How to Write a Novel In Nine Months or Less

By Liz, east of Hartford, still wishing for sun and warmth

I am (still) working on the third book in the Pawsitively Organic Mysteries. My deadline is May 1. At the time of this writing, that’s exactly eight days away. So since I have all the time in the world, I thought I would take a little break and share with you all my most effective practices for writing a book in nine months. With a day job. And a million other responsibilities. Oh, and don’t forget Murphy of the famed Murphy’s Law – he’ll be moving in. It’s all good!

Month One:
Rest. After all, you’re most likely coming off another excruciating deadline. You bled for the past nine months trying to write the last book, which came out pretty well, if you do say so yourself. Of course you should rest and recharge. Catch up on all the seasons of all the shows you missed while you were on that horrible deadline. Read a book or two from six years ago that you haven’t gotten to yet. Try to remember what it feels like to exercise. Maybe pay the mortgage, reintroduce yourself to your family. Throw a ball to the dog, who looks a bit older. Apparently it’s been a while. Jackie

Month Two:
Think about the synopsis that’s due in 30 days. You have a vague idea of what the story will be, so best to let it noodle in your brain while you’re resting. It won’t take much to put it on paper. Best to wait until the day before it’s due, then you can have a marathon session at the computer and just dump everything out. You don’t have to stick to it totally, anyway.

Month Three:
Getting that synopsis down five minutes before deadline was exhausting! You should rest again.

Month Four:
Okay, time to think about writing a chapter or two. Gotta get the word count rolling. If you do a couple thousand words this month, then you only have about 73,000 to go. Plenty of time. But wait. After looking at the synopsis, you realize you hate it. And you might have a new victim. You email your editor to tell him, and he says, no problem, just give me a new synopsis in a couple of months. Phew. Now you can think again. Plenty of time.

Month Five:
PumpkinTime to get serious. This is the month you jump right in and start banging out words. The new plot is working better, things are moving along, and soon you’re halfway to word count. Congratulations! As a master procrastinator, you know you have plenty of time. Now you can think about the holidays/birthdays/anniversaries/whatever life events are right around the corner without time constraints. You’ve got this!

Month Six:
Holy crap. This book is horrible. You have no idea where this plot is going, who is actually a suspect, what the right clues are, etc. Your word count is holding steady at 50K because you keep deleting entire chapters and changing your mind. Where is that damn synopsis, and why isn’t it better?!

Month Seven:
You don’t want to talk about it. The next person who asks how the bleeping book is coming will find themselves facing a fate worse than the victim’s in this godawful book. And no, you don’t have time to go to [insert name here]’s funeral/birthday party/retirement party. Or happy hour. Or, apparently, to sleep. Finnegan

Month Eight:
Murphy’s ramping it up, enjoying your already apparent discomfort. This is a critical turning point month. This is where you realize it’s no longer about reaching 75K words. It’s about actually having a story within those 75K words. Which prompts another delete fest. Cue panic attacks. Oh, and while you’re at it, your day job boss decides she wants you to lead the new high profile project coming up. And the president of the board you’re on was so intrigued by your last conversation on communication planning that she asks if you can do a presentation to the full board. This month, please. It’s so timely! And, how exciting! Your other book releases this month! Which means lots of guest blogs, appearances, maybe a launch party. You are living your dream.

Note: This is also the month where you use up most of the vacation time in your day job just to keep up with life (and the book, since the book is life by now). You make progress, but you’re not out of the woods yet. 

ShaggyMonth Nine:
This is it. It’s 30 (or 31) days to D-Day. Bring it on. You’re gonna hibernate until this baby is done. Things are looking up. But beware – Murphy has saved the best for last. This is the grand finale of his visit, because soon he’ll move on to the next writer with a looming deadline. But first, he’s got a few more things to check off his list, including one or more of the following:

  • The car dies.
  • The roof caves in.
  • The cat/dog/kid (or all three) get really sick. Like, emergency room sick. It could be ebola.
  • Your spouse/significant other gets really sick. Like, emergency room sick. With ebola.
  • The cat/dog/kid gets really sick while your spouse/significant other, who is traveling for work, gets really sick halfway across the country. With ebola. And the car breaks down on the way to the ER. While the neighbor is calling to tell you that the roof caved in.

You get the idea. Be prepared.

Somehow, someway, thanks to your great friends/editors/readers/significant other, the book is finally ready to hit send. The roof and the car have been repaired, the ebola has been contained and things are looking up. You’re going to take one more read-through, then hit send, breathe a sigh of relief and make a martini. Just as you turn on the computer, which you forgot to charge last night because you were so busy editing, the power goes out.

Readers, anyone else have this much trouble with deadlines, writing or otherwise?

34 Thoughts

  1. Liz, this is so funny! You have it down. You described everything I’ve ever had a deadline for, but I haven’t given up trying to pace myself… I think we know where that’s going.

  2. You’d scare me if i hadn’t already written a book in nine months! Luckily, the deadline was my own self-imposed one, but I did make it. And now, more than a year later, I’m working on a rewrite while I also write the 2nd book in the series. I wonder which one will be finished first.

  3. Your subconscious has it all under control–you just don’t know it. (And on your list of Murphy’s Crises, you forgot to include, the computer crashed. Forever.) Just breathe now and then.

  4. I’m not sure whether I should be relieved that you’ve just summed up my life or terrified. I’m solidly at your (and my) Month Six stage. Panic attacks don’t even begin to cover it.

    Joyce, were we insane in lusting after this life, or what?

    1. Annette, there’s still time! Don’t worry, Murphy’s still hanging around my house. I have two new problems to fix as of tonight 🙂

  5. I’m laughing hysterically, Liz, and shaking my head “yes” the entire time. You’ve revealed the dirty little truths of a writer’s life (mine, though, requires more wine). Tell me again why we all decided to write? LOL.

  6. LOL. I’ve never done anything like this ever.

    (In college, I actually spent one Spring Break working on projects due in the second half of the semester. It was wonderful. Why didn’t I ever do that again?)

    My philosophy now? Why put off today what you can put off putting off until tomorrow.

  7. Still laughing. I have just started my first book, so only have a personal deadline right now. Is this what it will be like if I ever get published? Eee gads!

  8. Yes, just nearly missed a submission deadline because I procrastinated and then all hell broke loose in every area of my life,(including the procrastination of getting a new computer because I was still running XP and had to transfer everything,AND the procrastination of my illustrator). AND everyone around me either got sick, hurt or otherwise had ’emergencies’.
    When are we going to learn?

    1. I swear this time I’ve learned…..but I’m already planning everything I’m going to do during my “rest” phase, Tonette!

  9. This is so perfect, Liz! With just under 3 months before my deadline, I’m EXACTLY at that 6-month stage! I even have exactly 50K 😉

  10. I love ALL our commenters today, as well as Liz’s post. Go girls (and guys), go! Ignore Murphy. That book wants to be written. And always remember – you’re living your dream. Even if it seems like a nightmare sometimes.

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