The Nameless Horror

Novel In 30 Days? Try 3.

There’s been some harrumphing on Twitter the last couple of days about a Guardian piece on writing a novel in 30 days - conveniently in time for NaNoWriMo - trimmed from the book of the same(ish) name of Karen Weisner (whose website was apparently designed in 30 minutes with the aid of a time machine back to 1996).

But as others have pointed out, Simenon famously generally took a couple of weeks to write the Maigret novels, Fleming took 6 weeks to do a few of his, I seem to recall Will Christopher Baer advocating a ‘lockdown’ approach to writing, sealing himself in a hotel room in a strange town for a few days and hammering through a book sans the distraction of familiar real life, and many good writers have knocked out stuff very quickly when the need’s arisen. Plenty of bad ones as well, but still.

And forget 30. Try three.

That old link of Tim's outlines some advice from fantasy supremo and sometime Hawkwind collaborator Michael Moorcock on how to write a 60,000 word novel in three days.

And the thing is (and I don’t know how this compares to Weisner’s), the advice is actually really very good. It essentially boils down to “make sure you have as much cool stuff in your head before you sit down as you can, and have backup suggestions from yourself so you don’t get stuck thinking about things”. OK, it also plays off the outline ideas in the Lester Dent Master Plot, but even that, so long as you don’t take it as gospel in modern non-pulp writing, isn’t a bad thing either. Neither of them encourage writing any old bilge and calling it a book and Moorcock, even if he got a little 70s fruity at times (“Hello, Elric. Yes, I am riding a giant snail. What of it?”), is no bad writer.

Now, I don’t think I’ve got the typing speed to bang out 20k words a day for three days, not unless I was wildly stream-of-consciousnessing (a word I intend to trademark forthwith), but I gave it a poorly-planned trial run for writing a 20,000 word novella a couple of months ago. And while it turned out I get hopelessly distracted after the first two days, and I should’ve made sure I had the prep done properly rather than winging a lot of it, it worked a treat. I wrote about 15,000 words in 48 hours and, reading them back once I’d finished the thing off, they’re not at all bad. Surprisingly passable, in fact.

So don’t get sniffy at the idea of writing a book in a month. Get sniffy if someone suggests you shouldn’t nail the bastard thing as best you can first time out. Get sniffy if they try to sell you a system to do it when there’s plenty of good advice for free. Get sniffy if the person doing the writing plainly doesn’t give the tiniest shit about the quality of what they’re doing and is only in it for the speed and the kudos.

As with so much in life, it’s not so much how quickly you’re done as how much enjoyment everyone gets out of what you do.