• d. i. richardson

Writing a Novel in Six Months

To add onto my last post about finishing a novel in a year, here’s my advice and thoughts on cutting that time in half.


Find out how to write the book in a year.


Odds are if you’re reading this, you’re a writer. If you have finished a novel, don’t yell at me if my methods aren’t your methods. We can’t all be carbon copies. If you’re writing or want to write a novel though, consider this a good place to sit down and start. I’ve written eleven manuscripts from start to finish, so I’d hope I’ve learned a couple things in my writing “career.”


Of course it’s all subjective as well. There’s no right amount of time to write a book. I wrote a 110,000-word book in six months and a 56,000-word book over the course of two years.


Okay, here we go.


Genre

So, like in the previous post, I mentioned that there are some genres that lend well to shorter time periods. Now we have to start excluding the feasibility of some genres for works in the “Within Six Months” category. So here’s a list of genres and projects that are feasible for six months.


  • The second, third, and so on books of a fantasy series.

  • The second, third, and so on book of a sci-fi series.

  • Books requiring 75,000-100,000 words.

  • Books requiring light research.

  • Poetry collections


Most genres can still be feasibly written in six months, excluding the first books in sci-fi and fantasy series as you won’t need as much worldbuilding amidst the second story as you did in the first. Almost any horror, thriller, crime, romance, contemporary, and literary novel could be cranked out in this time period.


The key to writing in six months is confidence and consistency. Six months is the estimated “fastest” time for the average novelist. Most writers are said to take between six months and a year to finish a novel, so this is the quickest average time.


And poetry collections?! Yes. Because poetry is pretty hard to do right. It takes a certain emotional commitment and that can take quite some time. Unless all you’re writing is Tumblr-eque two-line poems. In that case, it should take you two weeks to fill enough pages for a book. Publish it and donate all your money to saving the trees you killed printing almost-blank sheets of paper. Thank you.


Plan It Out

Planning is less important for novels in the six-month range. Why? Well, you can sort of pants these genres a bit better than novels that require research and world-building. Obviously.


Books in this range can be based on the first book, which is you write these ones as a direct continuation, the story is likely already in your head and half planned anyway.


The other genres here can take either approach from full outline to full on pantsing. It depends on the genre, I think, and you confidence in your own writing ability. See, I mentioned in the last blog post about how I outline my books on a chaptered basis, so I can go and change as I need to and that I know what happens and when it happens in my novel. This saves me from rereading entire chapters and rewriting entire in-depth outlines.


By the Numbers

If you read the last post, you knew this was coming. More math!


Okay, so for this one, let’s assume we’re writing a 85,000-word novel in six months.


85,000 / half a year (365/2 days) is a writing pace of 466 words per day, and if you remember from the last post, this is 100 words more per day than our 329 words per day. It’s a shorter time period and the word count hasn’t dropped by 50% like the time to write has. Thus, you must write MORE.


466 is closer to my average lifetime writing pace of just under 500. So this is not unfeasible for most writers I would think. (If you want to find out yours, figure out how long you’ve been writing and divide your word counts by the number of days for an estimate.)


Words Per Minute

For the average person, they type at around 40 words per minute (WPM). A novelist can crack 80+ on typing test with ease. There’s a snag with real writing though. Your WPM suffers because you have to 1) think about what you want to write, and 2) have to write more punctuation, including quotation marks. These all hamper your writing speeds to some degree.


For example, my writing speed on typing tests is average 87WPM. The means I could write our daily word count in 4 minutes, Except I can’t do that. Because that’s not how writing stories works. Novel words per minute is a different measurement.


Let’s just go ahead and assume novel words per minute (NWPM) is 35% of your raw WPM score to account for thinking and extra punctuation. So for me that would be roughly 30NWPM, meaning I could write our daily score in just under 16 minutes. This isn’t a terrible time commitment at all. Therefore, proving that a novel can be written in six months with relative ease.


The issue here is with researching and other distractions from life, it might still become a hard pace to keep for the average writer with a full-time job or schooling to attend to outside of the Word document.


Consistency

The biggest advice for writing in general is just be consistent. Block out some time every so often to just write. Force yourself to write. If you only wrote when you felt like writing, you’d never write. That’s the paradox.


Obviously, if you can make sure you have an hour to dedicate to your writing every single day, writing at least the first draft in six months should be a breeze!


And, finally, and perhaps most importantly: Just write the damn thing because nobody else can do it for you.


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So, what do you think?

Comment your thoughts!

Follow me on Twitter: @coda_cola_

And have a good wander, friend.

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