Today I’ll sharing notes from a session titled How to Write a book in Three Days from this year’s “Life, the Universe, and Everything” (LTUE) conference. I’ll admit before the session started I thought at first that the idea of writing a book in three days was more conceptual, that perhaps we’d learn about how to streamline the writing process and make a months or years long process take much less time. I was wrong. This presentation was literally how to write a 60,000 word novel in three days.
The idea of writing a book in three days is not new, there are multiple places on the web that teach the same technique. The LTUE presenter, Leslie Muir, borrowed her ideas from Michael Moorecock, who originally stole the idea from Lester Dent. And now I’m sharing it with you. What it comes down to is a well planned out crazy weekend of writing, without any distractions.
Perhaps the most important element of this process is that you, the writer, must be convinced that it is indeed possible to write a book in three days. You can do anything for three days. Any longer and will power starts to give out and the brain starts to think that you are nuts. The presenter called it the ultimate mind game and a grand experiment.
There are four vital things that must be ready before the three days. They are: location, story outline, research, and schedule.
First things first, you must know when and where you will be doing your writing. You will need absolute isolation away from family, work, phones, and distractions. For many of us this can be easily done at home. For those of us with families, it may be a good time to send the spouse and kids on a camping trip, or take a little trip yourself. You will need three whole days from sun up to sun down.
Second, prepare your story. Create an outline of the story, writing a brief sentence about each scene. Writing too much detail here will stifle the creative process later so it’s ok to be sparse. You can always add in more depth and important detail during editing. Leslie Muir explained her outlining process this way:
Each book has four major sections,
- Section 1: sets the scene, introduces the characters and initial conflict
- Section 2: increases the conflict
- Section 3: hero makes headway, setbacks, something ends badly, gearing up to ultimate conflict
- Section 4: ultimate conflict, hero saves the day, twist/big reveal/surprise, denouement and happily ever after
Each section has six chapters of roughly 2500 words each. At the end of each chapter there must be a little twist, something unexpected. At the end of sections there should be an even bigger twist. When I say twist, I mean the story turns in a new direction.
Now that the story has been figured out and there is a rough idea of what happens in each scene, then it’s time to do a little research. Figure out settings, technologies, era appropriate foods, and anything you might need so it’s handy to reference during writing time. If you are writing a castles and knights type of book you’ll need the correct terminology for castle parts, armor parts, horse parts, and whatnot. This is also the time to collect pictures and create maps to help organize and inspire you.
Last of all is the schedule. Because this exercise is the ultimate brain game you can’t leave anything up to chance. Any free minute will turn into a distraction that might take you away from your writing for much longer than you afford. Leslie uses a minute to minute schedule that includes literally everything from potty breaks, snack breaks, afternoon exercise, etc. This schedule will determine what you will be writing, when you will be taking breaks, when you will sleep, everything!
Part of scheduling is knowing how fast you can churn out text. You will need to know how long it takes to write a 2500 word chapter. When we say writing, what we mean is sitting and typing and not going back to rethink or tweak or delete. This is putting one word after the other and not stopping. Yes, it will be messy, yes, there will be parts where it doesn’t make sense. Think of it as a NaNoWriMo on steroids.
You need to be churning out 20,000 words a day. If you need an hour to write 1,500 words you’ll need to schedule between 13-14 hours a day for writing. If you write faster, great! You can work ahead, as long as you stick to your schedule.
Helpful tip: Use software that encourages you to write and not stop. Leslie uses Dr. Wicked’s Write or Die software which punishes the writer if they stop for too long by making loud and obnoxious noises and changing the background color.
The Big Three Days
It’s time to dive in! Follow your schedule to every last comma. Its only three days, you can do it. No negative self talk is allowed, you brain will do what you tell it to do. Just keep moving forward.
After those three days you have a first draft! It’s true that editing a three-day novel will take a bit longer than a novel written the standard way, but you’ve saved weeks and months of time just by getting all the thoughts down. On of the perks of writing this way is that the writing tends to be fresh and has a natural flow. There also tends to be moments of sheer brilliance that don’t come any other way than when you sit all day and let the thoughts gush forth. The best part is finding all the gems that flowed out and then shining them up.
One day, I’ll give it a go. Until then,