On the beach

How I Write a Novel in 9 Weeks or Less

Last month, I finished the first draft of my very first novel.

I say “first” novel: if you want to split hairs, this is actually the 4th novel I’ve written this year (And I think the 6th in total?), but while the others were all ghostwritten, this one is all mine – which makes it much more terrifying. Exciting, I mean. Exciting

Anyway. 

This latest book took approximately 9 weeks to write (Not counting my two week holiday, plus a random week in June when I had too much on to be able to do any writing at all), which, believe it or not, makes it my longest project so far. All of the books I’ve ghostwritten have been completed in 6 weeks, and while I don’t necessarily recommend that kind of a schedule, I do get a lot of questions about how on earth I manage it, so here, for anyone interested, are my top tips…

Amber standing in the sea off Sarasota, Florida01.
Plot, plot , plot

Since I started writing fiction, I’ve discovered there are two types of writers: plotters and… pantsers. Yes, pantsters. It means “flying by the seat of your pants” apparently, and refers to people who just dive right into the writing process without any plan, and work out the plot along the way. 

Until last year, every time I tried to write a novel, I “pantsed” it. 

And until last year, none of the novels I started ever got finished. 

These two facts are not unrelated. 

Not all techniques will work for all writers, obviously, but my personal experience is that, if I want to write quickly, I need to have a fairly detailed outline to work with. For my ghostwriting projects, that outline was always provided for me, but, with my own books, I spend a lot of time (With the help of Terry, who’s been very involved in this project) working out a plot and writing it down, so that by the time I actually sit down to write, I know exactly what’s going to happen in every single chapter. 

If I didn’t do that, it would take me forever to write a book, but, of course, if you’re a die-hard pantser, feel free to take that one with a pinch of salt.

02.
Treat writing like it’s your job

This is one of those “easier said than done” ones: trust me, I know. 

(That could probably be said about all of these tips, mind you. I, er, should probably have made that clear upfront, shouldn’t I?)

As a ghostwriter, writing a book literally WAS my job for a while (It still feels weird to me to say that), which meant I had deadlines I couldn’t miss, no matter what was going on in my life. (Hello, that time I had to write a billionaire romance from my Covid sickbed...) Now, that honestly sucked, I’m not going to lie. It did, however, force me to take what I was doing seriously; and it also taught me that yes, I COULD find the time to write most days, no matter how hard I tried to convince myself I couldn’t. I carried that knowledge/habit over to my own book, when the time came to write it, and basically treated it like a job I was getting paid for, and therefore couldn’t afford to skip.

Not everyone is going to be in a position to do that, of course; especially when you have an ACTUAL job you have to do at the same time. (Or a child. Or any other commitment that always has to come first.) But if you want to be able to write quickly, you do need to be able to find a way to fit it into your life on a regular basis. On that note…

03.
Set a schedule you know you’ll be able to keep

The ghostwriting work I did was based on the premise of rapid-release publishing, and, as such, almost every client I ever landed expected me to be working 7 days per week, and was absolutely astonished when I told them I wasn’t able to do that. 

In my case, I literally couldn’t work every day, even if I wanted to. I have to take the weekends off, not because I’m lazy, but purely because I don’t have any childcare at the weekends, and by the time Max is in bed for the night, I’m generally too tired to start work. Although working weekends would obviously get my books finished faster, though, I don’t necessarily think that’s always a good thing. I write every weekday, and, by the time I close my laptop on Friday afternoon, I’m mentally exhausted by it. I need that time off to recharge, and to allow the story to roll around in my head for a while before I start getting it down on paper again. I think my writing is probably better for it. 

So, set yourself a schedule, sure. But make sure it’s a realistic one, or you’ll just get burnt out; don’t ask me how I know…

04. 
Set realistic goals

I’ve said this before, but I’m  very goal-oriented person; I find it really helpful to set myself targets, and then try to meet them. I do all of my writing using the free Reedsy editor, which allows you to set an overall goal/deadline for your book, and then tells you how many words you need to write each day in order to meet it. I absolutely love this feature, and have used it for both my ghostwriting projects, when I’d have a deadline set by the client, and for my own book, which had a totally arbitrary deadline set by me. 

I obviously didn’t HAVE to set myself a deadline for my own book, of course, but I’m one of those people who works best when they have one, so I found the goal-setting feature really helpful; to the point that I’m not actually sure I’d be able to write without it now. 

05.
Know what you want to achieve 

I almost didn’t bother writing this post because I know there are a lot of people out there who’ll just turn their noses up at it, insisting that you can’t possibly write a book of any quality in such a short period of time. Well, that may well be true. It’s worth remembering, however, that this is just a first draft we’re talking about, here. I know I’m never going to achieve perfection with the very first draft, and I also know that, if perfection is what I’m aiming for, I’ll just end up agonising and procrastinating to the point where the book will never get written. 

Perfection, though, is what editing is for. And, for me, it’s better to get that first draft written as quickly as I can, and then edit it, than it is to never write anything at all. 

As for whether the finished product will actually be any good, though… well, that’s the big question. I’ll be sure to report back once I know the answer…

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COMMENTS
  • Myra

    REPLY

    Good luck with your book

    August 5, 2022
  • Brenda

    REPLY

    Congratulations on finishing your first draft! I hope it will be published so we can read it!

    August 5, 2022
  • Kathy

    REPLY

    Well done!! Writing your own book(s) is a massive achievement – especially as a mum and blogger too! Can’t wait to read it xx

    August 5, 2022
  • Amy

    REPLY

    I am very excited about your book (and I hope it is a series!). Well done setting the goals and achieving the reality in such a short space of time. 😀

    August 11, 2022
  • Erin

    REPLY

    This was super helpful and I’m very excited for your book!

    August 13, 2022
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