My NaNoWriMo efforts are off to a great start, especially considering that I started fast-drafting the last week of October.

From a 4,000 word head-start, I finished the first draft of the first of what I hope will be three novellas fast-drafted between the end of October and the beginning of December.

Once again, I’m using all of the tricks possible from my How to Write a Novel In a Month post, just on three connected novellas instead of one novel (hence NaNovellaWriMo). These novellas are all in a series, part of a grand design I hope to be able to talk about shortly. It’s a fun challenge to be writing at a shorter length, but not stand-alone stories, instead using smaller chunks of story that are connected.

Thankfully, I’ve already been working on episodic writing with comics work, and I’ve got a solid overall plan for this project. I finished the rough draft of the first novella last Friday, and started work on the second, which will probably be a tad longer.

My daily wordcount goal is 2500 words, which usually breaks down to two chunks of 1250 words, which I can often hit in about an hour of drafting, barring major distractions. I’m giving myself a break on the wordcount goals for WFC, since I’ll be otherwise occupied, though I’m hoping to get some writing in over the weekend regardless.

Something else I’m doing this time is what I’m calling Development Diaries – short notes each day about how the writing went that day – challenges, things that worked and didn’t work, the ways that daily life impacted my productivity, and so on. It’s a good way to capture the day-to-day experiences of writing, and I hope it will be interesting to readers when I get to share the diaries later on.

But for now, back to writing!

How to Write a Novel in a Month

Hi folks! Since NaNoWriMo is just around the corner, I thought I’d re-post and expand on my piece from earlier this year, How to Write a Novel in Four Weeks.

I wrote the first draft of Hexomancy, the third Ree Reyes novel, in a month and a day (April 14th to May 15th). The draft was 72,326 words, and it was written in twenty-eight days of production (I gave myself Saturdays off to recover, and I had a couple of low-production days).

Hexomancy was written twice as quickly as any novel I’ve written before, and I think the first draft was stronger that any other, as well, partially thanks to the accumulation of experience, but also due to the power of momentum. After the first couple of days, I was averaging 2,800 to 3,300 words a day in two sessions a day of around 45 minutes to 60 minutes each.

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

1) Hexomancy was 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. But the important thing was that I was passionate about the story, the characters, and I knew what kind of experience I wanted the reader to have with the story, so I could write to that aesthetic.

3) Most importantly (for me), I outlined 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.

4) Writing quickly meant that I always had the story in mind. I was always excited about the story, even on the days when I consciously stepped away to relax and let myself recovery. But I never spent too much time away from the novel, writing six days a week, usually twice a day. And I always left myself clues at the end of any session as to what was going to happen next, by leaving the outline/beats at the bottom of my Scrivener document. That meant that whenever I started a session, I could take three to five minutes to read what I’d last written and to remind myself what was coming next. And from there, it was off to the races.

5) I used a writing soundtrack – this is something I have done for years, and it helps me get into the right frame of mind. If you’re curious, here’s the playlist I used for Hexomancy.