Drafting a Novel in 30 Days and Being ‘Enough’

Hello! Hope you’re staying cool this summer (mentally, I’m already in autumn). It’s been a great summer so far, and one of my big goals is right on track: I’m drafting my fourth novel, and I’m doing it in 30 days!

Technically, I’m spending 22 of those days actually writing, because I built in days where I knew I couldn’t write (a teambuilding offsite, and my sister is visiting this weekend), as well as three “freebie” days where I could simply say, “I don’t feel like writing today” for whatever reason. At the time of this post, I’m about 10 days out from finishing my first draft!

Why 30 days? Thirty always felt like a nice number to me, to spend a month dedicated to my craft in a perhaps overboard way, knowing there’s a clear end date in sight. I once tried NaNoWriMo and found November is an incredibly busy month for me, but I liked their 30-day goal, so I made it fit in my own schedule.

This is the third book I’ve fast drafted in 30 days, and both times before this, it’s worked out extremely well. Having a clear goal that works within my schedule and commitments has been key to writing this quickly. Making ambitious goals while still being practical about my work and family commitments is one of the most important bits I always keep in mind.

I have a full blog post with tips here if you’re interested in fast drafting but feel a bit intimidated, but here’s the condensed version:

1. Have an outline ready before you start drafting. 
2. Figure out the best time for you to write during the day.
3. Decide how many days you want to write this draft, then build in days off. 
4. Let your partner/kids/those you see all the time know this is a priority for you. 
5. Plan your meals/tasks out in advance each week. 
6. Track your progress.
7. Pay attention to burn out.
8. Try not to fall behind on your word count; it’s easier to get ahead than to catch up. 
9. Stay focused, but make sure to still move around. 
10. Last but definitely not least: write now, revise later. 

In addition to these top tips, one of the things that’s worked out incredibly well for me this time around is doing short bursts of 15 or 20 minutes, taking a quick break, then starting another 20-minute burst. The Pomodoro technique is very similar if you’d like more details. I’ve found that writing in short bursts keeps me immensely focused, and my word count is anywhere from 500-800 words in those bursts. Amazingly enough, that means I can pretty much hit my word count for the day in 60-90 minutes or so.

Another thing I’ve learned: like most (all?) things, fast drafting, and writing in general, get easier with practice. It’s humbling and confidence-boosting to compare my first draft now to the ones a few years ago. My craft has grown by leaps and bounds, and it’s all because I’ve kept at it. My first draft now reads like a third draft of mine from a few years ago, and that still astounds me. Writing is like exercising: the more you do it, the better you’ll be at it, and the better your instincts will be. This doesn’t mean writing every single day, but if you stay with it, you will see progress in your craft.

A lot of writers, myself included, struggle with not feeling like they’re progressing or being “enough.”  They’re comparing their word counts or writing speed to other writers, or they haven’t reached their external goals yet. They’re comparing their age to other writers, or their writing processes. They’re comparing how many books it takes them to secure an agent, or a book deal. Or once they reach them, the goal post moves, and they forget all the incredible progress they’ve made. 

This is my friendly reminder for all of us: you don’t need external benchmarks to be progressing or to feel proud of yourself. If you’re writing better than you were last year, that’s INCREDIBLE, and you should be so proud. If you’re writing at all, hell, BE PROUD! 

If you tried writing a book in thirty days and wrote half a book in that time, I’M PROUD OF YOU! Half a book in thirty days?? Millions of people want to write and don’t end up taking the leap, but you are. That’s something to be proud of. Comparison is the thief of joy, and if you’re going to compare yourself to anyone, compare yourself to your past self. Look at all of you’ve accomplished since!

And no matter where you’re at in your journey, you are enough. ❤

Now, wish me luck as I finish this new story! I can’t wait to share more with you about it.

Hugs and s’mores,
Valerie

P.S. The above photo is from my work-in-progress home library! Soon to have a fireplace, I can’t WAIT.

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