting, plots and subplots, as well as teach you how to identify where your novel fits in the market, and if your idea has what it takes to be a series.

With clear and easy-to-understand examples, Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structure offers ten self-guided workshops with more than 100 different exercises to help you craft a solid novel. Learn how to:
  • Create compelling characters readers will love
  • Choose the right point of view for your story
  • Determine the conflicts that will drive your plot (and hook readers!)
  • Find the best writing process for your writing style
  • Create a solid plot from the spark of your idea
Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structure also helps you develop the critical elements for submitting and selling your novel once it’s finished. You’ll find exercises on how to:
  • Craft your one-sentence pitch
  • Create your summary hook blurb
  • Develop a solid working synopsis And so much more!
Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structure is an easy-to-follow guide to writing your novel or fixing a novel that isn’t quite working. 

Available in paperback and ebook formats.

Janice Hardy is the award-winning author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, including The ShifterBlue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The Shifter, was chosen for the 2014 list of "Ten Books All Young Georgians Should Read" from the Georgia Center for the Book.

She also writes the Grace Harper urban fantasy series for adults under the name, J.T. Hardy.

When she's not writing novels, she's teaching other writers how to improve their craft. She's the founder of Fiction University and has written multiple books on writing.
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