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|Write a Novel in
by Lee Masterson
Three years ago a friend challenged me to turn a short story I had written into a complete novel. At the time, I remember laughing at her hysterically.
Me? Write an entire novel? Where would I find the time? How could I find 90,000 words that link together to form a novel-length story?
The entire idea of embarking on such a long arduous journey was too scary to contemplate. What if I ran out of ideas to keep the plot moving?
That same friend shrugged off my fears and gave me a small piece of advice: "Each journey begins with a single step."
HA! I panicked, and for months I wasted precious time, believing that if I took so much as one step on the WRONG path, it would lead to nowhere. And then, in the space of one month, the entire novel came flooding out.
Remember, I was working full-time in an office back then, so a lot of my writing was done before work, or in the evenings after dinner, so I won't lie to you and say it was an easy month. But it was sure worth the effort.
Here's how it was done:
- Buy some manilla folders and label each of them with a chapter number. 90,000 seems like an enormous amount, but achieving small segments of 3,000 words each is a more realistic goal. - Write a short outline for each chapter and paste it inside each folder. - Arrange a plot-line map and stick this on the wall in front of your work space.
Create your character profiles in as much depth as you can. Have fun. Be creative with their quirks. Invent pasts for them, including family and friends. Find images or cut out pictures of people who remind of you that character.
Add your character's intended movements and actions to the short outlines pasted in your manilla folders. Double-check that the plot is still on track. Start thinking about the background details that will enhance your fictional world.
--- I'm going to interrupt myself here, because I hear you screaming: "What about researching locations? That takes months!" Perhaps, but that isn't the issue here. The task at hand is to get a novel out of your head and onto paper (or onto the computer, whichever works for you)
Days 4 - 29
- Switch off your 'internal editor' and create some spare time to write.
- Sit down and fill in the the details of those short outlines you made.
- Forget all about expressions and grammar and background detail. Just write the bare bones of a scene that will get you from one chapter to the next. If you set yourself a target goal of writing 3,000 words per day, then in 26 days you will have an 80,000 word first draft of a completed novel.
Celebrate by taking an entire day to goof off.
Okay, I'll be the first to admit that writing this way will not result in an instant best-seller. In fact, all you WILL have at the end of that month is a completed first draft of a novel that will definitely need a lot of heavy editing and revising.
You will need to go back through your manuscript several times and flesh out the details, describe the settings and open up the characters to give them depth and to create reader empathy. Editing through grammatical errors and expanding on scenes to clarify details is a necessary step.
But revision is not the same thing as free-form creative writing. Revising a completed manuscript is an enormous feeling of achievement, and it is also a great motivational tool. But you can't begin to revise properly without first finishing the tale.
By breaking up an enormous task like writing a novel into several smaller, more manageable chunks, you really can write a novel in a month.
It's the editing that takes time...
© Copyright Lee Masterson. All rights reserved
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