How to Write a Novel in Six Months

by Monica M. Clark | 57 comments

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.

How to Write a Novel in Six Months

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!

Want to write a novel in thirty days this November? Join us for a free workshop that will prepare you to get writing and finish your book. Join the free workshop »

What roadblocks to achieving a writing goal have you encountered? How did you deal with them? Let me know in the comments.

PRACTICE

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!

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Monica is a lawyer trying to knock out her first novel. She lives in D.C. but is still a New Yorker. You can follow her on her blog or on Twitter (@monicamclark).

57 Comments

  1. felicia_d

    Just published my first novel last month, and it was last year’s NaNoWriMo project. I’m pretty jazzed about it, given the fact that both my husband and myself dealt with major health problems during the same time.

    I’m definitely a pantser, but one who has learned the benefits of prepping. My final outline looked nothing like the first one, but the first one gave me a road map and direction and kept me writing. My characters simply decided on other paths…often!

    I’ve prepped for NaNo this year, and am close to twenty scenes in. Just wish I knew if it’s a dark comedy or psychological suspense! Right now, it could still go either way! LOL!

    Reply
    • LilianGardner

      Brava! I’m still editing my last year’s NaNo nove land wonder when I’ll publish it. You’ve been quick. Congrats!

    • felicia_d

      Let me know when you do, Lillian!

    • LilianGardner

      I certainly will, felicia.

    • bernadette

      Congratulations, Felicia, from a fellow pantser! I finished last year, left mine in a file and went and did Other Stuff, lol. I want to do something different this year with mine.

    • felicia_d

      Thanks, Bernadette! Good luck to you and I’ll be watching for your posts!

    • bernadette

      thanks ! ; ~ D !!

    • Monica

      Wow, congrats!! So inspiring.

    • felicia_d

      Thanks!

  2. LilianGardner

    Hello, Monica, thank you for the article of how to write a book in six months.
    Your five points are what I have in mind when I start a novel, but, somehow I get lost along the way. However, when I return to read what I’ve written, I am inspired, and after some revision, continue the story.
    My road block is when I’m compelled to turn off my PC because some one needs something; usually my husband. That ‘something’ can take from ten minutes to a couple of hours and deflate my mood to write.
    I’m a panster and part planner, too.

    Outline for my short story.

    Andrew develops his love for horses when he learned to ride and show jump during the summer months at the Cavallino stables, near his home. He won first prize in a local competition, and is anticipating the National Show Jumping competition to be held in Trento next spring. He does not own a horse but hires one at the stables. He has learnt much about horses, and spends most of his time with Velvet, a three year-old, throughbred female horse.
    Andrew’s coach, Franco, acknowledges the boy’s talent, and prepares him for the competiton. Velvet is not always on her best behaviour, but Andrew takes to her and wishes his dad would buy her from Tony Di Bella.
    Andrew has many ups and downs during the six months before the competition, and at times he feels like quitting, but his affection for Velvet and encouragement from Franco, spur him on.
    Andrew’s father promises to buy Velvet if Andrew does well at school and if he classifies in the competition within the first three winners.
    Andrew works hard at school and at training with Velvet and is rewarded by scoring good grades at school and taking first prize in the competition.
    Finally, Velvet is his.

    Reply
    • bernadette

      Ah! have fun writing!! My husband and I went horse back riding recently and it was such fun! What a great thing to write about. Yay for Velvet and Andrew!

    • LilianGardner

      Thanks, Bernadette.

    • Joanna Morefield

      This is a great start….where is October? Coming-of-age story?

    • LilianGardner

      Thanks, Joanna.

  3. Monica

    Hey everyone! I forgot to mention that NanoWriMo is a great opportunity to “practice writing regularly” (tip 2). It starts November 1st!

    Reply
  4. bernadette

    Hi, Monica!
    Thank you for your tips; I’ve read your articles here before, nice to read you again. I’m lucky that I started journaling ‘morning pages’ all summer this year (step 2) so I feel in ‘shape’ this year. I still feel a little nervous, however.
    This is my first attempt to site down with a timer to write about Nano in a collected fashion for this year. It is my second try at Nano and, like last year when I did finish, I’m feeling excited again to try. The only difference this year is my approach. Last year, I wrote by pantsing: a pretty pure roman a clef/memoir based/ coming of age story that was almost Laura Ingalls in flavor, a favorite book series of mine when I was younger. This year my theme is based on a passion of mine; the idea to write on something that is a passion comes from, I believe, advice I might have garnered here at WP, or from Positive Writer: to write about something you feel passionately about. I feel passionately about child and women sexual abuse and exploitation, and the many forms it takes in our society. So ironic: the prevalent and sudden place it has taken in our election the last couple of weeks since I’d decided to take the subject up. It has been a haunting subject most of my life; it seems to come up and then go away. At times I’ve found myself becoming even cynical about it, to the point that I’ve felt that children should be taught to expect to become a victim of it at some point in their innocent lives. They are already being taught about “stranger danger” and what “good touch, bad touch” is. And to go one step further, a curriculum of Recovery should be at our fingertips, so that we can just not go “there” with all the victimhood mentality, add the one more wound of Victimhood to the psyche before the child starts to heal. We ought to just accept that we do live in a sick society where inappropriate sexual violence is an accepted format for a certain types of sick powerless individuals to use a tool, as an ego booster, which is how I perceive the problem.
    My book centers around a woman/wife who has sexual abuse in her background, who loses it . She sees her husband, a powerful man, who is sexually inappropriate, start to take advantage of yet another young protégée. She wants to get rid of this protégée. The book is told through the eyes of a narrator who is powerless is stop it.
    It feels a little clumsy at the moment, at this stage of the game, but it feels true, to use that word, as a direction word. Almost like I’m discovering for myself how I’m feeling about the subject as I go along. I’m reading and researching on the subject as I’ve long as I’ve decided to write about this.
    I’m no expert in the subject; I’m not a psychologist or counselor; I’ve just seen things that are not right; things that I knew were not right since I was very young and saw them. I know I’m not the only one.

    Reply
  5. Debra johnson

    Monica thanks for this article.It came at the perfect time for me because through a writing contest, which I’m still trying to flesh out and get ready for Nov 1st, I feel I am not going to have it ready but instead turn it into a longer story eventually.

    But for Nano I want to work on a cold case murder mystery. I am beginning to outline a few pieces and getting to know my character a bit more. Sometimes things just fall in my lap and are all jumbled up that I cant see the forest thru the trees.

    Reply
    • bernadette

      I feel the same way!!! I feel like I’m chasing a giant Beach Ball that got away in the wind…..

    • Debra johnson

      sometimes what scars me is what direction do I throw the beach ball as you referenced when I do catch it… there are so many directions, or stories – well two in my case that are occupying my mind…. But I have had this problem before. Never able to focus on just one thing…. so nothing gets done.

    • bernadette

      I was just reading an article about that.the author suggested to stay focused on the one work and keep a separate notebook for other works.if thoughts about the other works intrude, jot quick in the nb, and get back to the main work. Does that make sense for you, Debra? Hee hee I’m ‘jealous’ you have so many ideas! lucky writer you ;-D

  6. Kikku

    I have started to write my first novella last week. The plot of this story has been in my head for years. It is a romantic story involving a group of people who have complicated equations of attraction and relationships among them. The idea occurred to me after watching some incidents in real life. But I never had the courage to write it down as a story.

    Reply
    • bernadette

      We must be sharing the same Evil Inner Critic…. lol!

    • Kikku

      Yeah! And sometimes this doubtful feeling is so strong that I almost decide to give up 🙁

    • bernadette

      Hi, about that last Inner Critic thing: there’s articles here to boost self confidence. Look under Articles and search under: Creativity and Inspiration, in the search box. It will bring up a long list; go through the list. Also, the “Positive Writer.com” website is all about boosting writer confidence.
      The other stuff, about holes in the story, building tension is stuff of the Re-Write, from what I hear. I’m planning to write the “prescribed 1667 words a day” to make the 50,000 goad for nano, by having 10 chapters approx. broken in 3 parts each? a kind of outline that way? and then as a back up plan and following others’ suggestion, back up ideas for “subplot things”: side trips or adventures….
      YOU are Doing This!!! Yay!

    • Kikku

      Thank you. I’ll definitely check the list. Also each and every comment from fellow writers in the community boosts up my positive energy.
      And all the best for your writing for NaNoWriMo. This year I am all but a novice and also an unemployed person searching for a job! I plan to join the contest next year.

    • bernadette

      good luck on your job search, kikku! fingers crossed for you ;~ D
      hey! try rat race rebellion.com, to work at home, lol!

    • Joanna Morefield

      Kikku, Don’t ignore the voice, but DO CARRY ON! I think Sylvia Plath said that self-doubt murders creativity. Checking plot and pacing and all are great exercises, but I find I need to stop and acknowledge that voice that tells me I’ve nothing to say, I’ve no talent, etc. Like this: There’s that voice again, yep. Who’s talking? I tell the same stories, but no-one has my voice or point of view. So go away now, for I have writing to do… You can do it, please keep going!

    • Bruce Carroll

      1. This sounds like a good idea. Always be willing to adjust to what is actually working.

      2. I write about my important incidents and then figure out where they fit in the story. Did something happen in chapter two far too soon? Then maybe that isn’t chapter two. Maybe it is chapter 12. Or maybe I can rewrite it without the incident.

      3. Let the characters evolve. They may take you into a story you never anticipated writing. In fact, you may end up with more than one story! You may end up with a full novel, or you may want to change the names and have two different novellas. You might could even get away with both, if you do some rewriting.

      4. Use that inner voice to make your writing awesome. I’ve read some very “mundane” stories that were quite compelling. (“Driving Miss Daisy” and “On Golden Pond” both come to mind.) The voice says your writing is terrible? Throw in another obstacle or two just to add conflict and keep the tension high. Remember, the romantic involvements aren’t the only source of conflict. What if character A loses a job, or character B loses a family member? What if someone gets robbed, or a natural disaster strikes? You don’t have to make it a thriller, what they do AFTER something horrible happens may be more interesting than the event itself.

      Hope this helps to get you thinking!

    • Kikku

      Thank you. All the suggestions seem helpful, specially the last one.

    • Sefton

      When the charcaters start to do their own thing, I say let them. They will lead your story where it needs to go, even if that moves outside your original plan. If you try to stick to the plan and ignore the ideas for your characters the writing may feel like hard work. Good luck!

      Oh by the way, remember it’s only the first draft. Your inner critic can go hang until the editing stage when it will be most welcome to find flaws and suggest better ways of doing it.
      -Sef

  7. EmFairley

    Great article, Monica!!

    I’m a Nanite (NaNo participant). I wrote the first draft of my first full length novel last NaNo. Amassing a total of 67,000 words for the month. Yes, a portion of those were already written, and I let my inner editor lose on them during November, but by the end I had the finished draft. After numerous edits, the book is available for pre-order now and will be launching November 28. Yes, I’m doing NaNo again this year (drafting book two in the series), while also promoting the other. And yes, I’m crazy!

    As of right now I only have a bullet pointed outline for this one, but will be working on a more detailed outline before November 1st. Will I include those words and scenes, however many I write, in my NaNo word count? You bet I will, as long as they make it into the draft intact.

    If the story isn’t finished by November 30, will I continue, NaNo style, into December? Heck YES, I will! I purposely clear at a couple weeks of December as a contingency.

    Once the first draft is finished, I’ll not look at it until at least mid-February, by which time I’ll hopefully have another window in my schedule to work through the first edit. From there, I’ll take an appropriate break to clear my head before moving onto the 2nd edit

    Reply
    • Monica

      Awesome!! Sounds like you’re well on your way.

    • EmFairley

      Thanks Monica!

  8. Madani

    Hello, Monica. I have no problem in writing a novel since I have written eight. My problem, and it is a great one, is how to stop writing. I wish i could have written in english but I am not an english native speaker and I don’t master English at a level that permits me to start and finish a novel. In fact I write in French but I am not a frenchman and I don’t live I France. In my country it is nearly impossible to publish for an unknown author. According to you, what must I do, knowing that writing runs in my veins?

    Reply
    • Joanna Morefield

      You need a translator? I hope you can find one, for some of my favorite authors have written in other languages, notably Paulo Coelho, and Isabel Allende.

    • Marta Fonseca

      You should try getting a translator. Also, I’m Portuguese and publishing here is pretty complicated too, the odds of you making it when you don’t have a name in the industry yet are slim. That didn’t make me give up, being a high school student is stressful yet I see writing as therapeutical. I do it on my free time and I’m writing my first book, I’m posted it on WattPad, I highly recommend you do the same. People get discovered and get publishing deals there and fans with lovely feedback, it’s one of the greatest finds in my life!

    • Ivo Belfo

      Marta.
      Have you tried any independent editors in Portugal? Such as Chiado Editora, or even Bertrand?

      Then again, it will depend on your book, but I have a couple friends that have edited their Portuguese books through Chiado. I believe Chiado is the most prolific editor in Continental Portugal right now.

      On the other hand it may mean you won’t have the attention you may desire (or even deserve)… but it will be on paper and out there. And if it is really good, it will stand out with time and public opinion.

      A Fellow Countryman,
      Ivo Belfo

      P.S-> I am now kind of correcting a friend’s book that was just released in Chiado. And for all his good ideas, he has quite a few incorrections and misspells. And it was published anyway.

    • Sefton

      What about self publishing via Amazon (your country’s Amazon I mean?) You could translate, or sell direct in your native language.

  9. Glen

    October is the tweener month which is bracketed by an enjoyed warm summer and an anticipated cold miserable winter. I have always found October to be a difficult month even though it is very often a beautiful one in terms of weather. I have spent too much time worrying about the cold nights and mornings, the shortening days and the impending winter assault, that I forget about the truly gorgeous autumn colors, warm and comfortable days and the beginning of my favorite seasonal menu…comfort food! In essence, October should be an excellent exercise in mindfulness and presence. If I live in the present, October has a lot to offer. Today for example I went for a one hour hike in a local forest with my wife and two dogs. The air was fragrant with pine needles, an absolute perfect temperature and just the right humidity to make me feel I could go on forever. My dogs ran and pranced like they had just been released from the prison known to them as “inside”. Jumping in and out of the bubbling stream, chasing each other and chipmunks was probably what they imagine dog heaven to be like. My wife and I simply watched on.

    As I said..a great exercise in presence.

    Reply
  10. Helena

    This is the first draft( well part of it hope its good

    Tacenda by helena1765
    Even in silence there was chaos. No words needed to be spoken, but everyone was screaming with there eyes. We were on the brink of a war that would destroy us. No one dared breathe all there was a spoken fear amongst them. Anarchy had been an issue here and now some one finally took over, a ruthless man. The man was thick and muscular, he looked like he would squeeze the life out of you with his bare hands, people said he was a monster. Before Kalopsia fell we were fine, then our president committed suicide and we fell into the hands of anarchy. Our country was always corrupt, lies. Thievery and murder were not uncommon, but things had the illusion of being more beautiful than they really were.
    Everyone pretended that nothing was going on in the streets. This place was to pretty they said, we live in a paradise God breathed on and it was beauty beyond words, it was magical. The sky was always blue and the ocean was bluer. The sand on the beaches was white and at night a thousand stars danced in the night sky. When the sun rose a thousand colors danced in the sky. The mountains with a fresh ocean sent, crisp cool air and luscious green grass provided a whole view of the country‘s breathtaking scenery. Deep valleys with clean rivers so clear you could see all its depths. They say think of the prettiest place you’ve seen, and times it to infinity. Tourists came here and cried when they had to leave, but we cry everyday now.
    I can’t remember how or why president Juan Faldeja killed himself but he did. He wasn’t as corrupt as the other candidates but he did killed someone to get in office, we all assumed that his act of murder had haunted him to much and he couldn’t take the guilt anymore it was funny how so much corruption went on in a heavenly paradise.
    After his death our country closed down and then lost its mind. I remember the first night there was a riot. I’d never seen so much death and blood in the streets, but that’s what had happened. The monster man created a gang of people of all ages the youngest was nine. They started in the night dragging people with prized possessions and beating them in the streets for there things, burning things and breaking in stores for the meager amounts of food and water. Killing people for there clothes and houses, killing people all night long just to laugh. It lasted till the sun came up and they did it over and over.
    “We are falling apart” my dad told me, he laughed nervously and his intense blue eyes met mine. “But we are strong people, one day we will bounce back.”
    But things got worse, schools shut down because everyday kids were killed and schools were raided for the tiny things we had, a teacher got killed in the bathroom for a roll of toilet paper once! Then churches moved to homes and other secret places our buildings were taken over to house his people and serve as a way to intimidate us. The country flag in places that us people went to was turned upside down, it sent out the message we are in desperate times and only God can save us. Hospitals became the worst place to be on earth. Lots of dying people in the halls, each room had twenty people in it at least it was too much to keep up with. The ill and injured. You were better off trying too fight whatever ailed you yourself. Banks were worthless, if you wanted something you stole it before anyone else could. We were all hopeful and praying for God to save us, but God was only protecting us from the worst that was yet too happen. God would pull us through this, but people got mad at God so God decided to lift his hand.
    Eventually the monster took over everything, we were in total denial but, this is where we now are. One day the monster got his guts and he hacked the main radio system giving an order no one could ignore.
    “Everyone go to the presidents mansion NOW if you don’t my men find you and kill you and your family in the streets………
    We got the message and there was no way to retaliate. So with fear we all crowded onto the front yard of the mansion. It reeked of dead bodies and blood stains were every where. He came out on the steps and his army poured out and herded us in with guns, no one had guns anymore all the bullets were taken and what good is a gun without bullets? There was no escape. He came out, he really was a monster he was a giant big buff and muscular with a cold smile like a serpents. He was healthy compared to us starving souls and stronger. He had a nasty scar on his pale face and the torches made him look more evil. The mansion was a big with mansion surrounded by palm trees, it had marble steps that led up to the grand house. His voice boomed over us a nasty, gravely sharp voice, he sounded like a monster.
    He stepped his foot on the marble and the earth shook no one dared breathe. We all looked at the monster but he wasn’t a monster he was just human. But that’s what made him a monster. every time you looked in eyes you saw all you feared. Funny how someone can have that effect on you right?’ he opened his mouth and spoke words no human would ever speak.
    “ I see we are in need…. Of a leader right? he snickered. Then glared at this crying baby.
    “ Shut him up, it would be tragic I made him shut up, right? then he pulled out a metallic gun and shot a kid while he was in his mothers arms, she wailed and then got shot. We knew where it was going when he told us what to do earlier, but we were to frightened to speak.
    “ NOW, he boomed with a evil maniac grin I am your new leader nothing comes before me and if you don’t want to die you will do as I say. I am capable of anything you saw the baby tha……
    I never got to hear what he said, my dad took my arm and he ran with me he had a huge sack on his back with probably other bags in it too. We bolted off into the woods and my mother was with us too also with a large sack. We ran and ran gunshots in the background people falling over and an unmistakable silence, louder than any scream I ever heard, the world blurred by. I felt like I was death and blind to the world as we ran until there was nothing, nothing but three broken people in a vast plain under the unbroken midnight sky.

    We finally collapsed into the surrounding darkness, all I heard was heavy breathing and distant gunshots and far off screams. I didn’t realize how far we ran until I saw how far the city was, it was just a tiny red glow against the black sky, the city looked like it was bleeding. My lungs were burning and my legs felt like they were on fire. My parents were setting up two tents for the night. We were sleeping here tonight, the night would conceal us.
    “ I will take the first watch,’’ my father said. You could only see his thin silhouette underneath the moon, there was only a sliver in the sky. My mother had nodded and whispered good night, her voice almost sounded broken,. But we were all broken people, living in this broken world. My father looked at me, his blue eyes pieced through the thick darkness around us.
    “ Aurda, we need to talk its important. My father never said things like this, his voice was on edge and his eyes looked like he hadn’t slept in days. I looked at the bleeding town and then my father’s eyes, he wanted to run away, didn’t he. But where would we run? No one takes refugees anymore, they are like needy children and beaten orphans. They ruin everything, right? People didn’t want to help because they were selfish and cold, they put blinders on like a horse not to see suffering of others but only there own problems.
    I walked over to my father, and sat down on the grass it was cool and moist and the air smelled like the ocean.
    “father, what is it are we….”
    “ yes, we are, how do you know?” he stared out in the distance.
    “its obvious dad! But how, how are we going to get away, this mons… guy is taking over everything, there is no way out. His people patrol….
    “I have a plan I always have, don’t doubt me we will get to safety. He sounded so calm for someone in a crisis. Dad was always like that he had a head on his broad shoulders and a plan if anything went wrong. my father is a strong person, like my mother, nothing could break them.
    He reached in the black bag he had earlier. We were now bathed in silvery liquid moonlight, the moon was above us.
    “ This, my child is for you.” he had pulled out a light brown leather satchel.
    “it has everything you will need while we are on the run, trust me I thought of everything and so did your mom, she is very intelligent. Now, go get some rest. We must wake up early, and continue running. I will turn in myself we are safe. Good night my love.”
    “Good night.” I gave him a hug and went off to the tent with my mother. I looked at my father he stood tall and the moonlight cast a silver glow onto him making him look strong. He had long arms and legs and looked very athletic. I silently crawled into the tent were my mother lay asleep. She looked peaceful, her long red hair was braded and looked like a thick snake, her delicate features were tranquil. Her fair skin looked silver in the moonlight. I noticed my sleeping bag in the corner and crawled in. there was nothing but silence surrounding us. A thick heavy silence, a silence so loud I could not fall asleep.

    We woke up to a sky full of the thousand colors, the sun was rising. My mom woke me up with a smile on her face, that’s what I loved about my mom she smiled through all of life’s storms bravely.
    “Aurda, its time to wake up…” she had a sweet voice. I sat up and smiled at her then I yawned, I didn’t sleep at all last night, but I was fine. We had already packed everything up and my father had explained our plans of escape that morning. We were to take a cargo train that takes passengers to the far Westside of Kalopsia, then there was a cargo boat that would leave the tiny country and head for Mangata which neighbored Kalpa, we had friends in Kalpa that would care for us. It was risky but, its what we had to do. So it was decided.
    “Aurda, go, go wash up, I need to talk to your father.” my father smiled at me. He looked casual but professional. He wore black slacks, black shoes and his blonde hair was combed back. My mom as well looked nice, she pulled her red hair into a bun and wore a green dress. She looked a bit nervous, but she looked like she was ready to take on anything.
    “ try to look nice, it will send a good message to the people on the train.”
    I was nervous our plan wouldn’t work. I went down to the river to clean up. The water was so clean and fresh I wanted to stay forever. I remember as a child my father and mother taking me here and swimming we stayed out and watched the stars. My fathers name is Orion like the constellation so he had a thing for stars my mom as well, her name is Mabel, she loved to stare at them and tell me stories of the stars.
    Once I had washed up I decided what I would wear. My dark blue jeans and the black and white blouse I got for my fifteenth birthday. My parents packed it for me, they packed lots of stuff but I didn’t have time to look at it all.
    “ come now we must leave.” my mother said, and so we were off.
    The train wasn’t far away by walk it only took an hour to get there. We passed through the vast plain we slept in and then at the base of Takene no Hana mountain. The mountain like the valley was too beautiful for words, the beauty hadn’t been spoiled here yet. Flowers of all colors grew in the valley and on the mountain. In the winter months the mountains were kissed with a fine white sheet of snow. The water on the mountains was the purest on the land by far and the air was always cool fresh and crisp with a little sent of the ocean which was nearby. The sun was warm today it was one of those days the tourists would love.
    The train pulled in a long dark sleek machine simple looking all it did was move people and things. Everything in the mountains is simple, even the people. Their was a family of them at the station with us they wore dark clothes and hats, keeping there eyes on the ground. You could always tell that they were from the mountain, all of them had heterochromia. One blue eye one green, usually very rare but due to interbreeding in families they all had the same eyes. The conductor comes out and yells.
    “All aboard the Takene no Hana express!” We all hustled on to the train and gave him our tickets. Then we departed. The mountain scenery blazed by in flashing colors, reminding me of the time when me and my friends ran through the mountains together. Then we stopped, something exploded and we were on fire. People were screaming and there was blood everywhere.
    “Passengers, this isn’t your conductor speaking…. Now put your hands up or die like Mr. conductor did. I recognized that voice, the monster was on board with us.

    It was a feeling of sinking, deep slow sinking, my heart being pulled in to the deepest depths of the ocean, no air to breathe. Somehow I felt as if I was being torn apart alive, in two pieces. I saw it in my mothers eyes and my fathers first. The anxiety was written in everyone’s eyes, was this it, am I to die like the hundreds at the hands of a hungry monster? Is this how I die, I asked myself. Is it better to die now or die later, alone or together? As much as I wanted to run, my father stopped me. He squeezed my wrist so tight it turned white, it was like he didn’t want me to move. my mom had passed out. No one dared move, everyone was like statues frozen in time.
    Then the monster came out of the front of the train with blood on his hands and shirt, the blood of the conductor. He was looking for his second victim, more blood to spill.
    “ Who wants to die first. No one spoke, just the smell of fear and blood.
    “c’mon, now its not that bad, just a bullet or to go through your body… its not that painful… “fine, we will just do it my way.
    with the flick of his hand, a storm began. A storm of bloody rain and thunderous screams. A hailing of bullets. Somewhere in that storm I got lost. I got mixed up in the bloody rain dodging the bullets like lightning and the falling bodies. in the blur of the storm I saw the monster smile. Somehow I managed to not die yet, I threw myself behind a booth and prayed for it to end. I hid while people were screaming, sending shivers down my spine making me shake. I saw bullets take off limbs and people fall to the floor in a daze with such a pained look in there eyes I felt there pain, a pain words can’t describe and even if they could I’m afraid to know such words. A child died, shot and he fell in front of me. Tears in his eyes he whispered for his mom, his soft whisper was the loudest voice there.
    “mommy, I’m scared. Mommy, mommy I need a band aid my boo- boo is bad and it hurts a lot.” the boy curled in a ball and cried harder. “Mommy mommy where are you? Momm.. His words became too soft to hear above the screams. But then the child saw me and screamed. Why couldn’t you save mommy! Why are you hiding!? Why are the scary peop… he never finished his sentence, he died by my feet. I placed my hand on his head and said, sorry, sorry I couldn’t stop the scary men, I just am not strong enough.
    The storm raged on and on and I couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. My parents were no where in sight but almost everyone was dead. The last few people had given up fighting, they knew it was inevitable they were going to die. My drowning feeling had only intensified itself, I was drowning in an ocean of fear so deep the top was no longer able to be seen. I never knew such a feeling existed until this moment I feared I’d lose everything that mattered, everything I loved. Then something snapped in me I didn’t fear the storm anymore, I feared what the storm would take.

    I got up and faced the bullets none hit me. I wadded through the sea of lifeless humans and something died in me too. All the terror, sadness and anger was left on there faces. People holding children trying to hold them in a meager effort to save them. People holding hands and each other. The sun shone through the broken windows on the people and blood stained walls. A beautiful sunset, a canvas for a sky with oranges, soft gentle pinks, blood red streaks across the perfect canvas with the perfect touch of gold from the remaining sun. the colors were blended perfectly then broken into a mosaic by the windows. The golden light shone brightly on a sea of something like a sea of red hair.., like mothers. I’m crazy right, maybe its something else. I prayed so hard, just let it be me. But I was wrong. The sun light danced on her face making her look like an dead angel. her once rosy checks were now gray. Her hair was loose a matted mess of blood but still looked beautiful. Her petite frame just lay there like she was asleep. Maybe I am desperate, but I yelled at my mom to wake up, I shook her but she never did wake up. She was dead and I knew it, but I hated to accept that truth. Next to my mom was my satchel and a little note.
    “keep on living even if I’m not there with you. Get to the light at the end of the tunnel.” With love mom and dad
    I had searched the whole train, but my fathers body was nowhere to be found. I pray he escaped and wasn’t taken by the monster for the experiments. The experiments were when they tortured people and saw which one seemed to put them in the most agony. I was to weak to keep on looking in the bodies, it was to painful. It was to painful to know that I was the only one that was going to see the light at the end of the storm. It was to painful to know that I was the only one today, the only one to see the sunset beneath the waves
    By helena1765

    Reply
  11. Joanna Morefield

    Except for the shortest pieces, and often the least important to me, I conclude that prior planning keeps me on task and helps focus my writing. So….
    October: The Myth, the Reality
    What is October?
    1.Reality: it is ten days into autumn
    2. Myth: it is time to pause or hurry
    A. to look at summer
    a. dry weather allows me to extend summer activities
    1) hikes before snow or rain
    2) last minute planting of over-wintering crops
    b. wet weather suggests looking at future indoor pursuits
    1) inventory sewing projects, buy supplies
    2) sort, file and elaborate on writing notes
    3) focus on comfort-food cooking projects
    B. to anticipate winter
    a. put away garden items, hoses, mulch
    b. last gutter-sweep for storm prep
    c. new filters for furnace, complete linen change, wardrobe swap
    What is October?
    1. Reality: month after September, before November
    A. generally still a part of harvest season
    2. Myth: a time of special moods
    A. Stormy nights make us think
    a. of witches and black cats
    b. cocoa and marshmallows
    What is October?
    1.Reality: Holiday pre-season
    A. Buying candy for Halloween
    B. Drawing up guest lists and gift lists
    a. depression- no fam or friends
    b. isolation, alone in lousy weather, low light
    2.Myth: Future family togetherness
    A. Generosity
    a. candy for kids
    b. gifts for friends and family
    c. gifts for me too!
    B. Social outlets
    a. parties and sleepovers
    b. vacations in sunny spots
    I’m tired now! This took WAY more than 15 minutes!
    B.
    B. Love

    Reply
    • LilianGardner

      Wow! October is a busy month for you.

    • Joanna Morefield

      Actually, Lillian, a lot of this is only thinking! And it is aimed at some audience(which I did not think too deeply about). So, there is a bit of scramble to get the hoses put away, but not a lot of outdoor stuff in winter-prep. Also, I don’t celebrate holidays per se, so that was thrown in there for “the audience.” I was just demonstrating an outline. Doing the work, ya know? Thanks for comments!

  12. Minh Truong

    October. Sacred in our world as the month of pumpkin spice lattes and boozy halloween parties. It’s become something of a…mockery. Every year, children go out to stuff their faces with overflowing pumpkin heads of candy, and teens and adults take it as an excuse to do one more party, but dressed up. It seems as though everyone’s forgotten its true name: All Hallow’s Eve. And it seems as though they’ve forgotten why it was so significant- October 31 is the day where the veils between the our world and the Otherworld are the thinnest. It’s not the only date where the veils are weak, but it holds the most powerful It seems humans have forgotten that what lies in that world is not just silly bedsheet ghosts or ugly witches on broomsticks, but old things, forgotten ones. Those that were born from its mists, those so reheprenhisibly evil that they were sealed into the Otherworld. These are the monsters humanity turns its eye from, the very ones who would dearly love to shred the veil between the two worlds and crunch the flickering light bulb of humanity between their hungry, hungry teeth.
    It makes us humans a rather easy sport, you see. I wouldn’t classify humans as stupid, but most of them, especially the city dwellers, have forgotten a belief in the supernatural, or only bring it up whenever a new awful jump-scare movie comes to town. And ever so often, a creature that is cunning, powerful and hungry enough will slip through into our world.
    That’s what we’re here for. The rest of my group and I, I mean. The children that walk among the veils of the world. We fix holes in the veils and banish monsters that do manage to slip into our world. We are of both the Otherworld and this world- it is our duty and destiny, from the day we were born, to preserve the veil. To make sure that it is never gone. It would be absolute chaos if the two worlds were to slip and collide into each other.
    So of course, this story is about the day the veils collapsed and our worlds became absolute chaos.

    I was going to write a story about halloween parties and psl lattes, but somehow it turned into this. Guess I really am a bit of a pantser.

    Reply
    • Bruce Carroll

      I love what this became! My practice, too, became something else. Well done. Let me know when I can purchase the book this is destined to become.

  13. Marta Fonseca

    Have you ever heard the term ‘sleeper agent’? Well, writing was my sleeper skill, talent (kinda) and passion. I did it as a child but, after primary school, stopped. In the beginning of this year I put pen to paper again and starting writing again. This time, it was real, I had started writing a Teen Fiction novel and I planned on posting it on WattPad.
    Six months later, aka now, it’s got around 3.000 reads and 600 votes on its current 19 chapters. This was an even bigger challenge due to the fact that I had an audience now and that I wasn’t writing in my native language, which is Portuguese, I was doing it in English, a language I started learning in 5th grade.
    The feedback has been amazing but the progress will be slow since you, like everyone else, start off as as undiscovered author with 0 practice but you will get better and you’re audience will get bigger if you committ to your books and follow your heart!
    If you want to share your work, create a book on WattPad and see the magic happen, good luck!

    Reply
    • Sefton

      Wow, well done for sharing and getting some devoted readers! That should motivate you to finish! Later you can think about converting those readers into customers on Amazon! -Sef

    • Marta Fonseca

      Thank you so much, hopefully one day I’ll make that change ☺

  14. Sefton

    I’m a pantser. Planning leads to too much self doubt, especially if I read any How To Do Writing type advice whilst trying to plan. Yet I DO plan – in my head. I think about what I’m writing all day, every day. This means that when I sit down I know what scene I’m writing and where it will go.

    My main barrier to finishing has always been boredom, i.e. seeing another shiny new idea whilst still busy with the sludgy middle section of the last one. Solution? Write faster.

    I have an idea I’ve been excited about for over a year, and writing on and off throughout that time (between other projects.) Right ow feels like the right time to complete that first draft. Can I do it before November and Nanowrimo when I have another project I want to do? I don’t know. But we’ll see. I’m avoiding setting myself deadlines and targets for this one – I tried that earlier this year and boy did it not work for me, psychologically.

    I usually write between 1100 and 2500 words a day, mostly late at night after work, or in my lunchbreak. Finishing a novel in 6 months sounds more than possible to me – if I can keep momentum. Fingers crossed! -Sef

    Reply
  15. Bruce Carroll

    October Tale
    by Bruce Carroll

    A real-life story about the month of October.

    Ever year, for five or six weekends in September and October, monsters invade the theme park.

    It is all part of Fright Fest, a spooky celebration at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois. I have worked as one of the scaractors (scary actors) in the park for five seasons, now. I’ve played a zombie pawn shop owner, a demonic “Founding Father” figure, and a clown (or as we scareactors like to refer to it on social media, a klown). There are monsters in haunted houses and monsters on the midway. I’m usually one of the “street actors,” delivering my scares on the midway.

    Last season, there were two major changes to Fright Fest. First was a new guideline referred to as #NoMercy. The monsters come out at six p.m. Anyone in the park after that time is a fair target. We are allowed to scare anyone, of any age, virtually anywhere in the park. The second change was the addition of a new character, Nox, the Demon Overlord of Fright Fest.

    Nox is big. Nox is scary. At just a tad over seven feet tall with a strong baritone voice, Nox easily inspires terror in the hearts of nearly every guest in the park. But he also inspires admiration.

    This past weekend, a little girl came to the park. She met Nox and became a huge fan.

    That very night, she went home. She had an idea; a creative project she wanted to do. She asked for her parents’ help, and they gladly gave it.

    The next day, the little girl came back to Fright Fest. She was dressed as Nox himself! Her parents had helped her modify a mask to look like the Demon Overlord. Nox saw her, and was pleased. (His response was, “I have no words.”) He dubbed this new, junior demon Nyx.

    I don’t know what other name you go by, Nyx, but I am glad to have you as a part of our monstrous family. Let the scaring begin!

    Reply
    • bernadette

      How FUN!

    • Bruce Carroll

      It was adorable. I’ll be recycling this practice as a blog post on Monday; the post will include pictures of both Nox and Nyx.

      authorbrucecarroll.com

  16. Eric Pulsifer

    Monica, from the article (especially the first paragraph) I wasn’t sure whether you meant getting the first draft out in six months or the whole ready-to-publish novel. I’ll assume you’re talking about first drafts here.

    I’m a pantser, and I’ll let the characters run and plot the whole mess as I go. I might have more than one alternate ending, depending. So my first draft will have a lot of wrong turns and experiments that go nowhere. I’m perfectly okay with that. My idea of a first draft is to just to get the story down on paper. I’ll figure it out later, before starting second draft.

    I normally do first drafts during NaNoWriMo months. No reason, it’s just there. But I’ll pound out my first drafts standing up, on a big noisy 1940s-vintage manual typewriter. I love the noise, and the act of writing becomes borderline violent.

    Reply
  17. Anh Nguyen

    Hey Monica,

    Thank you for this timely post. I’m starting to write a visual novel recently as a hobby and it’s great to hear others’ work process.

    What I like the most is that you mentioned the importance of planning before hand. When I first started, I though writers has to be those self-inspired folks who are able to create all sorts of things once they sit down and type.

    But that’s not always the case. Sometimes you’ll need to plan, sometimes you’ll need to push through the will to just give it up.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Cheers,
    Anh

    Reply
  18. Heather

    Really great ideas. I’m both a Pantser and Planner. I find that I have an idea and sometimes will start writing it out. When my brain starts to delve an entire story without the details, I’ll write an outline and then fill in the blanks. I’ll even make a to do list of questions, research, creations.

    The problem I’m having with this story is that I had a storyline/outline and when I was writing some scenes down that I knew will at least be in there (not sure where exactly) an idea of the story came to mind which actually may change my original theory.

    Which isn’t bad – just makes things more interesting lol

    Reply
    • Tina

      The drunken old lady muse in my head, adds whatever pantsiness to any planning I do (which is over 2/3 of this game …) … I am down to “her” as my last remaining muse … I said good bye to Drs. Phil and Oz as my muses …

      Best thing that happened? She’s less abusive to me than she was. Still feisty, as in any boss-of-self that matters.
      She wants me to do only touch challenges like this one.

  19. Tina

    Pretending this is my ¼” quad ruled paper I write this on:

    A. Writing a story about a Halloween party “gone wrong”
    1.

    Reply

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