I’m Going to Write a Novel in One Day (and Other Lies)

Over the past few years, the inescapable advice given to authors is to get your first draft down as quickly as possible. I’ve heard experiences from prolific writers who make this work for them. Some series authors get a new book out every couple of months, so a breakneck pace must be the norm for them. The trope of wandering off to a cabin in the woods to spend a few years writing the perfect novel has given way to getting something written and refining it later.

Just look on Amazon. There are several books on getting a novel finished in a year, in eight weeks, in a month, in four weeks (This schedule must allow for a few days off), in two weeks, and in just one. The month of November has now been designated as NanoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and Facebook groups are set up to encourage word sprints to achieve the goal of finishing within that month.

Fortunately, many writers view these types of goals as loose objectives, taking the encouragement to write quickly as an impetus to get on their butt at their computer and to stop procrastinating. Hopefully that is the distilled wisdom to be gained from all of this.

Caesar Augustus helped popularize a Greek phrase that can translate to “Make Haste Slowly.” This is my preferred route to take when writing. The wisdom I glean from the “write as quickly as you can” authors is to be deliberate, limit distractions, and set goals.


On being deliberate: This has changed for me. I’m now writing a teen superhero drama where I spent a week just constructing an outline. Each chapter has a lengthy paragraph containing all the main events and story beats. I didn’t let myself start until this was finished. I also know what days I will write, as my family obligations, day job, and volunteering schedule all assert themselves into each week. But the writing times are set down as well so there will be no fudging.

On limiting distractions: family, pets, phone, email, internet. The time burgling will rob you of every writing moment if you let it, but a balance is possible. Getting up early works for me. I haven’t figured out how to write without being able to alt-tab to check online resources like the dictionary or thesaurus. I’m working on leaving things behind in the rough draft for the rewrite. I may have to try turning off grammar and spell checks so the squiggles that plague my page don’t distract me. Some authors recommend dropping a “[]” whenever something will need to be researched later. The “[]” can be searched for during the rewrite. Something else to try!

On goals: I personally find word counts unhelpful, as what constitutes a finished scene or chapter can vary greatly in length and these are my usual benchmarks for progress. Each mini-arc carries its own burdens, and when I leave these unfinished it is always harder to resume writing. Some do the opposite and find it easier to jump in where the action is already flowing, thus starting a chapter after finishing one before any break in writing.


These are just a few thought on my writing in the next few months. A breakneck pace that adds stress robs any joy from the process. As a reader I wonder if the quality of such work might be improved if the writer was more deliberate with their initial draft.

Do you have any tips that you’ve implemented that has helped get your writing done? Please share.

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