21 Days to a Novel

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I’m always looking for something new and interesting when it comes to writing, so when my fellow WriMo ced17 told me about this book, I knew it was something I had to look into.

The book is called 21 Days To A Novel, and it’s by Michael A. Stackpole (you can find it on Amazon.com here).  From my understanding, the title is pretty self-explanatory in that t gets you to writing your first draft within 21 days.

At first I thought it was a crazy idea, but then I remembered that NaNoWriMo tries to get you to write one in 30 days, so what’s one less week?

So, before looking into the book myself, my friend gave me a quick rundown as to how this is supposed to work, so I think I’m going to give it a try when I go to write Book Three- Beginning’s End.


So here’s the general outline:

Day 1: Write one sentence each about five different parts of a character’s life (say Character A), giving you five sentences total.

Day 2: Turn each of these sentences into a paragraph (at least 3 sentences). The additional sentences should support and expand the first sentence.

Day 3: For each paragraph, write an additional sentence, but make this sentence go against the original paragraph. Make it cut back and show a different side to things.

Day 4: Add two more sentences to each of your new sentences, supporting them. Now you should have ten 3-sentence paragraphs about your character, with plenty of opportunity for tension and challenges.

Day 5: Go through days 1-4 for another character, say Character B. The characters can be linked or not.

Day 6: For both characters, create two short-term goals and one long-term goal, so you now know what they want. You might want to link these goals (e.g., opposition creates conflict).

Day 7: Why haven’t the characters already obtained their goals? What’s stopping them? Fear? Someone or something else? What challenges keep the characters from what they want? (These reasons should rise out of your original paragraphs about the characters.)

Day 8: Repeat Days 1-4, 6, 7 for a third character, say Character C.

Day 9: Write a letter from Character A to Character B asking for help, or giving a warning, or apologizing, or… Use this to develop Character A’s voice.

Day 10: Write a conversation between Character A and Character B about the letter. Use dialog only, no “he said” or “she said”. You should be able to tell the characters apart because they sound different.

Day 11: Describe Day 10’s conversation from Character C’s point of view (by using physical descriptions of the two characters talking… so now you use *no* dialog). This should help develop C’s voice, as well as give some external insight into A and B. You can even eventually bring C into the conversation.

Day 12: Bring the world into it. What ties the characters to the world? How has it shaped them? What reflects their connections to the world?

Day 13: How does the world help or hinder the characters from reaching their goals?

Day 14: If the characters succeed/fail, how will the world be changed? Will it reshape the whole world, or not really matter to anyone outside the characters? How and how hard will the world push back about being changed?

Day 15: Write a brief scene (500-2500 words) with each character in the same place. You want to see the place through each one’s eyes, so it should shed light on their similarities and differences. Each character should be solo in the scene (or interact with a non-main character, not one of your three).

Day 16: Write your tag line and back cover copy, giving a one- to two-paragraph plot summary. This is going to kick off the plot exercises.

Day 17: Develop the characters’ story arcs. The overall problem should go through five steps: show the problem, show the character realize it’s a problem, show the catalyst for change, show the development of resources to solve the problem, show success or failure of solving the problem. The overall problem should be broken up into smaller sub-problems, and each sub-problem should have the five steps. But, keep each of the descriptions of the five steps to three sentences.

Day 18: Identify how the story arcs cross and interact. Do they conflict? Do some scenes serve multiple arcs? Again, keep individual chunks to three sentences. If you need more than that, break the scene into smaller bits.

Day 19: Go through Days’ 17/18 material. Break any problems into smaller progressions to make the story smoother. Determine where the characters should end up, and work backwards. When you’re done, each character should have 10-20 scenes that enable their growth. You may have to do this multiple times, as adding any necessary scenes may then affect the other characters.

Day 20: Weave your scenes together in the right order. Maximize dramatic potential and tension. Now you pretty much have a roadmap for the entire novel. You don’t have to stick to it religiously, especially if the story evolves unexpectedly, but you at least have a general idea for the entire story.

Day 21: Write the novel! If it helps, think in terms of chapters: 40 chapters, 2500 words each, for a 100K novel. You may or may not use the material you’ve already written, depending on how much your concepts evolve; but the point of writing the earlier stuff was to find voice and get the novel in your head, not necessarily to produce actual scenes.

Now, this in no way is me saying – here, let’s use this instead of spending $20 on a pretty awesome concept!  This is me getting a brief overview to see if it’s something I actually want to invest my time and money into for the future.

This also helps me get one more email out of my inbox…

So what do you think?

Does it seem like a legit way to get a draft complete?

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Posted on March 14, 2016, in Random. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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