How to Write a Novel in a Week

How to write a novel in a week? Okay, I’m lying. But not by much.

THE HOUSE OF SIGHS is the latest. In one week I’m 57,000 words in, bringing the total up to 66,000. You know how long the other 9,000 took me? Two months.

Here is the blurb for HOUSE OF SIGHS, by the way: Jane doesn’t remember anything. The only thing she knows is that she’s an orphan and she has no second name. The Orphanage is the safest place in the world…

Before this one there was JABBERWACK (63,000 words in a week) and before that there was GATEWAY BOY (60,000, but “how to write 60,000 words in a week” doesn’t have the same ring to it).

I would like to point out that those words were not ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY over and over again. Deary me no, they were splendid words. As splendid as a first draft written by me can hope to get. I invented this method out of sheer frustration, and if it worked for me it can work for you too:

STEP ONE: HIRE A HOLIDAY COTTAGE FOR A WEEK

Make sure you know the beginning and (kind of) the end of your novel before you go.

Make sure the place is affordable, and has a pretty view. You won’t be seeing any of that view, but it’s really important to know it’s there. Holiday places are at their cheapest out of season.

Make sure you know the taxi number if you need to get your luggage to and from the train station.

Make sure there is an Indian takeaway. If you’re like me, you’ll be living on takeaways for a week. If you’re not like me, ensure all your food is microwaveable so preparing delights to sustain you will take a maximum of six minutes.

Make sure you have no friends to visit in the nearby area. They’re lovely friends, but – just for a week – sod them.

Last, and very important: Make sure you have no idea how to get onto the internet.

STEP TWO: DON’T BREAK THE RULES

My rules were:

1) Start writing by 9am.

2) You haven’t finished for the day until you’ve written 7-10,000 words.

3) Writer’s block does not exist.

Just three rules, but coupled with the splendidly sharp focus that spending money you don’t have on a week away can bring, you will, I am sure, get results. I have never yet, in twenty-one days of doing this, broken these rules.

I have had moments of blank-mind panic, and cups of coffee that lasted longer than strictly necessary, but I never stopped writing to such a degree that I didn’t hit my daily word quota. When I’ve had doubts then, to quote Chandler, a man walks into a room with a smoking gun. A couple of chapters down the line and you’ll be pretty sure why he did it.

At home, the world exists. People exist. Job hunting and the internet exists. In this happy little Gulag, this wonderful bubble of exile, the only things that exist are the next cup of coffee, the next meal, the next view of lovely countryside you’ll never walk in, and the next word. Normally I’ll only write 1,000 words in a day. This system changes all that.

Obviously, because I’ve made this system up I have no idea if it will work for anyone else. But I’m back, and I’m happy, and I’m a whole heap nearer to writing those crazy and rather magical words THE END. It may well work for you too.

Also, it turns out that the internet did not fall over while I was away. RESULT.

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1 Comment »

  1. Hi, Magda,
    What you describe sounds like near-heaven to me. How I’d love to be able to unplug like that and write without interruption! Maybe someday… But between now and then, you’ve given me a new goal: make such an opportunity like that for myself.


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