I finished the first draft of my 300-page novel in six months. I’m just a regular person. Therefore, if I can do it, you can do too. Wondering how to write a novel in just a few months? Let's talk about it.
Want to learn how to write a book from start to finish? Check out How to Write a Book: The Complete Guide.
How to Write a Novel in Six Months
Want to start—and finish—writing your novel in just six months? Here's the process you need to do it.
1. Pick a Start Date That’s Not Today
Yes, you can finish a novel in six months, but I suggest setting a goal that isn’t six months from today. Doing so would be kind of like beginning marathon training when you haven’t even been working out. Unnecessarily hard.
Choosing a start date that is a week or month from now, however, gives you time to prepare both yourself and your novel. It helps prevent false starts and minimize inevitable frustrations.
2. Practice Writing Regularly
One way to prepare for the task knocking out a novel in six months is to practice writing regularly. Set a goal to blog weekly or journal daily, for example. Or maybe aim to write for one hour a week. Whatever it is, just make sure to pick something that you can do with relative ease.
This practice is the first step toward turning writing into a habit. During this period you will learn what it feels like to write on schedule, what time of day you're most productive, and random things like whether or not it’s important that you eat before writing.
Practice writing regularly to figure out what you need to accomplish your goal without the pressure of a novel looming over you.
3. Plan Your Novel
I planned my novel in great detail before I began writing. It took me a while to outline the plot and to create profiles of key characters. I believe this process of intensive pre-planning made getting the words on the page much easier.
That said, I’ve been writing for this blog long enough to know that the writing world is divided into two camps: “Planners” like me and “Pantsers,” who like to fly by the seat of their pants. Instead of engaging in a lot of advance planning, Pantsers like to see where the story or characters take them.
Even if you’re a Pantser, I think it’s worth doing some planning, even it’s not an outline of the entire novel. I recommend thinking about major plot points and spending some time getting to know your characters. Perhaps you can draft a simple summary paragraph to help you keep the big picture in mind while you’re writing.
Depending on whether you’re a Planner or a Pantser, this step can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to a few months. (Remember the six-month clock starts when you begin writing!)
4. Plan the Process
To finish a novel in six months, you’ll probably have to plan to write every day. Therefore, before the clock starts, you must determine your daily goals. Will you have a word count, page count, or time limit? (I had a word count, I think.) What will it be?
Other things to figure out in advance is the time of day you will write and where. What is your plan for when you inevitably miss a day? (Will you write twice as much/long the next day? Or will you give yourself permission to skip a day every once in awhile and commit to moving on and never thinking about it again?)
Also consider whether you have any major events planned during the six months (e.g., a vacation or a big work project). How will you adjust? Will you change your goal to six months + 1 week (e.g., a week off for the vacation), continue with your daily goals during that period, or do something else?
Try to anticipate potential issues and roadblocks, make a plan for dealing with them, and commit to that plan.
5. Start Writing!
After all that, you’re ready to start writing your novel! Write. Write every day.
The Key to Finishing Your Novel: Don’t Quit
There is going to be a point, perhaps around month three or four, when you’ve accomplished a lot but have oh so much left to do. This is the moment of truth and you may be seriously tempted to quit.
I suggest acknowledging that the process may not be as exciting in that moment as it was when you first started. But then remind yourself that you have a different type of excitement to look forward to—being almost done!
Don’t quit. It’s just a first draft; it’s ok if it sucks—just keep going!
What roadblocks to achieving a writing goal have you encountered? How did you deal with them? Let me know in the comments.
The topic is October. If you’re a Planner, take fifteen minutes to outline a short story or essay about the topic. If you’re a Panster, take fifteen minutes to write a story or essay inspired by the month of October.
When you're done, share your writing in the comments section, and be sure to leave feedback for your fellow writers!