Is it possible to write a book in 30 days? Yes! I’ve done it twice.
With NaNoWriMo coming up I thought it might be good to supplement Becky’s How NOT to write a book in 30 days with a How TO write a book in 30 days post.
A little background on my credentials first …
In the last five years I have written 14 novels (each around 82,000 words). My latest book, Come Back To Me (out in paperback today!), took me 6 weeks to write.
I worked on it full time – about 7 hours a day, knocking out about 6000 words on average a day (an ability to touch-type helps!). I had a deadline from my publisher Pan Macmillan which is why I worked so fast. But actually, all my books take me about 6-8 weeks to write. I am lucky to have a lot of writing and screenwriting work so the simple truth of the matter is I can’t afford to spend more time writing a book than this. I wish I could!
Come Back To Me needed little in the way of an edit when I was done and thankfully has won glowing reviews (phew and yay!). I think partly this is due to the fact that practice really makes a difference. I am a much better writer than I was when I first started and it’s easier for me to edit as I go along. I have also learned to trust my instincts and to go with the flow.
My first novel Hunting Lila I wrote over the course of 4.5 months – in the evenings after work on a borrowed laptop.
I wrote Severed, the sequel to Fated, in 30 days (just to see if I could). In short I’m a fast writer, probably the fastest writer my agent or publishers have ever seen.
So, without further ado, here are my tips on how to write a book in 30 days.
- Do not dwell
Do not let those fingers rest on the keyboard even if it’s a day that you wake up grumpy and hungover and re-runs of Mad Men or Friends are playing on cable. Sit at your desk and write. A young adult book is about 80,000 words long — divide that by 30 = about 2600 words a day. Stick to that. On some days aim to surpass that. Then you can take the odd day off when things come up.
- Treat writing like a job.
If you want to write a book in 30 days you have to commit to putting in several hours a day at your desk writing (not staring into space, instant messaging with friends, fiddling on Facebook, checking Twitter etc). Give yourself a mid-morning break and a lunchbreak but keep going. And if you can only write in the evening after work do it. Sit down and write for three hours solid.
- Go with the flow:
Don’t spend ages plotting. OK that might have sent some of you spiralling into panic…I know some people can’t write a book without having sketched the entire plot and chapter structure beforehand, but frankly that scares the heck out of me — it allows no room for improvisation or for characters to grow and change. Characters always surprise me. The safer bet I find (and the quicker bet) is to allow yourself to go with the flow. When I start a book I have a beginning and an end point in mind. I have a few ideas for scenes in the middle but then I just start to write and the plot unfolds as I go. Sometimes characters I think I know end up being totally different once my fingers start tapping. Have the confidence to let go and see where that takes you.
- Switch off the internet.
- Forget having a social life.
Your social life can wait a month. When I write I’m so engrossed in the story that I find it very difficult to be sociable or leave the little bubble world I’ve created in my head. Even when I’m having a conversation with my husband I’ll be thinking of a scene from the book or playing through a conversation. As much as you can try to limit social engagements for the thirty days you are writing. You need your focus to be inward, just for now.
- Don’t go back and edit, you can do that afterwards.
Don’t look back just keep going forwards, especially if you are a perfectionist, as this will only make you stall. I read over what I wrote the night before, make a few changes, and then I move on. I’m good at moving on because I’m not a perfectionist. If you are a perfectionist you will find this stage difficult, but I promise you it’s much easier to edit after you’ve written the whole book.
- Exercise is key
Get out the house, swim, run (I’ve never run in my life but some people swear it’s good for you), do pilates or yoga or boxercise. Exercise wakes up the mind and it’s when I get all my ideas. When I’m swimming I can’t be distracted by anything else. It becomes like a meditation where my mind can start wandering freely and imagining scenes and dialogue. All my books have been born in water.
- Don’t be hard on yourself.
Don’t criticize yourself. Don’t tell yourself you suck or what you’ve written is awful and you’re never going to be published. The easiest way to defeat lies in listening to the negative voice in your head, so from this point on banish it! When it tries to whisper in your ear yell at it to back the hell off, shut up and go away. That voice is not welcome. I always think my books rock (even when they probably don’t) and I always assume that they are naturally going to be published. Delusion is brilliant sometimes.
Sarah is the author of the award-winning Hunting Lila series which is currently in the early stages of film production, as well as YA standalones The Sound, Fated & Out of Control — all published by Simon & Schuster (UK & US).
She also writes new adult for Pan Macmillan under the name Mila Gray.