The 9-Minute Novelist: How to Write a Novel in Just Minutes a Day (from Writer’s Digest)

The 9-Minute Novelist: How to Write a Novel in Just Minutes a Day
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Writing a novel is a complicated equation involving a lot of variables and moving parts — not the least of which are the authors themselves. In fact, the process of writing a novel is so arduous and soaked in magical thinking that many writers struggle to explain the process coherently, and about the only thing anyone seems to agree on is that writing a novel requires an author. While artificial intelligence has certainly come a long way, you still need a human being to get a great work of fiction. And if you ask that human being about the most important aspect of their writing process, they’re likely to say “time.”

In fact, “not enough time to write” is probably the number-one complaint of most writers when asked. Between jobs, school, families, chores and everything else that comes along with a busy life, it often takes a superhuman effort to find time to write, much less write a fully fledged 80,000-word book. Much less 80,000 words that make some kind of sense.

Except that’s actually a fallacy. Because all you need to write a novel is nine minutes a day.

FAMOUS FAST NOVELS

It’s common knowledge that every year a bunch of perfectly mad writers challenges themselves to write 50,000 words in one month — and plenty of them succeed. There are also loads of examples of well-regarded published novels that didn’t take long to write:

  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac: Three weeks.
  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne: Two and a half days [4].
  • The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoyevsky: 26 days.
  • I, the Jury by Mickey Spillane: Nine days.

You get the drift — great novels don’t need thousands of man-hours. Of course, there are caveats. Kerouac spent months on the road making notes and experiencing the things he synthesized into fiction. Dostoyevsky was broke and desperate and agreed to deliver a novel by a specified date or lose the rights to future works, providing inspiration. But the fact remains that if John Boyne can write a novel in less than 72 hours, you can write a novel in short daily segments.

STRIP IT DOWN

None of that means the struggle to find writing time isn’t real. We have only so much mental, emotional and spiritual energy — all three of which are required to write something true and beautiful.

Most often, the real problem isn’t so much time, but how we use it. This is one of those situations in which Perfect is the enemy of Good; we’re often stymied by the desire for a “perfect” writing environment — the right spot, with the right implements, in the right mood, with the right music, sipping the right cup of tea, basically the right everythingincluding the right amount of time.

But very few things in life can be perfect. The first step toward writing a novel in nine minutes a day is to think objectively about where your writing time actually goes. For the majority of us, much of it probably isn’t actually spent writing. We search the internet and do on-the-spot research, we review yesterday’s pages, we procrastinate. Sometimes that’s part of the process, of course — but sometimes it’s just wasting time. Chances are if you strip away all the rituals and the idea that everything has to be optimal before you can concentrate, you’ll find that much of what you think you need isn’t really necessary to the process.

After all, aside from those novels that were written super fast, many great works have been penned under terrible conditions. Jean Genet wrote Our Lady of the Flowers while in prison, mainly so he’d have something to, uh, entertain himself with. Peter Brett drafted his debut epic fantasy, The Warded Man, on the subway commuting to and from work. And William Carlos Williams wrote most of his poems in-between seeing patients while working as a doctor.

Like them (and countless other writers who are typing “The End” on novels every day while working under imperfect conditions), you don’t need a perfect nook or endless free time. You just need those nine minutes.    Read More…

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