The Two-Month Gauntlet

I’m going to write a novel by the end of April. That’s at least 80,000 words, give or take a few thousand.

I started writing 14 days ago. I now have over 15,000 words.

I’ve had the idea for the novel for a while, but it didn’t really come together until two weeks ago. I was sitting around not writing, and it hit me: I’m never going to write a novel if I don’t give myself a tight deadline.

You see, I’ve tried to write novels before. Two of them, specifically. I approached both as epic projects, projects that would take years to complete, projects for which I’d have to set aside significant amounts of time to complete.

I got about halfway through both before I gave up. Other things took priority.

It’s only been in the last year or two that I’ve realized that a novel doesn’t have to be some epic undertaking for which the rest of your life grounds to a halt. I have writer friends who have written multiple novels in the last year. Writer friends with kids. And jobs. And other passions.

Also, I recently challenged a Blank Slate Press applicant with whom I’ve worked for the last 8 months to actually finish his novel. He’s a talented writer, but he’s spent those 8 months reworking the first third of his novel instead of writing the last two thirds. I recently threw down what he called “the gauntlet”: Finish his novel in two months. Just do it. Finish it.

So I’m taking a taste of my own medicine and doing things differently this time. I’m writing 1000 words a day, more if I can, and definitely more on the weekends. I’m revising very little along the way, lest I lose my forward momentum. My goal is to finish, to write a novel for me, and then go back and revise it and make it something that people actually want to read.

I’m also not planning out the whole novel before I write it. Sure, I have a rough idea of things that might happen, as well as some twists and reveals, but for the most part I’m clearly defining my characters’ goals and letting them lead me instead of trying to figure out what want to happen.

Last, I’m taking a tip from ScriptShadow and making sure that every chapter moves the story forward. No fluff. If I could remove a chapter and the story wouldn’t change, I’m not going to write it.

There are a few other guidelines I’m following that I’ll share in a future post, but for now I’ll leave you with my current pitch (which totally sucks, but I’m not hung up on it): The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter meets The Time Traveler’s Wife meets Oryx and Crake. My novel isn’t a mashup of all of those books, but my book happens to have elements of each.

I’m really excited about this project. I’m not sure about the best way to keep you all in the loop, because you really shouldn’t give a damn unless I actually finish the novel. There are two types of people in the world: Those who want to write a novel, and those who finish writing a novel. I want to be in that second group.

What do you keep putting off or half-assing in your life? I dare you to accept my two-month gauntlet challenge of actually completing that goal. If you do, I’ll feature you on a special entry about successful people.