Many writers have churned out quality novels in just a month, and while it will not happen every time, this guide will help you achieve your first draft with ease. The best way to achieve a 30-day novel is to write on a subject you are familiar with. This way the words will come easier, and you will find your fingers flying through pages at record speed. In a way, this project will use a lot of free-writing, where you will stifle your inner editor and only worry about volume at first.
Preparing for the Journey
The most important thing to do is be prepared for what you are about to undertake. This includes having an idea of what you want your story to encompass. If you are an avid science fiction reader, go with a science fiction novel or likewise if you are into romance, drama, historical fiction, or any other genre. You will also need an idea of the setting, the main characters, and the plot.
Before you begin your novel, take a few notes. The basic outline does not need to be more than one page, as your story will develop as you write it to the extent that the ending may surprise even you. Make note of the general idea of your story, some character names, and some plot twists. This will give you something to refer to as you write and will keep your writing on track.
Budgeting Your Time
This is probably the most difficult part of the 30-day novel project because we all have busy lives and things happen to keep us from our writing goals. This is where you need to get a little serious and actually commit time every day if possible to writing. What length do you want your novel to be? The average easy read is around 50,000 to 80,000 words. To start easy, try 50,000 words. In 30 days, this means just under 1700 words a day, or about three and a half pages if you are typing single-spaced.
Three and a half pages sounds completely achievable, does it not? If you are free-writing, this should only take about an hour and a half or less if you are on a roll. If it is not possible for you to commit one to two hours a day to writing, due to other commitments for example, break down your time into what will work for you. If you can only write six days a week, aim for 2,000 words a day, or about four pages.
The Easy Part – Start Writing
Now that you have the basics down, it is time to get to work and start creating a fantastic read in much less time than you imagined. If you truly get stuck and need outside support, online groups are available to help. The best-known is NaNoWriMo (which stands for National Novel Writing Month). The group is most active in the fall, as it holds a writing event every November. You can, however, find support year-round from other writers and editors.
Self-publishing is difficult for authors who have already spent their valuable time writing their book and do not have the time for or experience in performing all the other tasks involved before going to print. Self-publishing companies like Lulu and BookBaby provide services including cover design, editing, and print-on-demand publishing. The author, in return, is responsible for registering the copyright and ISBN, production management, and marketing.
When authors are their own publishers under this avenue, they also have more control over the final price of the book, which is a major selling point to prospective readers. The self-publishing company will usually help the author determine a price for the book by providing a calculator for printing options and publisher commissions. This allows the author to see plainly what their portion of the profits will be for each book sold.
Vanity publishing, also called subsidy publishing, differs from self-publishing in that the author assumes all the risk and pays the publisher. This is counterproductive to authors trying to make money on their books. While vanity presses do offer services like cover design and editing, there is a major catch. Once a manuscript is published by a subsidy, it becomes their property, right down to the ISBN number. The author forfeits all rights to the book once it appears in the publisher’s catalog.
Different from both of these types of publishing options are traditional publishers. These are companies that actually invest their money and resources (like marketing and printing) into the promise that books will sell. They purchase rights to manuscripts and pay royalties to authors, often offering advances prior to publishing. Traditional publishers are where the money is, but they are also the most difficult to work with, especially for unknown authors who present a greater risk to the publisher.
Knowing the differences between the different publishing avenues available can make or (financially) break an author. By doing research into prospective publishing routes and companies, authors will find more success and fewer headaches in trying to make their works available to their intended audience.
While great science fiction deserves a great plot, another element to writing in this genre can be just as tricky to weave in. The setting of a science fiction story is the real foundation of the piece. Writers can touch on a range of human emotions in a well-crafted setting and utilize them to build strong characters and plot lines. This is why many readers turn to fantastical novels over other types of fiction like drama or romance. Good sci-fi has the power to bring readers to entirely new worlds.
By creating fictional worlds rich with imagery, emotion, and culture, writers allow readers to escape the mundane “real world,” the one they trudge through every day, and enter a new realm. They can forget their everyday worries and cares by departing from reality and immersing themselves in the microcosm of your story. In this genre, the setting is less of a backdrop and more of an element directly related to the way every action plays out.
Playing with the Senses
Human culture relies primarily on visual stimuli to understand the surrounding world. In remembering this, the writer should focus on creating a story backdrop that is rich in visual cues and vibrant enough to see through words alone. With the right choice of descriptors the writer can spur the reader into seeing precisely what the writer means to suggest.
Fiction writers can stoke the reader’s emotions with landscape as well as with straightforward actions. Both aspects can combine into powerful storytelling that will leave readers craving more. Settings can inspire every emotion, whether through the soothing, entrancing low hum of a magnetic engine or the rush of racing through dangerously narrow canyon walls saddled to the back of a Roc at the break of a second-sun rising.
Further, authors can add dimension to their settings by adding environmental sounds to their setting descriptions, for example, by describing the crackling hiss of a comet as it races precariously close to the thin atmosphere, or the crystalline tinkling of moisture dripping upward from the bottom of a pristine cave floor. There are endless ways to manipulate the readers’ senses, providing a captivating setting for any scene.
Beyond describing the physical setting, the sci-fi writer should be aware that the meta-setting plays an important role in supporting the fictional environment. As in real life, the cultures and personalities around us shape the way readers see the world. Characters therefore should present viewpoints and actions that complement the physical setting of the scene. A simple example of this is where a hot, dry environment would naturally produce short tempers and the survivalist’s mentality in a character.
Remember in writing fiction, all elements of the story must provide a strong foundation as well as continuity to hold it together. By creating settings that incorporate compelling visuals and truly immersive worlds with characters to support them, science fiction writers will create enduring works worth buying, reading, and sharing.