Monday 2 May 2011

You Can Do it: A Novel in 90 Days!

Any writer who wants to be successful needs to continue their professional development, irrespective of where they are in their writing career. Established authors, as well as beginner authors, need to refresh their skills and learn new tricks to keep their creative juices flowing.

I find the webinars of Writer’s Digest University an excellent source of courses and literature to grow myself as a writer. The latest webinar I attended, called “Write Your Novel in 90 Days,” was presented by Dr Sarah Domet. Sarah is the author of 90 Days to your Novel. You can read more about her illustrious career on her website

I live tweeted part of the webinar and today I’ll expand on those points. Novelists, according to Sarah, are not crazy arty types. Well, not all of them! A large majority of writers are ordered, logical people with good organizational skills. And organisation is the main requirement of writing your novel in 90 days. Without planning, your novel is likely to meander off into the sunset without anything concrete being achieved.

Let’s take a closer look at planning a novel in advance:

• Set a definite start and end date for your novel
• Use an outline
• Assess marketability of your novel
• Write daily

Setting a Date: 90 days or 90 months, set a definite time period in which you want to complete your first draft. Stephen King says that 90 days is the ideal time period for the completion of a first draft. But we’re not all the master of horror. The key is to commit to any set period that suits your personality and life style, draft a detailed schedule and then hold yourself accountable for meeting those goals. Without a definite start and end date, your novel could end up like Casaubon’s great work in George Eliot’s Middlemarch: unfinished!

Use an Outline: It’s a myth that outlining is a restrictive process that stunts creativity. Rather, outlining promotes creativity. A good outline will show your story’s narrative arc and you can use it to work out any errors of logic before you begin to write, rather than wasting time on twists and turns that lead nowhere. Find an outlining method that suits your personality.

• If you’re a linear thinker you may prefer the traditional method, which details every scene, every character and every plot point in advance.
• If you’re a non-linear thinker, you may prefer the sign-post method. With this method you make loose notes—use cards or post-it notelets—providing just enough detail to keep you on target.
A visual thinker, such as myself, would prefer the flow chart method. Using a bulletin board or a white board, you can create a physical representation of your novel.

Assess Marketability: You’re a writer, not a marketer. But it’s important that, before starting your masterpiece, you understand your market. This is different to writing what you think the readers want. No one can plan to write a best seller. Rather understand your themes and then assess which readers will be interested in such story and whether there is enough universal appeal to justify your efforts. Your great-aunt Mary might love to read the adventures of the family pup descended from a great-great-Grandfather’s first pet, but will the rest of the reading world care?

Write Daily: Forget inspiration. Rely on habit. Make time in your day to write something every day, or at least every other day. You’ll have to tell your family and friends about your writing goals. Let them know how important those goals are to you. Then make the necessary sacrifices and write! write! write!

You’ll be able to get more details on how to write your novel in 90 days by investing in Sarah Domet’s 90 Days to your Novel. Use this book as a reference and soon you’ll be writing the two most important words you’ll ever write: THE END!


Tabouleh said...

Thank you Judy for these great tips... i teach students are school how to plan what to write, add details and all the other stuff/skills that come with it... but this definitely gives me another angle to approach it from... maybe I should apply some of these to my writing for my blog...One question.... I write short children's stories in Arabic... have not published any of them yet but Inshallah in the future... would like to ask you if what you wrote can be applied to such genres? Thank you for your interesting post.

Damaria Senne said...

thanks for the info. I think I'm a visual thinker and would do better with a flow chart.

Stephanie Faris said...

I've never attended any of their online workshops but I think it's great that this sort of thing is accessible to people...without even leaving home!

Claire Robyns said...

It's so interesting to see the philosphy that most writers are logical as opposed to arty. Being a software developer, I've always wondered if my logic mind somehow stilted my writing and was part of the reason I write so slow, lol.

I'm not much for outlining plots, but I do outline characters and their arcs, which I guess is a valid form of outlining, since their arcs are linked to events and so linked to the plot.

"Write every day" is what I hope to make my motto one day, I keep on trying it but haven't quite succeeded yet.

Thanks for sharing this, Judy

Nas said...

Hi Judy,

Thanks for these great tips!

Helen Ginger said...

Writing "the end" is often a problem for writers. When is the process over? How much editing should you do? Some writers keep fiddling with it and never get it finished or never see it as ready to query or publish.

CA Heaven said...

90 days - that's impossible for me. It's just 3 months. Anyway, soem good hints to speed things up >:)

Cold As Heaven

Anita said...

I want to be the master of horror! :) Okay, I'd settle for being able to write daily. Thanks for sharing this info. I've been thinking about you!

Lauri said...

I have two novels I wrote with no market in mind and they were written without any sort of a plan- I call it the organic method. Both have had double digit rejections. Now I always start with a plan- my plot outline, and I know the first publisher I'll be sending it to when it's complete. It has made all of the difference in my success rate. Great advice Judy!

septembermom said...

These are awesome tips Judy! Thank you. I like this kind of challenge. I need it to get me going.

Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

TABOULEH: Hmmm. Interesting question. How much planning should go into a short piece like a blog or a short story? In theory, an ideal blog post is between 500-750 words and a short story is anything no longer than between 20 000 and 30 000 words (although I’d call that a novella.) For a blog post or short short story, it hardly seems worth the effort of planning, but for any story longer than 10 000 words, a brief outline would work. Setting a completion date and assessing marketability would depend on your reasons for writing. To me, the most important is writing daily, whether it’s a haiku or an epic novel, the only way we can ever reach the end of any writing project is to develop the habit and discipline of writing. Perhaps that’s the most important aspect of writing you could impart to your young students. Good luck with your children’s stories – perhaps you’ll translate them into English and other languages one day!

DAMARIA: Me too! I’ve always hated outlining, but I’ve been toying with flow charting and that’s the route for me too!

STEPHANIE: It’s beyond great that I can sit here in Jo’burg and can attend professional presentations waaaay over the sea in The States! Gives me such a thrill! (and I can sit in my jammies and slippers too!) The WD webinars are highly professional and informative.

CLAIRE: Now you know! Writers need logic as well as a muse! I also prefer to free write without any planning, but the thought that an outline – even if it’s just a broad outline – actually frees one to be more creative by removing “dead ends” made sense to me. And, when I’m actually writing, that “write every day” is an absolute must to me otherwise I lose the flow.

NAS: Pleasure – hope they help!

HELEN: That endless tweaking and never actually writing the end can be a challenge. That’s why I finally decided to go with independently publishing Dancing in the Shadows of Love, because I kept on finding reasons to change it which had nothing to do with whether the novel was really finished or not and everything to do with my being afraid to take that step and let my novel be out there for people to read. So forcing an “end date” (and sticking to it!!) is quite important.

COLD: 90 days is impossible for me as well, because I write like a tortoise! But a key point the presenter made was to set A date – how long is up to us as authors. I’ve thought a lot about it after the webinar and feel comfortable with 120 days. (But now I keep on putting off the START date for my new novel!!)(Anything to procrastinate!)

ANITA: Who wouldn’t want to be the great SK????? But I’m with you on being happy to settle for the (sometimes-a-luxury) of being able to write every day! (Thanks for thoughts!)

LAURI: I *love* it – The Organic Method! Sounds much better than meandering along without a clue of where the stories going! Have you ever tried to tweak those two multi-rejected stories and pull them together for an Ebook?

KELLY: Like Cold, 90 days is a bit *too* much of a challenge for me, but the essence of the idea (to make a definite, finite time commitment) is excellent!

Lauri said...

Judy -those books have been tweaked within an inch of their lives. They've been "women's fiction", "Young adult" "literary" - for the time being I'm tweaked out with them. :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Judy ... those online courses sound interesting .. and I'll remember that aspect. I sort of plan my blog posts .. a good title, a beginning, middle and end - summary .. but I'm so 'dumb' English wise .. yet obviously something went in all those years ago .. I don't think ellipses did though!

I hope all has gone well recently - Blogger's mangle has not helped keeping in touch .. but I hope it's recovered itself now - seems to .. just I need to catch up!

Cheers and big hug for now .. Hilary

JennaQuentin said...

Sounds like just the battle plan I need. No more messing around - here we go. WRITE! Thank you!

Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

LAURI: When you reach that stage on a book, then it's time to put it away in the bottom draw!

HILARY: I'm so glad I've discovered quality on-line courses - it's opened a whole new door for me!! And LOL on ellipses...I love 'em too! Thanks for your always cheerful comments! (((hugs)))

JENNA: To arms! To action! With a battle plan victory is certain! (I'm not sure I'll manage 90 days though; I'm a s-l-o-w writer!)