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.

27 thoughts on “The Two-Month Gauntlet”

  1. I think I’d get hung up with “If I had done X earlier, then now I could do Y.” But no one can change the past, and if you let the characters lead you you shouldn’t have a problem.
    Good Luck!

    Reply
    • Thanks! And that’s true. I’ve been going back and making little changes here and there to make the story work better. The key is that I’m not spending nights revising instead of writing. I know I’m going to make myself stay up to write a thousand words, so if I spend 2 hours revising before I start writing, so be it…but I’m sleeping 2 hours less than usual that night.

      Reply
  2. I’ve been putting off unpacking. 🙂 I’ve moved around my entire life and it never fails that some things just stay packed away. I’ve got containers of documents that probably can just be shredded or recycled at this point.

    So I’ll accept your little challenge. By the time you finish your novel I’ll have everything unpacked AND organized. 🙂 If I don’t need it or don’t plan on using it I will get rid of it.

    Reply
    • Good luck, Laura! I wonder if other people take that approach to moving. I have everything organized and all boxes folded up the day I move in–it doesn’t feel like home until I have that done, so I do it immediately.

      Reply
  3. You unpack everything the day you move in? That’s impressive. Seriously impressive. I’ve lived in 3 countries and 5 states and I haven’t mastered that yet. 🙂

    Reply
  4. Not accepting your challenge, but I do know what you mean about immediacy. A friend asked me to look at subdivision display homes, since I had sold her a home.
    I bought one of the display homes that day and lived there for 30+ years and she is still living in her original home.

    I also bought a home(instead of buying the loaf of bread that was my intent) and was offered a job by the builder that day, which I took and became his top salesperson. I’m still not ready for that blog or book, Jamey. Impulse, like emotion, is a mover…. Good fortune to you.

    Just bought The Hunger Games.

    Reply
  5. Challenge accepted. St. Louis, get ready for a new laughter club in town!

    Also I really like this concept. If you want any ideas about focus and creating habits for writers, check out zenhabits.net I like a lot of his stuff.

    May the odds be ever in your favor!

    Reply
  6. Ohhhh…. How exciting and intense! Have fun. Good luck or is it break a leg?

    Throw a copy over here when you are done. I would love to read the final product. 🙂

    Reply
  7. WOOOHOOOOOO! Also, thanks for the shout out. It’s good to have a word count goal each day. Mine is 500. Yep. Sometimes I don’t make it. One day I stopped at 98. Can you believe it? 98 words. And yet, somehow, I’m about to finish my fourth novel. Go figure.

    Incidentally, should you need a beta reader and it’s something I think I’d be good at critiquing, you know where to find me.

    Reply
  8. Being “old school” (you notice I don’t stop at old…)why do I find it hard to relate to apps, kittens,and even my personal favorite “dogs,” when a loving woman would shake up your tidy world? Talk about setting up a time frame….
    You’re missing the Matchmaker who climbs the stairs daily in your sight line(when he’s not asking if the elevator is fixed). Who said “Youth is wasted on the young.” Resist suggesting I read another blog!

    Reply
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  10. I just found this. I’m excited for all of you. Sometimes, the deadline is the only way. I’m guilty of that myself sometimes.

    Reply
  11. i wish i’d seen this before now. i’d have to say “my dissertation”. but i’m almost to the end of it now!

    “work expands to fill the time allotted”

    congrats!

    Reply

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