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How to Write a Novel in Six Months, Week One: Mapping out the Six-Month Plan

Lela Davidson is a mother and writer who is passionate about healthcare and education for women and children.

Photo: nuanc,Flickr

Photo: nuanc,Flickr

I have read all kinds of books that tell you how to complete the first draft of a novel in this or that amount of time and while it all sounds very sound and logical, nothing ever really spoke to me. I tried the NANOWRIMO route, but a month is too short a time for this writer to pound out a novel. Stephen King takes no more than a few months and Jodi Piccoult has a consistent nine-month routine - like she's birthing the thing!

Ten Percent a Week

Nothing really hit me until I heard William Bernhardt speak about his five-month plan. In it he allots 10 weeks to drafting - ten percent a week for ten weeks. Doesn't that seem so do-able? I'm a numbers girl so it really made sense to me. Breaking it down further, even if I took weekends off, I'd only be on the hook for two percent a day. That's nothing. Right?

Sure you could break it up a thousand different ways, but I like the symmetry and simplicity of ten and ten. I'm writing mainstream fiction, which is supposed to be about 100,000 words or 400 pages. I'm figuring on 10,000 words or forty pages a week. Bernhardt starts with 60 scenes, but I've since learned I'll need more like 80 at an average of 1250 words each. Again with the numbers - that's 8 scenes a week. If I double up on Mondays, that leaves just one scene a day for the rest of the week - catching up on weekends if need be.

The Six Month Plan

In Week 1 I made my plan, got into the mental state, and enlisted a friend or two to go down this road with me. (However, you may prefer to go it alone.)

Weeks 2 - 5 were purely for planning and research. I read a lot of different methods for structuring a novel and sort of mashed them all together, taking elements from each and combining them in a way that made sense to me. You can find out the resources I used in the next article in this series, Week 2, Resources on Structure. You'll want to come up with a system for working out your story points (I used index cards), write character sketches, and research publishers and/or agents.

Week 6 is for outlining. This is where I'll flesh out the story points into the number of scenes I've settled on and get them into a preliminary order. I'll go even further into outling in Week 7, detailing the beats of the scene, as well as my character's objective and obstacles faced in each scene. During Week 8 I'll write the synopsis. This is a small amount of words, but working through this will help me catch any holes or problems with the outline so far.

By Week 9 I'll have a fairly detailed outline to work from. People have asked me whether or not I'll get bored writing from such a detailed plan. The truth is I don't know. I haven't tried this method before. What I do know is that I personally work well within constraints. I believe that if I have a specific set of characters in a particular situation who are trying to accomplish a certain goal - one scene at a time - I can focus on writing creatively rather than worrying about where my story is going. We'll see!

Weeks 9 -18 are for drafting. Again, it's 10% a week for ten weeks.

Week 19 is a celebration/sanity break.

In Week 20 I'll go back and add transitions to make scenes flow smoothly together. In Week 21 I'll do a full read through, making some serious notes! Weeks 22-24 are reserved for the first revision.

Wish me luck!


MaryHG on June 18, 2011:

Having read through all this, I have decided it might be best to go my own way. Writing has always been a joy to me.. something that comes from the heart as I write.

To start breaking it up into technical phrases and counting the hrs. days seems like too much to handle and tends to throw me off track. I write as it comes to mind, perhaps for 1 hr. maybe 2, read through what I have done, and may not go back to it again for a week or two...perhaps even longer

I then read through again and usually find corrections to be made here and there, and I am able to continue and go with the flow of my thoughts. I have ten unfinished stories on my computer, and intend to go back to them one at a time and attempt to complete them.

At the tender age of 80 I will have to make an attempt to finish them soon.

Scroll to Continue

Any advice would be welcome.

dutch84 on December 24, 2010:

I hope you did well. I'm going to try your method.

Scott Belford from Keystone Heights, FL on October 31, 2010:

Very informative! Writing is something I have wanted to do for years and in the 15 or 20 I have left, I thought I might start. Do you have anything similar for short stories, numbers-wise?

Sharp Dagger from Planet Earth on August 05, 2010:

Thank you for sharing this info. I have been struggling with a plot for my book for quite a while and after reading your six months plan it gave me courage to actually finish my book. Thank you :)

C. Ramsdell on June 23, 2010:

I know this article is older, and I haven't read through the follow-up articles yet, but I wanted to tell you how inspiring it was to read!

Mohamed Mughal on May 22, 2010:

Useful approach! I was reminded of creating structures with Legos as I went through your recommended process :)

Is the book done?

Thanks for sharing!


aktifistri from China on May 22, 2010:

Hi Lela. Looks like a good planning. As i noticed you wrote this about 2 years ago? Well, i am a newbie on hub, so.. ;) Anyway, how was it going? Hope you've made it successfully, though :) Greetings from Daqing-China!

AuthorFBradshaw from Anywhere my mind wanders to... on April 09, 2010:

I wrote my debut novel in 62 days, summer break from college. I always made sure that I wrote everyday. It was my number one rule. I was not set out to do this but it just happened that way the sequel will be out this year and it took me almost 4 months. I think you should pace yourself if you rush your book along how good is the conent?

Dialogue on April 05, 2010:

Some task to take on. Still, as the Chinese proverb goes - a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step......

Maria Teresa Rodriguez - Laurente from San Antonio, Texas, U.S.A. on March 27, 2010:

Great information. I will take this to heart. Thank you.

skye2day from Rocky Mountains on March 08, 2010:

Lela, Wow this seems like allot. One day at a time right. One step at a time. Very nice hub. Thank you for sharing this journey. I am considering a novel. I am sure I want to write on. I have the idea. I want to be sure this is in line with Gods plan for me. For me it is a 'God' Thing. He is all or nothing. I am bookmarking your bub. I love it.

Hugs + + + Blessings on your journey.

Come over and visit my hubs, you have a new fan here.

RTalloni on January 26, 2010:

Such food for thought! Just started reading your hubs, so glad to find them. Something tells me you will closely average your 40 per day. I'm going to have to come back to this!

loua from Elsewhere, visiting Earth ~ the segregated community planet on January 21, 2010:

Thanks for sharing, much appreciated...

Tirisacha on December 22, 2008:

All these rules are making my head spin! I consider it a miracle if I ever sit down to write out a complete But I hope to be on top of my game one day.

Whitney from Georgia on August 24, 2008:

Great ideas. I should give this a try. I've been in the drafting stage for a long time, but I think it's because i didn't map out all my themese, scenes, and whatnot.

NYLady from White Plains, NY on August 23, 2008:

Hi Lela:

Great ideas in your piece -- I love the fact that you're breaking the task into manageable parts, or chapters. The task isn't as daunting, right? I think I'll apply that to the various things I have my spinning plates at the moment. This was a good read.

Judy Cullins from La Mesa, CA on August 21, 2008:

Lela, I too welcome your novel journey in blocks of writing tasks. In my "Write your eBook or Other Short Book Fast!" ch. 2 gives another 1 to 2 edit fast writing technique that involve answering questions about each chapter's who, what, where, when and why. Then writing flows from heart not head.

Tip: If you write a page a day at the end of a year you have 365 pages!



Lela Davidson (author) from Bentonville, Arkansas on August 21, 2008:

I know, I may be nuts! But who said anything about 'good'. It's a live and learn kind of thing! I've read about authors who get a first draft out in a month. I feel like I can move pretty quickly if I'm not caught up in worrying about where the story is going. We'll see. I like the idea of offering some samples to the Hub Pages community, but I'm not sure I'm that brave! I'll consider it though. I have seen book notes a few times. Right now I'm reading Amy Tan's The Opposite of Fate for inspiration! Thanks for the kind encouragement!

Earth Angel on August 20, 2008:

Congratulations on the first part of your new Journey Lela!!

Great and inspiring Hub!! I am sending you all the BEST for holding to your goals!!

As an author/writer/publisher myself, I would like to add one observation before you embark on your "40 pages a week" marathon!! It has always been my understanding that successful authors crank out about 3 good pages a day!! 15-20 decent first draft pages in a week is still at full throttle for most!!

40 pages a week?? I will come learn at your feet!!

Have you ever seen BookNotes on television?? Although it is all non-fiction, the lessons learned while listening to other authors is invaluable!!

Have you considered "floating" some of your novel on HubPages?? This is a GREAT community for instant feedback!!

Again, Congratulations on your novel unfolding just the way you would like it!! I will be following you all along the way!!

Blessings always, Earth Angel!!

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