Write a Novel in Three Months - Or Less
It took me less than three months to finish the first draft of my last novel. Stephen King has said the first draft should be done in three months, or a season. You can spend months, sometimes years on a novel, but I know I need to get my ideas out very quickly. Is it possible for everyone to do this? Sure, if the motivation is there with the desire to write it and finish no matter what distractions come your way.
How do you do it? First, you have to write. A lot. That means you’re aiming for a good word count everyday. I’ve a full time job, so my time is limited. That just means you need a good routine and fit your writing in. In my case, I’ve an hour commute by train into London Monday to Friday. That means two hours of my day where I’m sitting with nothing to do but wait.
I like to get a thousand words written on the commute in. When I get into London Victoria, I’ve then a twenty minute tube ride where I get a chance to have a read of my kindle because that’s pretty much all you can do on a packed tube. The upshot of this means I get forty minutes a day reading time, then two hours a day writing time. On the train home, I’ll aim for another thousand words. That’s two thousand words a day. I aim for a completed novel to be around ninety thousand words, so that means with weekends off, I get ten thousand words written a day and I’ll have the novel finished in less than three months. Of course, it isn’t always as plain sailing as this. I’m not someone who likes to plan a novel out first, but I have to have a clear idea of where the story is going in my head. In the past, I’ve had a point in a novel where I don’t know how to move forward so I stall on the writing, end up going back and revising before moving on. I think the longest it’s taken me to finish a first draft is six months, which is way too long for me.
Completing the first draft isn’t the end of it. The real work comes when you have this raw, very rough stone in your hands. You then need to take that chisel and start sculpting it. That work can often take longer than the first draft because often you’ll find you have to rewrite great chunks of it.
People have said to me how they’d love to write a novel, but they don’t have the time. If you really wanted to write it, you will find the time. It’s amazing how much of it we waste. Besides, if you write with determination on the first draft, it’s only three months you’re sacrificing. In a lifetime, that’s nothing.
A second draft is where the real work comes in, but you’ll be motivated by the fact you have at least a full novel you can now work on. This draft is where you make the reader believe you knew what you were doing all along. Third drafts refine the second and often that’s enough for me. I struggled a little with the ending on my latest, so I had five drafts with five different endings until I was happy. Total time to complete this novel to a stage where I could send it to an editor was five months. That’s a record for me. Dead Again took one and a half years to complete because unhappy with the final product, I completely rewrote from the ground up so it was almost a totally new story. But each first draft I’ve always done in three months or less.
Best tips I can give aspiring writers:
Make time wherever you can. Be determined to stick to a word count everyday.
Take a couple of days off, your imagination will keep working even if you’re not.
Learn to touch type: one fingered typing won’t cut it.
Finish your first draft in three months maximum so you can get on with the real work: editing.
Kevin Grover is a writer of horror and paranormal thrillers and he has a number of books out now on Amazon. His latest, Dead Again, is a crime thriller where the victim returns to solve her own murder and puzzle over her own existence.