Friday, November 4, 2011

A Book In 30-Days

A lot of writers have taken classes and read up on writing a book in 30-days. Some attempt it as a way of meeting a deadline so they can turn in a book that's due in a month, and others see it as a challenge, taking on the concept just to see if they can do it at all.

I have author friends who have done it successfully, and I don't knock the process, as I have also put myself to the test of finishing a book in a short amount of time. I carefully charted out the number of words per day, pages per week, chapters for the month, layers, phases, etc., examining my plan on paper, almost convincing myself that I, too, could do it. But I couldn't. Not in 30-days anyway.

For me, it takes way more than a month to get to know my characters on paper, even if they've been in my head and my heart for a long time. I don't really get to know them until I begin to take them through the friction of the chapters. And by the end of the novel, the story is sometimes so far from the original outline that the only similarities are the character's names. And even those can change.

What are your thoughts about writing a book in a month. Have you ever tried it?

Write on!


Charles Gramlich said...

I'm really, really not a fan of it. The books I've read that were written that way, read like they were written that way.

I think it's a good exercise and good practice, but to make the book really good I think it's going to need a whole LOT of rewriting and revisiting.

Anonymous said...

In a month, I wouldn't even have a chance to know what the book is about. Even if I didn't have a life and kids and a job and countless addictions, I don't think I could do it.

William Doonan

Tom Doolan said...

A couple of things ot keep in mind, espeicially when referring to NaNoWriMo. First off, it's only 50,000 words, witch, if my math serves me right, is a 200-page book. Not bad, but not normal these days, it seems. Also, it's only a first draft. There is supposed to be plenty of time for rewrites and edits later. It's basically a "word-vomit" exercise.

That being said, I have never been able to finish. but, it serves as a good start towards goal-setting. most people, once they complete that, give up on the word-count and just concentrate on writing everyday. I think that's the best benefit from this kind of thing. It creates the writing habit.

G said...

Best I've did for a novel was about 2 1/2 months for the first draft.

And no, I am not fan of this psuedo contest by any stretch of anyone's imagination.

I think it's much ado about nothing.

If you're gonna write a novel, giving yourself a deadline of one month to get it done is pointless.

Liane Spicer said...

I've never been even remotely interested in participating in the NaNo thing but I can see where it might help with getting into the discipline of writing every day.

My process is much like yours, Marissa, and it's a delicate balance for me to achieve even the moderate writing goals I set myself. Putting that sort of pressure on myself might prove disastrous.

Lynn Emery said...

I've never been interested in this, but whatever works is what folks should do. I see it more as a way to get people to jump start their creative process, or to stop putting off work on that book. Sort of like a book camp. It's a beginning.

Marissa Monteilh said...

Good to hear your replies! I should have said I didn't mean NaNo or the discipline type exercises that writers embark upon to boost their time management skills. I mean writing a book in a month from start to finish, not first draft in a month. I do know writers who have done it and I think it's great if it can be done, though I have not been able to. Thanks for your feedback!

Jewel Amethyst said...

I've written a novella in a month and done a pretty good job. But it is a novella ca 25 000 words, and the story was already mentally written months before.

A full lenght novel requires time for development and temporal distance between re-writes and edits.

KeVin K. said...

I've completed three NaNoWriMo 50k novels in five attempts; the last one half a decade ago. NaNo is a starter, like priming a pump. It's also a proof of concept. Complete a NaNo novel and you can never again use "lack of time" as an excuse for not writing. One of my NaNo novels later distilled down to a 27k novella that sold. Another generated a character I've followed through a series of short stories. The first I completed revealed an underlying idea I still think about -- something I'm going to use when I figure out how.

Though her longer titles take more time, Nora Roberts transformed the romance genre with new and original premises writing a 60k-80k novel every month through the 80s. But she's a sprinter compared to one of my role models: Frederick Faust. It's estimated Faust (aka Max Brand and a half-dozen other pen names) wrote something north of twenty-five million words -- in the form of 500 novels, nearly as many short stories or news articles, and uncounted screenplays -- in 34 years. That's an average of 62k a month. Perforce he was a one-draft writer, but his work is consistently taut, focused, well crafted, and -- most important -- eminently readable.

Though I aspire the standards Faust, Roberts, and many other equally prolific writers have set, it still takes me ninety days to produce a 100k novel. Which puts me in shouting distance of Lawrence Block and Evan Hunter in terms of productivity. (In terms of sales, however, long distance charges still apply.)