How to write a book in 30 days
So far this year I have written three entire novels (each around 86,000 words). That makes six books in just over two years.
One I wrote in 30 days just because I wanted to see if I could do it. That was kind of crazy though.I am now ready to take a rest. I feel mentally exhausted.
If my brain is a sponge it is wrung completely dry. It’s manky and fraying and no longer something you’d want to keep lying next to the bath. I need to lay it in a swimming pool of valium diluted with vodka and after that when it’s good and fluffy again I want to read a thousand books, travel around the world one more time and let it soak up some further inspiration until that sponge is saturated to the max.
But having said that, all the effort of the last two years has paid off. In these two years plus a few months, I’ve signed a three book deal with Simon & Schuster as well as a very cool film rights deal for Lila. I’m hoping that I’ll sell books 4, 5 & 6 before Christmas, which would make for an incredible two and a half years.
I didn’t realize quite how unusual my productivity was until people asked me if I was in fact a machine. I am not.
My agent is delighted of course but I think my publisher is just plain scared. It’s too many books almost for them to handle I guess – especially as I’m still a debut author.
But anyway for those of you out there struggling to write your manuscript… here are my tips on how to write a book in 30 days:
1. Do not dwell – do not let those fingers rest on the keyboard even if it’s a day that you wake up grumpy and hungover and re-runs of Gossip Girl are playing on Sky. Sit at your desk and write. A young adult book is about 80,000 words long – divide that by 30 = about 2600 words a day. Stick to that. On some days aim to surpass that. Then you can take the odd day off when things come up.
2. Treat writing like the job that it is. Yes it’s a job that you’re passionate about but it’s still a job (at least it is if you want to write a book and sell it for enough money to live on). If you want to write a book in 30 days you have to commit to at least eight hours a day at your desk writing (not staring into space, skyping friends, fiddling on Facebook, checking Twitter etc)
3. Go with the flow: Don’t spend ages plotting. OK that might have sent some of you spiraling into panic…I know some people can’t write a book without having sketched the entire plot and chapter structure beforehand, but frankly that scares me – it allows no room for improvisation or for characters to grow and change. How can you possibly know what your character is going to do half way through the book? Characters always surprise me. The safer bet is to just go with the flow. And I have the benefit of practice and also a probably slightly insane but helpful belief in the universe throwing me bones. I just write and allow the flow to come to me. Plotting and writing character notes is, for the most part, an exercise in procrastination. Or maybe I’m just lazy.
4. Switch off the internet. DO IT.
5. Forget having a social life. Online or off. Your social life can wait a month.
6. Don’t go back and edit, you can do that afterwards. Don’t look back just keep going forwards, especially if you are a perfectionist as this will make you stall. I read over what I wrote the night before, make a few changes and then move on. I’m good at moving on because I’m not a perfectionist. If you are a perfectionist you will find this stage difficult but I promise you it’s much easier to edit after you’ve written the whole book.
7. Exercise is key – get out the house, swim, run (I’ve never run in my life but some people swear it’s good for you), do pilates or yoga or boxercise. Exercise wakes up the mind and it’s when I get all my ideas. When I’m swimming I can’t be distracted by anything else. It becomes like a meditation where my mind can start wandering freely and imagining scenes and dialogue. All my books have been born in water.
8. Don’t be hard on yourself. Don’t criticize yourself. Don’t tell yourself you suck or what you’ve written is awful and you’re never going to be published. The easiest way to defeat lies in listening to the negative voice in your head so from this point on banish it. When it tries to whisper in your ear yell at it to back the hell off, shut up and go away. That voice is not welcome. I always think my books rock (even when they probably don’t) and I always assume that they are naturally going to be published. I never doubt that for an instant (deluded? Not yet at least).
9. Get yourself a mantra and keep repeating it. Post it over your desk. ‘You rule. This book is awesome. Keep going.’
OK, I hope that helps.