I’ve been writing my murder mystery this month, starting on July 2nd.
While the month isn’t over yet, I AM going to finish the story before midnight July 31 (or shortly thereafter), so I can tell you what I learned along the way – because I still learned stuff and you’ll want to hear it (and because I needed a break).
Frankly, being this focused for such large chunks of time each day has made me extra aware about the overall quality of the story. The other thing I wonder about is whether I am being cranky and short tempered with people.
The story quality, I can usually check the next day when I read it. (Even if I miss something, my critique partner will catch it.)
The cranky stuff, I just try to pay attention to people’s reactions.
BOTH of those are important.
Here’s what I learned writing a whole book in one month:
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What I learned writing a whole book in one month:
- It’s exhausting.
When I’m tired, I think I’m writing a story, but I’m just getting the framework down and some details. The next morning I have to look at it. Then I say, wow I need some meat on the bones.
There are several other things I’ve noticed doing this.
2. When you hit a rough patch and you just have to keep going, that’s a personal challenge type of thing. Get the bones down (as I said in #1) and make a note to yourself to look at it the next day. You’ll need to – and that revision time eats into the writing time. Oh, well. It has to be done.
3. As soon as I realized I was substantially more than halfway, it all got a lot easier. (Four or five days ago: I’m struggling. Yesterday: I’m almost done!)
4. I can see all the places where other people give up, and why they don’t finish. I get it now. I’ll be more sympathetic to you, and also more demanding because pushing through is what’s required.
5. I have a stack of notes to myself to go back and look at this and that and make sure it all fits. Work those in during “breaks.” It’s different from real writing.
6. You get tired, so even though you might have this great idea for a scene, you realize you’re gonna spend between three and six hours writing it – and you just decide, no thanks.
You saw Raiders of the Lost Ark, right? When you are tired and you are writing, it becomes where Indiana Jones took out his gun and shot the guy instead of sword fighting him. Do I want two more chapters of another chase scene? No, I’m tired. Time to kill the bad guy.
7. Also: I’m tired.
8. I think for a lot of people who try to write an entire novel in a month, the quality will suffer.
The words will be there but not the emotion and not the detail and not the drama. I am lucky in that regard because I know to look for those things, but I also have a very sharp critique partner who is also looking at every single chapter every single day after I finish it – and keep in mind, if you are writing a novel in a month, you’re cranking out about a chapter a day if not more.
9. Outline. I had a lot of the broad strokes figured out before I started, and I knew how my story ended. That helped avoid pitfalls because I knew what to write each day.
10. Have a partner for the endeavor. My critique partner has always been invaluable, but even more so for fast feedback and little pep talks here and there. That helps. It’s kind of a team effort.
(There’s a number 11, too, but it’s at the bottom.)
The best advice I can give you?
First, sadly, is probably don’t do it. I’m gonna finish this thing and I may not want to write another a story for six months. That’s not a good trade off.
Also, other things may suffer along the way. I mentioned about worrying about being cranky? My eyes are tired a lot, and my head is, too. That’s not going to transfer well to my family, who are also worthy of parts of my day (and not just I’m gonna disappear for a month, so they’re a factor).
If you’re able to keep all that together, you still potentially suffer from fatigue. Like I said, skipping a scene would be one thing. (The book may not miss one scene.) The book will definitely feel flat if you don’t let it rest and review it, to ensure it has emotion and a great pace.
So maybe the lesson is this:
Write the thing in a month and then stick it away for a month (or three). When you pull it back out, you’ll probably spend another month revising it. I’m not sure that’s a net gain one way or the other, except for the fact that: you will have completed the story.
Since a lot of people start stories and never finish them, that’s a good reason to do it all by itself.
Even if you don’t finish, you’ll be close so you’ll probably continue on and finish the following month. And even if you don’t do that, you’ll see you’re capable of writing a lot more than you think.
I’ll do it again, but not because I force an artificial deadline on myself. I’ll do it because I’m excited about the story. When that’s the case, writing a book in a month (or six weeks) is easy.
That’s number 11: writing a story I enjoy makes every morning Christmas morning. I get up at 4am and can’t wait to start writing. (Getting up earlier is the best thing you can do to have more writing time, and it’s what most of you won’t do.)
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Cheer me on! I need the encouragement!
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