How To Write a Novel in Four Weeks

…if you’re me, writing Hexomancy.

Because that’s what I did. And I’m still kind of reeling. Hexomancy came out about twice as quickly as I’ve ever written a novel before.

Yeah, so that was a bit link-baity of a title, but this whole thing is still kind of crazy to me, so I’m still processing.

I started writing the novel on April 14th, and I finished on May 15th. I took several days off (mostly Saturdays), and had a couple of low-production days. But the net effect is that I wrote a complete rough draft of 72,326 words in 28 days of production.

Here are the factors that went in to my being able to write a complete, if short, draft in just over a month of calendar time.

1) This is the fourth Ree Reyes story, following two novels and a novella. By now, I know the characters, they have pre-existing relationships that I can leverage into lots of tension and sparks, making interpersonal scenes zoom along fairly well. I had a clear vision of what the big concept for the novel was, what the major sub-plot would be, and what the big, explosive ending would be. Those all got me very excited to write the novel, so I started with a ton of energy, writing 15K words in the first week.

2) The series is designed to be light, energetic, and action-packed urban fantasy. Much of the setting is our own world, and most of the rest of the setting I’d already created in previous books in the series. This means I didn’t have to do much world development on top of what I already had, which might slow me down as I have to create whole new systems or settings before moving on with a scene. I broke down the new settings during the outline stage, so I knew enough about each of them to flesh them out on the fly as I wrote. If I were writing sociological SF that was light on action and long on politics, I don’t think I’d have been writing anywhere near as fast.

3) Most importantly (for me), I plotted out the whole novel before I started writing. This was a chapter-by-chapter outline, though some of my chapters were more like beats, as I discovered going through and seeing places where a beat was a chapter, or a chapter turned out to be just a beat. I’ve been outlining more and more for my work, between reading Rachel Aaron’s 2K to 10K, following Chuck Wendig’s TerribleMinds, and perhaps most importantly, taking the Writing on the Fast Track class with Mary Robinette Kowal, which focused on writing fast by outlining and training for better discipline.


My next step, aside from backing the MSS up across several platforms, and sleeping, is to let the manuscript sit for about a month before I go back to do anything. I made some notes of stuff to fix while I was going, so I can start with that, then do a read-through to identify revision objectives.

But the awesome thing? My deadline to turn this novel in is mid-November, exactly six months from now. I’ve got *plenty* of time for revision, even with a super-busy summer.

4 thoughts on “How To Write a Novel in Four Weeks

  1. Congratulations, Michael! You are embodying what a “Professional” writer does, including figuring out a system that works. Yaaaaay!

    • Thanks, Jesse!

      I’m committed to constantly improving my process and setting myself bigger craft challenges. And if this pace is sustainable across multiple projects, I’m going to be able to put out a lot more content, which will let me stretch my range.

  2. This is exactly what I discovered while writing my Pathfinder Tales novel! I’ve always been a decently extensive plotter/outliner, but Paizo has a rather exhaustive character and chapter outlining process. By the time I sat down to write, it was practically nonstop until finished. Of course, it had a while in the development process, but I’d gladly take a bit to plot and outline and then let the actual drafting zip out.

    • I’ve heard testimonials from so many writers who operate this way, and for years, I despaired at my lack of ability to match their accomplishments. It’s never that I thought “Oh, that is not real art! I must be moved and discover for my own!”, it was more “I wish I knew how to be that well-prepared.”

      And now, after years of study and practice, learning and re-learning, here I am. I love doing world-building and character development, thanks to most of a lifetime of RPGing. To think that those impulses will let me spend a goodly chunk of time building a world, a plot, and characters, and that then I can just unleash it all on the page at warp speed, has me about as giddy as I’ve ever been as a storyteller.

      Because at this pace? With this process? I can write two books a year. And that opens so so many doors.

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