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How To,  Writing Tips

How To Write an Entire Novel in One Year

Writing a book is one of many people’s New Year’s Resolutions, but by the end of the year—no book is finished (or sometimes even started). I know I’ve done this many times, and I think part of the reason is that writing an entire novel in one year seems undoable. It’s a lot of work, you may not even know where to begin, and that’s why many people are unable to check it off their list. However, writing a book in a year is entirely possible, and it’s not as hard as you may think. That is why, I’ll be showing you exactly how to go about doing it, and I even have a week-by-week timeline available to download.

I’ll be referencing my Writing a Book In Seven Steps post, so if you haven’t seen that, or if you want to learn more about each step I discuss, I’ll leave a link for that post here.

To get started, we’ll make this process as easy as possible by breaking it up into three sections. First, we’ll have a preparation stage, then a creation stage, and finally a finalization stage. Most work will take place in the creation stage, but all are equally important.

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Preparation

Though this stage is called Preparation, it still is included in our year deadline and is essential in completing the book on time. The more you prepare, the easy (and faster) the rest of the process will go.

Before we begin, I am assuming you already have an idea for the book you’d like to write. If you don’t, you’ll want to do that before continuing.

Plan Out Your Story

You’ll want to write down all the basic information about your novel including:

  • a summary
  • premise
  • the tone and theme
  • main characters
  • supporting characters
  • and the main plot points

Better understand the story you are about to write by solidifying the theme, tone, and premise. Get familiar with the characters you’ll be writing. The better you know your story, the easier it will be to write.

You’ll want to jot down a few bullet points for each stage in the five-act story structure (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution). Include the biggest events in each stage so you’ll know how to pace your story when outlining in the next step.

Example:

  • Exposition:
    • The main character signs up for a race
    • Main character is introduced to antagonist
  • Rising Action:
    • A $5,000 reward is announced for the winner of race
  • Climax:
    • Main character falls while practicing and breaks arm
  • Falling Action:
    • The race starts
    • Antagonist tries to sabotage main character
  • Resolution:
    • Main character wins race

Don’t worry about the small stuff yet, we’ll break down the bullet points later.

You can use these plot points to draft your entire story, which we’ll do, and you can plan out how long it will be and when the events will take place.

Say you want medium-length chapters and are aiming for 12 total. You know the exposition will take place in the first few chapters, the climax over halfway through, and the resolution in the last few.

You may plan out your story like this:

  • Chapters 1-2: exposition
  • Chapter 3: inciting incident
  • Chapters 4-6: rising action
  • Chapter 7: climax
  • Chapters 8-10: falling action
  • Chapters 11-12: resolution

Having a plan for how your story plays out will help to ensure it flows well and will show you how much should be in each stage. You know you’ll need more conflict, action, and story in the rising action than, say, the exposition.

I recommend spending about one month at this stage. Once you have a basic understanding of your story and the plot, you’re ready to move on to stage two: creation.

Creation

Outline

Now, it’s time to use your bullet point list from step one to outline your story. For each stage, you’ll want to add more detail and then add bullet points in between to fill in the gaps.

You’ll add events in between with more detail until you have a full, detailed outline.

Example:

  • Exposition:
    • The main character signs up for a race
    • Main character is introduced to antagonist
  • Rising Action:
    • A $5,000 reward is announced for the winner of race
  • Climax:
    • Main character falls while practicing and breaks arm
  • Falling Action:
    • Still in a cast, MAIN CHARACTER continues training every day.
    • MAIN CHARACTER sees ANTAGONIST on his morning run.
    • ANTAGONIST stops MAIN CHARACTER and apologizes for taunting him. He wishes MAIN CHARACTER good luck.
    • The race begins with MAIN CHARACTER and ANTAGONIST starting right beside each other. ANTAGONIST gives a sly smile and the starting gun is fired.
    • They both take off, but MAIN CHARACTER is quickly pushed to the ground by ANTAGONIST in an attempt to sabotage him.
  • Resolution:
    • Main character wins race

You can see how I’ve added more detail to the example above and have included more events. Before continuing, you want to have every major event/situation written down. Having a ton of information for each is not necessary, but try to include any info that will help you when drafting the story. Give yourself at least three months to complete the outline.

Draft

Once you’re ready to write the first draft, you should be about a third of the way done the year! Now, you’ll take the time to write your book. This stage should go pretty fast if you’ve outlined the book well enough. If you aren’t one for outlines, I’d recommend spending two months on the outline and four on drafting. If you do like detailed outlines, you’ll spend about the same amount of time drafting as you did outlining.

Personally, I recommend you to start writing the middle third of your book first (if your book is 12 chapters, this will be chapters 5-8) since the beginning can be the hardest. This will help to speed up the process—at least slightly. If you are writing this way, work on the middle third first, then the first third, then the last.

Revise

After you have a complete first draft of your book, it’s time to start the revision process. There are a bunch of ways to revise your book, and what works for me may not work for you. If you prefer to do a quick look-over first, and then go chapter-by-chapter, do that. Or, you may want to break the book into three sections and spend a month revising each. If you use my week-by-week timeline, the revision will take another three months to complete.

Finalization

Final Check

For the final two months, you will be reading your book the whole way through and checking for any mistakes one last time. After reading the novel, take a week or two to step away and take a break. Once you come back to revising with a clear mind, you’re bound to find more things that need to be edited.

Once you think the book is done, I suggest running the entire thing through Grammarly. This is the last opportunity to find any mistakes, and you can be sure you didn’t make an error when revising that you missed.

Don’t forget to download my free week-by-week timeline for writing a book in a year so you can make sure you stay on track.

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