How I Just Wrote a Novel in 14 Days
A Case Study by an Novelist Who Has Made $1.25 Million in Royalties
Is it possible to write a book in half a month?
It is, and I’m going to show you how I just did it.
On June 26th, 2020, I finished writing my seventh book in seven months. It’s a science fiction novel in a long-running series, so, yes, I cheated (see the disclaimers below). What follows is a detailed rundown of my daily progress, with notes and insights. I’m not saying anyone can do this, or that you should even try. It ain’t easy, and the stress would kill some people.
But for others, it’s a challenge. And if you’ve ever wanted to write a book, or you’re struggling to finish one, this breaks the process down into manageable bites. A step at a time is all it takes.
First, I write full-time and the book I just finished is my 45th novel. It’s also part of a long-running series and was only 42,119 words long (which anything over 40K qualifies as a novel). I can get away with writing shorter books because I’m putting a new one out every month. Even so, the numbers are real, as is the time frame.
I’m writing this to put the numbers in perspective, to show what can be done. Whether or not it fits your work schedule or motivations is up to you. But it’s easy to see how the time frame can be extended. No one has to write a book in 14 days. But if you space these numbers out over a month, even two, you can see that the daily word count is not out of reach.
So here we go.
Background: This is a science fiction novel called The Formation Code and it’s book #7 in The Adam Cain Saga. I do pre-orders through Amazon, so the book had to be delivered on June 26th by five PM, with a release date of June 30, 2020.
Day 1, June 9: Word Count: 2,617
Off and running. The novel relates to a storyline started a couple of books ago in the series. The main characters are already established, so they don’t need much introduction. I begin with an escape scene, what’s called a Cold Start in some writing circles (I call it the James Bond start; you know what I mean), and it gets the reader involved in the action/story right away. I also have a page-and-a-half-long Prologue that sets the overarching mystery in place. But the opening escape sequence is what gives my fans what they want: Action … and then more action. Action scenes are easy for me to write. I just picture watching it in my mind, like a movie. (Note: I got halfway through the escape scene and stopped, wanting to get on to new stuff! I’ll come back later and finish the escape.)
Day 2, June 10: Word Count: 1,171
Still roughing out the storyline. There has to be a goal introduced early. And I like Dan Brown’s strategy of adding a clock to the story. Give people a deadline. It adds tension and keeps the reader engaged. I started the book with an idea of what I want from the story, but not how to get there. I plot, but I don’t outline, at least not more than a line or two with notes about what the characters are doing in a particular scene. And I don’t do this for the entire book, just a chapter at a time. Remember, I’ve done this quite often, so this is second nature to me.
Day 3, June 11: Word Count: Zero
Bummer. Spent the day working on the plot. I have an intro and a tentative ending, but not much more. Preparing for the next day’s writing will pay dividends later.
Day 4, June 12: Word Count: 3,587
A good day. I normally write by chapter, with most running about 1,500 to 2,000 words. I got a couple of chapters done today.
Day 5, June 13: Word Count: Zero
Still working on the plot. Occasionally, I write myself into corners. I find these corners to be challenging, as I try to figure a way out. If I don’t know what happens next, how will the reader? It keeps things interesting. But also remember, you’re creating this world. You can always go back in and modify things later, placing clues, tweaking scenes, etc. Don’t panic if this happens to you.
Day 6, June 14: Word Count: Zero
Yep, still agonizing over where the story goes from here. Making progress, though. I think I have it worked out.
Day 7, June 15: Word Count: 1,360
Not an impressive day of writing, but the vision of the story is coming into focus.
Day 8, June 16: Word Count: 3,068
A decent writing day, as I set the characters up to head out on a desperate search for a missing alien artifact. The mission will take them to three planets where they’ll get clues along the way. There’s a deadline, and the clock is ticking. Other people are also looking for the same thing and trying to stop our heroes. (Stop me if you’ve heard this trope before.)
Day 9, June 17: Word Count: 4,276
Rolling now. As I said earlier, I write by chapter, so I did three today. I also write in sessions throughout the day. Each session is about 1,500–2,000 words and I try to do at least two a day. Some days, I’ll finish a session and see that I’ve written 2,500 words or more. These are good days when the story is flowing. If this happens, don’t stop. I’ve found the energy and enthusiasm is seldom transferable to the next day. Ride the wave for as long as you can.
Day 10, June 18: Word Count: 2,159
A slow writing day, spent mostly working out plot details. I may not be writing all the time, but I am thinking about the story throughout the day and night. It consumes me.
Day 11, June 19: Word Count: 5,029
The prior day’s plotting has paid off. A very good day. As I get closer to finishing a book, things speed up as the story comes together. And with the clock/deadline pushing the story along, the writing speeds up to reflect the increasing pace. At least it does for me.
Day 12, June 20: Word Count: 4,133
Another good day. When the story is solid in my mind I can crank. A lot of action, tension and betrayal. The author has to be excited about the story for the words to stay interesting to the reader. They can tell when you become bored. Write the kind of story that excites you, and write it as if you’re the reader turning the pages. What would you like to see happen next?
Day 13, June 21: Word Count: 952
Low word count, but I’m not too worried. I just had a couple of good days and now it’s time to regroup. Where do we go from here? How do I wrap up the story, meeting the promises I made to the reader at the beginning? The clock is ticking, both in the story and in real life. Four more writing days to go, so I better make them count.
Day 14, June 22: Word Count: 5,018
Yesterday’s pause helped. The final push to the end is becoming clearer. Everything is building to the climax. Disparate groups are racing to the location of the final scene. At a moment like this, it’s hard not to have a high word count. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
Day 15, June 23: Word Count: 2,366
This is the time when I do something I believe is a little unusual for novelists. I stop and read the entire book up to this point. Since I’m writing shorter books, this doesn’t take too long. But by doing this, I get a sense of the story as a whole. It also tells me what I need to do to bring all the pieces of the puzzle together. Today, I also went in and finished the second half of the opening escape scene. I had to do it eventually. It was now or never.
Day 16, June 24: Word Count 4,499
The big climax is happening. Twists, turns and surprises. Everything has been leading up to this. All the neat things I’ve been saving until now are flowing out. By the end of the writing day I type: The End. But I’m not finished, not yet.
Day 17, June 25: Word Count 1,884
One day before my Amazon deadline and another long day of read-through, listening to the book in Microsoft Word and running the book through Grammarly. Clues are added and more explanation inserted where needed. A note here. I edit as I go. For example, when I’m done with a 4,000-word writing day, my work isn’t done. I go back through what I just wrote, listening to it in Word and making extensive edits. Also, the next day, I’ll go through what I wrote the day before once again. What this means is that by the time I’m on the final edit, the book is pretty much done. As you can tell, I don’t use editors or beta readers. After 45 books, I have a pretty good idea how to write a book and what I want to say. No one knows my story better than I do. This isn’t being arrogant, just practical. Putting a book out once a month doesn’t leave a lot of time to send the manuscript out and wait for corrections and suggestions.
Day 18, June 26: DEADLINE: Word Count Zero
Today is more Grammarly work, formatting and uploading to Amazon. With pre-orders, the book has to be to Amazon three days before the release day. I format in Vellum, which is a really neat program and easy to use. I would recommend it.
I clicked the Publish button with three hours to spare. It’s all over now except for the crying. Book #45 is history.
The End Result: 42,119 words, written over a 17-day period, and with 14 actual writing days.
A final note.
I would not wish this schedule on my worst enemy. I’m a different animal from most; I thrive on deadlines. I attribute this to the fact that I’m a lazy bastard, and the only way to get me to do anything is to give me a deadline. Even then, I’ll take a couple of weeks off before I begin work on the next book.
I do pre-orders for all my novels, so, even though I just finished a book, I have another already on deadline. But consider this: Although I may not be writing on the new book, I am thinking about it. I can’t help it. Doing a series also helps — immensely. The characters and universe are already established. It’s just a matter of figuring out what I want the characters to do next, what kind of trouble they can get into.
If I wrote standalone novels I couldn’t work at this pace. Or could I? Maybe I should find out. I’m always up for a challenge.
Check out my other articles on Medium, including: I’ve Made Over $1.2 Million Writing Self-Published Novels
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