Writing More In Less Time

hnovak Blog

For a long time, I had the serious problem where I could only get a couple hundred words down per day. Then, I’d go through and reread everything I had written and edit the crap out of it over and over again. I don’t need to explain how COMPLETELY INEFFECTIVE this was. You know.

Then one day I read a blog.

This blog changed everything. I read more blogs. And more. And then I took the master’s (Steven King) advice — do not spend more than 3 months writing your first draft. I put together all of these new tactics and guess what? I finished a book in four months. A damn good book. The best I’ve ever written.


Because the story wasn’t stale. It flowed, it surged, and it is awesome. I’m currently shopping it around for an agent and I pitch it to Random House/Penguin on January 20th (fingers crossed)!

So how did I write an 86k novel in three months then spend another month polishing it to perfection?

1) I trimmed the fat in my life. I am fortunate enough to have a significant other with a good job. By cutting back, I was able to quit my second job. This was huge! Suddenly, I had an extra 10-20 hours in my week.

It also meant some sadder things. I had to give up choir, for now at least.

But that’s not where it ends. You have to prioritize your weekend. Every other weekend must be a “Do Not Disturb: Writing Weekend”. And that meant saying no A LOT. Weddings, birthday parties, impromptu karaoke nights. And I can hear you saying, “But couldn’t you just write the next weekend?” You have to pick the events that you would regret missing the most.

A wedding of a family member I hadn’t spoken to in twenty years is less important to me than my two best friends getting married. The love of my life’s birthday party was more important to me than my own (we’re a week apart). Prioritize, cut the fat, and know you’re not alone in the pain.

2) I hand wrote.

STOP PANICKING! I didn’t hand write 86,000 words. I can hear your heart racing over here. I wrote the meat of the “first draft” in WriteWay. Then I made a list of what I needed. “Need to build this friendship”, “need to add in scene where so-and-so is in danger”, “need to have this conflict here”. Then I jotted those scenes out on paper. I got the direction of the story and the dialogue down.

Here’s the benefit of paper:

You can’t check Facebook 300 times. And your mind tends to wander less. And when I go to type the scene on the computer, the perimeters are already in place. So my typing fingers fill in all the blanks, like emotions and nervous habits, without straying form the storyline. I found I was getting to 1800-2000 words per hour this way.

3) Support system.

I have four other authors from my RWA group that are some of my best friends. In fact, we’ll be releasing an anthology together in the spring! (See Booklist page for details). We are in constant communication with each other, especially when things get tough. You need to have that source to say, “I DON’T THINK I CAN DO THIS!” And have someone say, ” YES YOU CAN!”

I’m also equally blessed to have my best friend Erika. Erika is contract editor for Soul Mate Publishing in New York. I remember the exact moment several years ago I looked at her and said, “I want to write books.” She was the only person who didn’t laugh at me. (She instead made me cry after reading my first manuscript and told me to try harder. And I did.)

And I can’t forget my social media writer friends! My friend Jenny Hale and I can be seen doing “writing sprints” every week. We push each other to bleed out the words. I have too many amazing author friends to list here, but they have undoubtedly made this journey something special.

I must mention those writers that encouraged me without question – Josh Malerman, Elizabeth Heiter, and Penny Reid. (There are so many more, and I thank you so much!)

3) READ.

Seriously. Read. Reading jump starts your brain, gets your heart racing, and gets the creative juices flowing. You know that chapter you had to read three times because you loved it? Take it apart. WHY did you love it? How did it make you feel? How can you make YOUR readers feel the same way? This is how you cultivate your talent.

I’m cheering you on! Make those connections, make those friends, splurge on your favorite book series, and learn what works for you.