We’ve all heard stories about authors writing at superhuman speed – Jack Kerouac apparently wrote “On The Road” in just three weeks and I think that Shaun Hutson once apparently wrote a World War Two novel in a single weekend or something like that (I can’t remember where I read about this though).
So, how do they do it?
Well, whilst I’ve never actually written a full-length novel at top speed, I’ve done the next best thing. Twice.
Back in 2009, I was fascinated by a competition called “The 3 Day Novel“. Since I’d missed the start date for it and was kind of impatient, I decided to have a bit of unofficial practice and I ended up producing two 19,000-21,000 word novellas (not at the same time obviously – the first one was in summer 2009 and the second one was in autmun 2009).
Although it actually took me about four days for one of my attempts, it gave me at least a small amount of insight into how to write at ultra-fast speeds.
As the name suggests, “The 3 Day Novel” is a competition where people try to write a “novel” in just three days. I’ve put “novel” in inverted commas because what most people (myself included) can produce in that amount of time is closer in length to a novella (eg: 14,000- 50,000 words) than a full-length novel. Still, writing something of this length in three days is quite an achievement.
Anyway, since “The 3 Day Novel” contest already has a ‘Survival Guide’ page on it’s site which gives you some basic advice about how to achieve this superhuman feat (eg: don’t edit when you’re writing, write in solitude etc…), I thought that I’d give you some more unusual tips about how to write a novel quickly…….
1)Begin well: On my first unofficial attempt at the “3 Day Novel” challenge, I was excited and ready to go. So, on the first day, I ended up writing something like 10,000 words in the space of about eight hours. This was, at the time, the longest thing that I’d ever written and I was amazed!
In fact, I thought that if I kept this up then I’d have a 30,000 word novella by the end of the challenge.
On the other days, I was only able to produce about 5,000 words a day.
Anyway, why am I mentioning this? Well, the reason I’m mentioning it is because you need to take full advantage of the first day of your project.
This will be the day when you are at your most energetic and enthusiastic because you haven’t been worn out by writing an unnaturally large amount of fiction yet. So, don’t take it easy on the first day.
Don’t ease yourself into your project gently. Use that first burst of curiosity and enthusiasm to your advantage and throw yourself into your project whilst you still have the energy to do so.
In other words, see your first day as the day when you can give yourself a giant head-start that will be useful a day or two later when you’re at the point when you can still see words even when you close your eyes.
2) Genre and plot structure: If you are going to pull off the gruelling feat of writing a novel in a shockingly short amount of time, then not only do you need to be enthusiastic (if not obsessed) about it but you also need a plot structure which keeps the risk of getting writer’s block to an absolute minimum.
In order to get enthusiastic about your story, it needs to be in one of your absolute favourite genres. It has to be in a genre that you absolutely love.
Because you’ll be writing at a superhuman speed, you’ll need motivation and the best motivation you can get is to be doing something that you love. So, don’t even attempt to write a novel quickly unless it’s in a genre that you genuinely love.
Secondly, you want to keep your story fairly open-ended in order to keep the risk of both writer’s block and of “writing yourself into a corner” to a minimum.
Whilst I’ve already written another article this subject , your story needs to be something that you can easily “make up as you go along” and it also needs to be the type of story where, if you get stuck, you can just throw something completely random into your story without confusing your readers.
For example, if you’re writing a horror story – then it would be better to write a story about a mysterious monster that attacks unsuspecting people at random (eg: whenever you get writer’s block) or a story about a haunted house where all manner of strange and bizarre things can happen (again, whenever you get writer’s block) than it would be to write an intricately-plotted story with detailed plot twists.
3) Sugar and Caffeine are your friends: Normally, I don’t really like energy drinks. Most of them taste pretty horrible and I don’t really like the whole frat-like culture that surrounds them.
But, if you’re writing a novel at superhuman speed (and it’s safe for you to drink energy drinks), then they’re a much more efficient way to stay awake and motivated than getting up (and away from your computer) and making a cup of coffee.
So, before you start your marathon writing session, make sure that you have some energy drinks handy. But, for obvious safety reasons, just make sure that you don’t drink too many of them though (I think that the general rule is that you should only drink about one can of energy drink per day.)
4) Obsession: If you devote a huge amount of time to doing nothing but writing a novel, then you’re probably going to start to think about it almost all of the time – even when you’re not writing.
On the few occasions that you meet other people during your writing binge, you’re going to want to talk about nothing other than the novel that you’re working on.
Although this might make you fear that you’re losing your mind, it’s actually a good sign. It means that you’re devoting almost all of your mental energy to your novel. As long as you don’t keep it up for more than a few days and you find a way to relax afterwards, then a total and all-consuming obsession about your novel is a good thing.
After all, who would even attempt to write a novel in a ridiculously short amount of time if they weren’t obsessed about it?
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂 Again, be sure to check out the “Survival Guide” on the “3 Day Novel” website for some more practical advice.