by Susan May Warren
Looking back at 2016, did you finish that you’d planned to write? It may be too late to finish this year, but 2017 is full of possibilities. 2017 is the year you can get your book written, or maybe two, dare I say three? Because you can write a book in just three months!
Write a book in 3 months? In three hours a day? And have a family life, too? Bah!
You laugh, but seriously, it can be done. Now, I’m not saying it’s easy. But the fact is, with a little “nose to the grindstone” as my father used to say, it’s possible.
First, we talked yesterday about the four keys to a successful writer’s life. If you’ve committed to the task, found your writing space, wheedled out time from your schedule and determined to keep a running game plan, then it’s time to talk strategy.
Let’s assume you have 12 weeks to write a 30 chapter book, with approximately 3000 words per chapter. That’s 1500 words per scene. That’s 6 pages per writing session, 180 minutes per scene. That’s thirty minutes a page.
Calm down. Breathe. Think about it. Can you sit down and write a blog in 30 minutes? If you already had the idea, already had the words brewing inside you? Probably most of you can. Maybe you can even do it faster than that, but we want to leave room for editing, and revisions, and notes.
And I know at least some of you do that NaNoMoWrite (I feel like I’m talking Morkish when I say that and I probably didn’t even get it right!) – that write a book in a month thing. So I think I’m being rather generous at 3 months.
Now, you’re going to pad in on either side with 2 weeks of character development, and 2 weeks for rewriting and editing, synopsis and query letter. So, yes, we’re talking 4 months, but really, the concentrated, “under the thought blanket” time (as my kids call it) is three months.
Pre Week 1: Research of idea and premise, preliminary characterization and rough brainstorming of plot.
Pre Week 2: Further Research, the cementing of characterization and synopsis writing. Sometimes, a chapter by chapter summary of the book helps at this time.
We’re going to spend the month of January talking a lot about what goes into prewriting. There are people who take months in prewriting, so I don’t count that as actual novel writing time. They live with their characters in their minds for a while, having conversations, trying on names and attire until they have them just so…and then they embark. During this time, do enough research to get your story plausible, and outline the major plot twists in the story. I always write a synopsis at this point, also, as a sort of guideline.
Then I write my first chapter. Here’s a hint: Often your first chapter isn’t one you’ll really use. It’s the “finding your character’s voice” chapter and really, it contains WAY too much backstory to use in the book. But it’s helpful as a warm up to the big event.
Week 1: Starting day. First, gather your research material around you (use lots of those big brightly colored paper clips so you can bookmark pages), and a notebook. Open up a new file and call it something terrific like Susie’s Super Suspense Book 1. (Okay, not using my name, of course, or, I suppose if you want to….) Then, open up a new doc and title it: Chapter 1.
At this point, you’re going to turn off your internal nasty editor, the one that tells you things are not grammatically correct, or perhaps you’re using a word no one has heard of before, and you’re just going to write. Splash the words onto the page. Ignore the red and green squigglies – just write. A cup of hot cocoa helps, and I’m a big fan of mood music. If you get to a point where you’ll need to do more research, put in something plausible, and denote it with an * — saying you’ll GET BACK TO IT. Don’t disrupt your writing flow. If you have a word you hate, yet can’t find the right one – Asterik it! If you can’t remember a character’s name, or eye color – Asterik it! When you’re done with your ms, you’ll read through each chapter, do a search for the Asterik’s and change it when you’re mind isn’t cluttered with story.
But what if I come up with a great story thread half way through the scene? Should I stop and go back and fix it?
NO! did you hear me? NO! Make an…what? ASTERIK! Start writing the story from this point on with your new story thread. THEN, make a note in your notebook to go back and add in or tweak that story thread AFTER you’ve finished the book. Seriously. It’s your story. No one will read it until it’s done. It’s in YOUR brain. So you don’t have to have to add everything in until you’re ready.
And right now you want to…just keep writing, just keep writing…
Once you’ve finished your scene, SAVE. And then open a new doc, label it CHAPTER 2 (or maybe Chapter 1, scene 2), and make a few notes about what you’d like to open with next scene, or things you want to accomplish. OR, you can do this in the notebook I talked about yesterday. The strategy is to jump start your mind the next time you sit down.
Close the computer.
Dance through the house shouting, “I finished Chapter 1! I finished Chapter 1!
Go to bed, and pray for words for Chapter 2.
If you want, you can spend the weekends doing more research, or going back and rereading any points you wanted to refine.
Keep doing this for the next 12 weeks. You’ll be surprised at how disciplined you get, and how fast the words flow out. And how refreshing it feels to say, I’ll get back to all those asterisk later!
When you write the final chapter, take a weekend break. (Take your poor family out for dinner, for Pete’s sake!)
You’ll spend the NEXT two weeks adding in those threads, re-writing, fixing all the green and red squigglies and doing a rough edit, then a thorough edit, and then a polish. Okay, it might take you longer than 2 weeks. But the key is…the story is DONE. It’s out of your brain.
And you can say…hey, I wrote a book in 3 months!
Don’t let another year slip through your fingers! Let 2017 be the year you finished that book – maybe even two!
Just keep writing, just keep writing…Susan May Warren (Click to Tweet)
Susan May Warren is owner of Novel Rocket and the founder of Novel.Academy. A Christy and RITA award-winning author of over fifty novels with Tyndale,Barbour, Steeple Hill, Summerside Press and Revell publishers, she’s an eight-time Christy award finalist, a three-time RITA Finalist, and a multi-winner of theInspirational Readers Choice award and the ACFW Carol. A popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation, she’s also the author of the popular writing method, The Story Equation. A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at: www.susanmaywarren.com. Contact her at:email@example.com.