How to Write a Novel a Month | Rebecca Wilson | Skillshare

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How to Write a Novel a Month

teacher avatar Rebecca Wilson, Writer and Designer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

7 Lessons (18m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Balancing Quality and Efficiency

    • 3. Outlines and Pre-Writing

    • 4. Creating a High-Focus Environment

    • 5. Writing Techniques

    • 6. Writer's Block and AI

    • 7. Editing Your Manuscript

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About This Class

Writing a great novel is one thing; finishing a great novel is another! Most books are never finished due to the difficulty of persevering through the writing process. Life gets in the way for a lot of authors.

Luckily, there are ways to set yourself up for success so you can actually finish that novel! In this course, we're going to discuss how to optimize the different aspects of the technical task of writing by:

  • creating highly structured writing plans
  • building our optimal environments for focused work
  • improving our technical writing speed or using advanced tools
  • preparing to power through writer's block
  • editing with efficiency

Together, we'll help build you a toolkit for actually hitting your writing goals, no matter what they are!

My name is Rebecca, and I'm your instructor in this course. I've published over 25 books in different genres and in both fiction and non-fiction. My average output is 1 book a month, and in this course I'm sharing the different techniques that I use to hit that goal!

Meet Your Teacher

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Rebecca Wilson

Writer and Designer


Hey there! I'm Rebecca, and I'm a writer, designer, and full-time maker of creative things. I'm really immersed in the world of books and digital publishing and love designing handy things for self-published authors. 

My background is in research, as I was a PhD student before dropping out and starting my own company. Sometimes I miss those (extremely stressful) days, but I love that I get to put my old research into my new books! I write historical fiction and fantasy, as well as non-fiction. My books are published by Lucky Sprout Press and are under the name R.E. Wilson.

I'm the host of Digital Maker Radio, a podcast for people who make cool stuff online, for both fun and profit. 

My design business is a somewhat complex web of projects and eCommerce pro... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Writing a novel is no easy feat. It requires a lot more than literary skill. It requires determination and focus and perseverance. But most novels are never actually finished because the writer often loses steam and direction on the project. I know this firsthand because my first novel took me nine years to complete. And now I write an average of 15 books a year, which is a mix of fiction and non-fiction. In this class I'm going to teach you the speed reading methods that are used to hit these massive writing goals. You don't necessarily need any special tools to do this. My method rely strongly on pre-writing and organization, along with some focus techniques that allow me to write large quantities of text in a relatively short time. My writing process at the moment is that I usually spend six or seven consecutive days a month writing the manuscript for a book. Then I spent a week editing it before I send it off to the next steps. And my average right now is about eight to 10 thousand words a day during this work period. So if you are interested in learning the strategies that I use to get started reading faster than let's get started on the course. 2. Balancing Quality and Efficiency: There's no point in being able to write fast if you aren't able to write something that people are going to actually enjoy reading. Speed truly isn't everything we have to remember that the main goal is to create a quality manuscript. However, I have found that writing in these really fast-paced sprints is actually very helpful for both an author and an editor perspective. The idea of writing several thousand words a day consecutively. It means that your novel is really fresh in your mind the whole time you end up thinking about it all the rest of the hours of the day coming up with new ideas on how to solve problems you've encountered or thinking of story twists. Now I've noticed that these brisk writing schedules mean that I don't actually lose track of the story threads as often. And the continuity of the story is significantly better than when I write over a long period of time. Keeping track of several plot threads or character storylines can be difficult and sometimes can require some very intense note-taking or revisions to make sure that everything gets resolved. Working on the manuscript over a compact time period helps you from getting too distracted with the big picture and for getting a bit the smaller details of the story, which is often where a lot of the charm and personality comes through in your writing. So how do we ensure that our writing is of high-quality, even when we're trying to write very quickly, the key is in what comes before and after the actual writing process, the outline and the prewriting, along with the editing. There may be some people who can write very well and very quickly without an outline for their book. But that's not my particular method having a very clear idea of what happens, not just in the overall story, but also chapter by chapter allows you to spend less time inventing content and more time executing it. In the next lesson, we're going to talk about methods for outlining your book in preparation for speed reading sessions. After you get your first draft, a few manuscript done, It's important that you start to edit it even before sending it off to an editor that you've hired. The last lesson of this course, we'll look at my tips for cleaning up a speed written manuscript. For now, let's move on and talk about the outline. 3. Outlines and Pre-Writing: Nobody sits down and decides to churn out 60 thousand words for a book. The idea of having to write that many words for your novel, it leads to so many writers feeling paralysis before they even get started. Instead, I want you to think back to school or maybe you're still in school right now. Nobody was telling you to write a massive quantity of words. Start to finish. That wasn't a reasonable way to teach. Instead, we're taught to break down the subject into sections with word counts assigned to each part. This is a really effective way of approaching and novel 2. So let's work with that example of a 60 thousand word novel. And 60000 is a fairly average book-length for general fiction. Let's say that this book is going to be about 15 chapters long. That means that on average, each chapter should be around 4 thousand words. I like to go one step further when I'm doing my breaking down at the chapters and actually create scenes within each one. Each chapter typically has anywhere from three to five scenes, and it's up to you to define what a scene is. But for example, I write under a romance pen name and a scene. And that is typically a conversation or an event that takes place in a single location. You can connect these scenes together with transitions and also add a little bit to your word count. At this point, instead of having to write a massive 60000 word project, you've got a list of short assignments. Each of those scenes within each chapter will be around 800 words. And I don't know about you, but I certainly find writing a series of 800 word assignments a lot more manageable to plan than writing the whole 60 thousand word book in one go. Now all of these numbers and chapter divisions have to be integrated with your story. Of course, all of this planning happens before starting to speed writing. And usually I take about two full workdays to get a novel or a series plotted out enough to start writing. There are tons of different methods out there for plotting books, including the Snowflake Method, this synopsis method, the reverse outline and many more. The technique that I use is to free write empty story in just a couple of thousand words. This outline should include all of the spoilers, notes about things that are going to happen in foreshadowing, you want to include character descriptions or behaviors that need to be written more eloquently and the real text, and also directions about what kind of mood or tone a scene should have. Now in this outline, I don't include things like dialogue, detailed descriptions of people, places, or things unless there's something very significant that I don't want to forget about them or a lot of backstory. After I've got this document together, I start dividing it up into rough chapters and marking out the approximate word count for each section. Just like we already talked about dividing the chapters up. Then I'll make sure that each chapter has an adequate number of scenes. And I'll add in a few extra details to each scene if necessary, to provide me with the key information that I need to write when I do that little 800 word assignment. Now before wrapping up the outline, there are few things you should check before diving into your writing. Look over your sections for continuity errors, especially between the start of your plot and the end. Make note of any twists or surprises later in the story and consider if you need to adding little hints about them earlier on. You may also want to pull inspiration photos into your outlining document, especially if there are real-world locations that you're writing about. I often do this if a character has a particular outfit or like a fantasy ball gown or something, if the story in the genre calls for that kind of thing. So after you've put together a plan for what you're going to write, it's time to consider the technical aspects of writing. So next, let's talk about creating a distraction free environment. 4. Creating a High-Focus Environment: Most writers have a lot of factors going on that they can't control in terms of their writing environments. Maybe you have kids or roommates making a lot of noise are needing your attention. Maybe your job is really demanding and you only have small windows of time to do any writing. These kinds of challenges mean that you're going to have to customize your writing goal accordingly. Like a stay at home parent probably can't dedicate six hours straight everyday to uninterrupted writing. So setting a 10 thousand words a day goal might not really be reasonable. Consider the number of hours you have a day available. And then when you start using some of these speed reading techniques, figuring out what your average word per hour count is, and try and set your goals based on that. No matter what you're writing space or your time looks like though creating a physical location that allows you to intensely focus will be key to getting large numbers of words on the page. So let's go over three different approaches to optimizing your writing space and time. Now some writers prefer to write in complete silence and others prefer a little background noise to keep their mind from drifting away from their work. This is why writing in a public space, like a coffee shop or a co-writing space can work really well for some people. However, an easier method for finding some background noise use either ambiance or background music videos on YouTube or playlist on Spotify in the focus category. So these are videos or playlists that provide multiple hours worth of sounds intended to help you stay focused. Now a really fun way to do this is to find a playlist or an ambience track that fits with your genre. For example, when I'm writing fantasy novels, I like to find Lord of the Rings or Skype them soundtracks on YouTube and play that in the background. It doesn't really hold my attention the way that music with lyrics does, but it sets the mood for the kind of story I want to write and helps me stay in the zone. The second strategy is to make sure that you are not going to be interrupted by notifications on devices. So putting your phone and e-mail notifications on silent isn't great for start. Most phones actually come with a bunch of built-in wellness tools that allow you to limit or restrict your use of certain apps. And I'm definitely guilty of ending up on tiktok when I'm trying to focus on writing on occasion, I've deliberately lock these apps temporarily from being used when I'm writing. So even if I pick up my phone on impulse, there isn't anything to do on it until they turn off those settings. The third strategy is to utilize timers to control your writing pace and breaks. The success of this can really depend on the type of writer that you are. However, most people tend to focus better when they have regular breaks scheduled. And of course you have the option of powering through them if you're really on a roll. One method for using timers refocused work is called the Pomodoro Technique. This is a method that is pretty simple. You basically work for 25 minutes and then you take a five-minute break, depending on your typing speed and the clarity of your outline, it's possible that you could actually be fitting a whole scene in one of those pomodoros or at least close to one of them. For most writers, getting focused and eliminating distractions is the biggest hurdle to getting their manuscript written because we often have endless ideas and motivation to write. But making space for the actual task of writing can be a little bit daunting. So once you do have your optimal writing environment figured out, there are some different techniques that you can use for the actual writing process to speed things up. So we're gonna talk about those in the next lesson. 5. Writing Techniques: When we're talking about reading quickly, we're almost always talking about writing on computers or using a keyboard. There are still a few writers out there who like to use pen and paper, at least for the planning portion of the writing. But nothing is going to be as fast as using technology. Now so far we've talked about strategies to help you know what you're going to write and to help you focus on the task at hand. The next strategy for speeding up your writing is to consider your options for actually getting words on the page or on the screen. In this case, when we just speed up your writing on a technical level is to improve your typing speed. Typing speed and accuracy is a skill that is typically built up through practice. The more that you type on a keyboard, the more automatic that process becomes. This is a skill known as touch typing. You don't have to look at the keyboard to write. And you can make words and sentences by touch only. If you're concerned that your typing speed might be on the slower side for a writer, then you can try finding a typing speed test online. This can let you know what your word per minute average is and whether it's a little bit on the slower side. If so, you can find websites and programs that will train you on how to type faster over time. Another really great option if typing isn't your favorite thing is to try and use speech to text software. There are a lot of options out there for software and apps that allow you to speak into your microphone and it will transcribe what you are saying into a document. This could be a really great option if you're reading something with a more conversational tone. If you're allowing your imagination to run wild and your natural storyteller ability to take charge. We typically speak much faster than we type. So you can put many more words on the page in a shorter time it this way. Now a downside using the speech and text tool is that they can be a little difficult when dictating fiction because you'll have to learn all the code words to add the right punctuation if you're wanting to document to come out looking properly formatted, it's often easier just to forgo the correct punctuation and spend more time editing your document after you've dictated it to clean up the mistakes. So this can be a really good option for those of you who hate writing the first draft, but loved tinkering with the second one. Many word processors like Google Docs and Microsoft Word have a built-in dictate or speech to text feature. And you can also find apps that do this that specialize in transcription, like Dragon. If you aren't doing long sprints of manual typing, it is really important that you take breaks and stretch this kind of intense work and the particular posture required often like this to type on a keyboard can be really hard on your wrists and you don't want to risk getting carpal tunnel. So do make sure you take care of your wrists. And if you've already experienced some problems with the mechanics of typing, then again, consider using the speech or text option. This might be really good, especially for longer projects. So now that we have covered the technical side of writing, what about the creative side? Writer's block is an efficient authors worst enemy. So let's take a look at some ways that you can power through it. 6. Writer's Block and AI: Even with a really clear outline, you can still occasionally get stuck on a sentence or an idea. These little bumps in the road can be a really quick way to derail your train of thought. So it's a good idea to consider how you might power through them. The strategy that I have been using for the last couple of years has been to have an AI writing tool on hand. Artificial intelligence or machine learning tools allow you to enter some of the texts that you've already written. And then based on all the billions of other words, it's red. It will suggest what might come next. This is really, really handy because you don't always have to use exactly what the tool offers you. But you can typically generate an idea of what comes next with only a couple of tries, then you can resume writing on your own text. Again, this is a great way to avoid sitting there stumped and to power through a challenging turn of phrase. Sometimes these tools even give you ideas you've never considered before. There are lots of these AI writing tools out there. Some examples are pseudo right? In for kit, novel AI and AI dungeon. And there are many more great options too. So I'm gonna give you a very quick demonstration using a tool called hollow AI that allows you to try 8 thousand words for free. Just to get started, you'll find that most of these tools offer a free trial that electrode try them out beforehand to see if they work for you. And the subscriptions are pretty reasonable giving how helpful they can actually be. Feel free to visit any of the ones I talked about to try them for yourself. I think they all have a lot of merit. So I'm jumping into the screen record mode here just to show you how hollow AI works. So this is the website is just right. is the URL. And when you get here you can join with any of these sort of tears, but you can also just get started with the free trial, but it's clicking on the big yellow button. And this takes you to a page where it gives you a bunch of options of different prompts to start with. For our purposes, we don't want any of those. We're gonna just gonna go to write your own. Anterior will see that lets you put a title and then your text. And down below it shows generate is as 8 thousand characters left, and that is how many you get as a symbol. So let's start here. We can just put in our book table. You don't have to loop, it's not really important what you put here, but I'm just going to paste in some text from Hansel and Gretel. I just found it online just for some example text. So there's quite a bit of text. So let's hit enter and then just hit Generate and see how it sort of just works for a second. And then it gives you two different options which you could go with. And you can always hit Generate again, gives you a third option. And there you go. So if you wanted to go with one of these in your story, you could just click on it. It would add it to the text, or you could copy and paste it into your document where you're working on it. Or you can just read it and kinda get inspired and then go off on your own direction from it. But this could be a good way just to say like here's something that could come next. It doesn't have to be good, isn't it? To be accurate? It doesn't have to be what you're planning, but it's just something to break through that wall of I don't know what to write. I don't know what word goes next. So it can be a little bit helpful. And as you can see, really simple to use. Lots of these other AI writing tools that I also mentioned are really effective. They also offer free trials and the old generally working the same way where you have a box, you paste in some text you've already written or you just write it right in the box. And then you hit Generate and it'll spit out some options for you. And those options I was going to be critical to getting through the writer's block. Now that we've taken a look at that tool, let's recap our journey to faster writing. We've covered creating a broken down outline to make the book more manageable. We've created a focused environment for these longer writing sprints. We've improved our technical output ability with typing tests or using dictation software tools. And we're plowing through writer's block using AI writing tools. So now let's wrap up by going over a few things you should do once your manuscript is finished. 7. Editing Your Manuscript: Once you've got a first draft manuscript completed and you've taken a little bit of time to celebrate, it's time to dive back into those pages. There's a lot of mixed advice about how long you should wait before you reread your draft. Some people say you should put it away for months before starting back in on it. Now, my personal process is to give it a weekend before I dive back in. That's just because I like to work really fast. You'll have to base your decision on what makes sense for your project and what else you have going on in your day to day. Even if you are going to hire a professional editor, you do need to go back over your manuscript. It's going to save you a lot of money in the first place just by giving them a cleaner script. And nobody's first draft is perfect, even if you write really clean and if your whole book is done in a few days to avoid a continuity errors, I found that the most efficient way of editing is a tool called providing aid. This is a very useful proofreading software that will identify complex structural issues with your language. It also finds unusual typos and word choices. Now this is a paid tool with either monthly or yearly subscriptions, but I really do swear by it for all of my projects. An alternative though, is that you can use the built-in spell checker and grammar tools that your word processor who uses and Grammarly also has a free option I believe that you can use on your browser. Now the way that I do it using providing it is I opened up my manuscript in that software and start reading it out loud. So this is a technique that I used to teach with my students when I was teaching writing at university. Reading your text out loud will catch infinitely more writing issues than just reading it on a screen. If you're reading silently and especially on a screen, you'll find that your brain starts to skim and you will skip words which Mrs. errors, reading out loud forces you to tackle every single word on the page. Now even if this sounds like kind of a lot of work reading a couple chapters, at least a day during the editing process should help you to clean up that first draft within a week or so, depending on how much time you have to dedicate to the process, you can opt to repeat this process once you're done as many times as necessary to improve your writing over time as you get more books out and you have more experience, you'll find that you're editing and rewriting stage takes less time than before. And this is just one of the many benefits of sticking with it. If you love running. At the end of the day, there is no real hack to magically put words on a page while still ensuring you're writing a high-quality book. It's still takes time and effort. But hopefully now you have some ideas of ways you can optimize your workflow to improve your writing speed by eliminating created interruptions, distractions, and writer's block. For the class assignment, I've provided you with a template for breaking down a chapter within your book into shorter seasons. You can either complete this template with your own unique story or practice by outlining a book or story that you're familiar with already to understand how that breakdown really works. Now I wish you the best of luck with your writing. If you liked this course, please do consider checking out my others. I offer other courses on writing, publishing, and creative work. So thank you very much for watching and happy writing.