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The Thirteen Weeks Novel Writing Program

How to apply the Charlie Martin Method to your first book.

by
Sarah Hoyt

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February 28, 2013 - 2:09 pm
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Can you write a good novel in thirteen weeks?  I don’t know. I can. The shortest time I’ve taken to write a novel was three days, which so far happens to be my best-selling novel. (Alas, work for hire.)  And I’ve written a novel in five years.  That novel remains to this date – deservedly and mercifully – unpublished.  While the idea isn’t bad, it will take some serious rewriting to make it readable, the sort of rewriting that turns it into a trilogy and gives it new characters.

If you go on the evidence of the market, you’d do best to write a novel in a shorter time than thirteen weeks.

My average novel takes a little over a month, but I don’t count research and outlining and run up at the thing (which means finding the right voice and all that).

So thirteen weeks is probably about right, particularly since I’ll be doing my usual thing and writing other things in the evening, as well as editing a couple of other novels.

While it is tempting for the amateur to think that the quality of a novel is directly proportional to how long you take to write it, as far as I can tell there is no correlation.  At least in terms of readability and salability — which is my definition of quality for this project — there were authors like Rex Stout, who had a long-lasting career and who wrote his novels in an average of a week per.  There are also authors like J. K. Rowling, who is reported to have taken three years to write Harry Potter.  There is of course Tolkien, who took more than a decade to produce his works.  There simply is no correlation between quality and time.

You write a novel in as long as it takes to get the novel written.  And that’s all there is to it.  Even now, even in my case, some novels will appear to me fully-formed and with some I have to struggle for every word.

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Top Rated Comments   
This is cool, but it wouldn't do me much good. To write novels, you have to be interested in people. I'm not. Is there a way to write a book about dinosaurs in thirteen weeks?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (17)
All Comments   (17)
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Late to the party, folks. But at least I'm here.

Well, everyone on PJTV keeps nagging us to retake the culture. Guess this is step one.

And while I have done a number of short stories on a deviantART site, I'd never taken on writing a full fledged novel until this past November.

Yup, NaNoWriMo. And it was a challenge, but I wrote my very first 50,000 word novel. It's still in its first draft, and I haven't gotten around to following up on it, but I did it.

I'm ready, willing, and able to give it another go, and look forward to doing it amongst my fellow PJ guys. Let's do this!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Try getting your work past the gatekeepers at the publishing companies.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You mean editors? I prefer that to one's inner voice and their mother.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
no, the censors (officially self-censorship, but you'll have trouble selling anything that doesn't stroke with the leftwing, AGW alarmist, ideology) and other PC police...

PKD today would not be a published author, and neither would RAH. Asimov would have trouble.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thank you Sarah Hoyt,you are the first person who ever encouraged me,thank you.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You just made a grown man say wow!
Would 50 disconnected but curious partial paragraphs count as a start? Hope so.I seem to begin every morning around 5 am,and require nothing but a pot of coffee.Does it feel like being pregnant or gas?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Sarah, you convinced me too start a Rewrite of my first true novel, After....
A tale of SoCal post Big One, with a few twists and my own Local knowledge,
3200 words so far, Wish me luck. And thanks for all the inspiration you have given me over the past few years :)
Bob
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Darn. I just finished a first draft! Maybe I should start another?

I'm an experienced writer in other genres, but I wonder what to do now? Query, or ask some target readers to read it...my hope is to sell it on the web, or get a publisher of course.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
A short while ago I read Songs of the Dying Earth, a tribute to the unique prose of science fiction and fantasy writer Jack Vance.

A voice in my head said, "I can do a better imitation of Vance than those guys."

Another voice said, "No you can't."

I said, "What? Who's that?"

"It's me, or rather... you."

"Me? But I'm right here."

"Well, I'm right here too... and I say you can't do it."

"Sure I can."

"Uh-uh. No, you can't"

"How'd you like me to waft a bloom of stink in your direction?"

"You'd only be smelling your own B.O. in a very real sense, since I am you, and you are me. Why don't you go eat a spider? A live one. I'll even videotape it."

"Maybe I don't want to."

"I sense a certain amount of cozenage and dissimulation. Perhaps even hokum and insincerity."

"So what? Any way, if you're me and I'm you, and I can't write like Vance, how is it you're talking like Vance right now?"

"What?"

"Hah, gotcha. You're an idiot."

"Talk like this by passing derelicts such as yourself can be considered at once meritorious, tiresome or even result in an exasperated reaction that would lead to your discomfiture. In this instance I feel such exasperation."

"Go screw yourself. I'm not passing by. I live here. You're just a voice."

"Not so. I dream and contemplate. It is a wide world and there is much to consider about it besides this dreary view of your head and whatever clownish thoughts happen to enter it by sheer chance. For example, is this road the world, and you a phantom I create who appears only when I wish it? Do I dream you or do you have a life of your own?"

"Hah, you did it again."

"So says the master of idiocy, stupid facial expressions and mindless pedantry."

"Shut up."

Anyway, once I realized I'd forgotten to take my medication, I sat down and wrote a short story and then a prelude to it this week. Did 16,000 words and they're both finished. It was a breeze.

"What's for dinner tonight?"

"What? Who's that?"

"It's me again, I'm hungry.

"We're having rat and roe, stick insect soup and maybe some sand and prozac."

"Ish."

"How'd you like me to shove some stinging caterpillars up your nose? I saw some on a tree outside.

 


1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Hmmm, I might have to see if I can hitch up to this one. I have a good chunk of the outlining and planning done. I'm working sort of piecemeal on the research. I've tried to cover the things I know I'll need, but I'm sure I'll run into topics I didn't anticipate as I go along.

I'm itching to start going, but I have one tiny snag in my outline that I can't solve.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I hope you do it!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Write past it, and come back and solve the problem later. I'm heartened by the story that Tolkien didn't know how the ring was put into the fire before he wrote it. He had to go back and rewrite a lot, but as we all know, it worked.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This is cool, but it wouldn't do me much good. To write novels, you have to be interested in people. I'm not. Is there a way to write a book about dinosaurs in thirteen weeks?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Animal fable is a viable method. Write about what floats your boat. I went through a period growing up where I refused to read books with humans as characters.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Richard Adams wrote about rabbits. Robert Lawson (Rabbit Hill) and Kenneth Grahame wrote about an assortment of animals.

Why not?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Why not? You could write a crazy scifi/fantasy adventure about sentient dinosaurs on a random alien planet. Or an alternate future where dinosaurs never died out and are still the dominant species.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It was done by Harry Harrison in a trilogy started by West of Eden. They were called Yilane and had developed bio-engineering to a point where all their technology was based upon bizarre living creatures. However, they were facing a potential extinction event caused by the advent of the Ice Age, and humans were better suited to adapt to the colder Ice Age climate.

It was an interesting series to read.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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