Introduction: The Thirteen Weeks Novel Writing Program
Week 2: First You Catch Your Idea
Week 3: The Plot Wars
Week 4: How to Find the Time for Writing
It is becoming increasingly obvious to me that I’m not going to finish this by week thirteen. This is fine. It is fine because I did not start to write in week one, having first tried to lay the foundation for the writing program.
This should replicate your experience, particularly if this is your first novel, or if you are writing a novel that necessitates research – historical, scientific, or other. And there are very few novels that don’t.
For ease of calculation, let’s say you took the first three weeks either to brush up on writing craft – such as via Dwight Swain’s excellent Techniques of the Selling Writer – or to study up on the time of your novel, or even the theme of your novel. For instance, if you’re writing a novel involving space pirates it would behoove you to read novels about pirates past and present, so as to give your construction the necessary feel of heft and verisimilitude.
So, let’s say you took the first three weeks to research, study and plot. Depending on where you are on your writing development and how sure of yourself and this novel you are, it can of course take a much shorter time or a much longer one. Don’t be bound by my rules but by yours. Novels are an intensely individual endeavor, like any other art. While there are rules of writing and rules of craft, they don’t and can’t affect things such as how much preparation is enough for this particular writer or for this particular novel.
As I’ve said before, I’ve written novels in three days, and I’ve written novels in three years. All right, the one written in three years is near unreadable and never sold, but that might be a quality of my own, particular mind and lack of attention span – I have trouble carrying a theme coherently over a very long time. Or it could be the result of where I was at the time – that particular novel spanned the birth of both my sons, experiences that changed me profoundly so that the writer who finished the novel was not the one who started it.
Of course the conceit of the novel in thirteen weeks is that you’ll at least try to finish the novel in that time period. However, as has been noted in the past, this doesn’t mean you’ll manage it in a thirteen week period. It might very well take you two.