Friday 18 May 2012

Tips to Writing a Novel in 90 Days.

We all have our different strengths when it comes to writing. Some of us are amazing at the promotional side of it, others create spectacular prose. My strength is simply getting things written. To this date, I have four novels published, plus numerous short stories. I have three other novels which are written and just waiting for the editing process, and two WIPs. And that's all just in my Marissa Farrar name!

From start to finish, I give myself three months to write the first draft of a novel. This is a pretty reasonable time frame as a full length novel (for me) is anywhere from 70 - 95K, which means I really only need to write 1K a day in order to have a first draft completed within a 90 day time frame.

So if you're struggling to get your novel finished, take a look at some of my tips for getting words on the page.

1.) Set yourself a realistic goal. If you aim too high, you'll end up failing. If you feel like you're failing at something, then you won't go back to it. I think 1000 words a day is pretty do-able for most people and can be written in about an hour or so. If you don't manage your 1000 words for the day and only do 500, well then you need to be aware that you'll need to catch up the next day.

Break down your novel into 10K chunks. I never think OMG, I've got to write 80K on this book. How the hell am I ever going to get there. I write 10K first and then my goal is to get to 20K. When I hit 20K I'm heading toward 30K, and so on. Again this helps to make the goal of writing a whole novel feel more achievable and less overwhelming.

2.) Sit down with some idea of where you're going. I don't plan my novels from start to finish, but I'll know what's going to happen at least a couple of chapters ahead. If you have no idea what you're writing, you'll sit and stare at the screen.

3.) If you get really stuck, jump ahead! I often write scenes as they come to me and then have to piece them all together at a later date. By doing this, I'm always able to stay motivated about what I'm writing and I get my word count done for the day.

4.) Switch to a notepad. I find scribbling notes and ideas about problems I have in my novel really helps me work them out in my head. The change in medium allows a different thought process and things spring to mind that I wouldn't have thought of if I were sitting at my computer.

5.) Don't worry about the technical side of writing on the first draft. Leave all that worrying about over-used words, grammar and sentence structure to the editing process. Just concentrate on getting the story out!

6.) Above all, be hard on yourself. You're tired? So what? Imagine this were your actual job. If you went in complaining you were tired and you really didn't want to do any work today, what would your boss's reaction be? I bet they'd tell you to suck it up and get on with the job you're paid to do. That's exactly what you've got to do to yourself. Quit making excuses. If you sit and watch tv for an hour in the evening, but then complain you've not got time to write, you have to start asking yourself if you're serious about your writing. If you work a day job every hour God sends, take in a notepad and write during your lunch break.

Follow all these tips (especially the 1k a day) and there is no reason why you shouldn't have completed your first draft in 90 days. Then starts the hard part - the editing - because after all, if you want to be a writer, the actual writing of the book should be the fun part!

Have you got any great tips? I'd love to hear them!


  1. If your typing skills are bad, or if you have medical problems that cause you to be unable to use a keyboard sometimes. Check into "speech to text" programs.. (You need to be able to verbally tell your Story, but you can always edit the finished manuscript) Even with training time. It's faster for me.

  2. Great suggestion, AJ! I've often considered using a small recording device, but I've wondered if it would come across the same if I spoke something instead of writing it. Definitely one to consider though if it helps with the process!

  3. I am not surprised you are so successful.

  4. Thanks, though I'm not sure I'd describe myself as successful just yet! Give me another year or two and you never know! :-)

  5. I really am glad to find you. I have been doing shorts for Anthologies for a couple of years but I've been afraid to tackle the novel because I'm not sure how to break for a chapter.1000 words a day is definitely doable!!

  6. Hi Antoinette! Glad you found it helpful. Maybe I should do a post on chapter construction another day! I tend to make my chapters around the 3k mark, and I like to leave them on a cliff-hanger if I can in order to keep the reader turning the page. :-)

  7. I love number six. Just do it! If you want to be a writer: you have to write. Great advice you have here, my friend!


  8. I say write what you know. Don't worry about a secondary language if you don't actually speak that language. Using random words here and there, specially if using the wrong word/phrase/tense, actually detracts from the fluidity of the story.

    As a bilingual reader, English speaking writers who try to add 'flavor' by inserting random little bits of Spanish into the dialogue turning it into a very messed up Spanglish dialect comes off as someone who is trying to write in English but all they know is Ebonics. It sounds uneducated, does not flow well and it is irritating to try and figure out exactly what the point of it all was.