Writing A Novel … I Wonder How Long That Will Take?

Picture 1November is the National Novel Writing Month, and the quest is to write a 50,000-word draft novel in that time. Uh, I’m sorry, did I just say fifty thousand words in one month? Yes, that’s the challenge, and a formidable challenge indeed.

I remember having to write a one thousand word essay when I was in the seventh grade. When the teacher gave us the assignment, I sat there with absolutely no idea how long a thousand word essay would be. Then I realized, hey, it would be a thousand words. Astounding, don’t you think? Demonstrates how astute I was back then. But then my pondering continued. How many pages would that be?

Now I must tell you, this was to be accomplished during the two-week Christmas break back in 1957. And in 1957, in case you didn’t know, elementary school children wrote out assignments in longhand.

Still unsure of how many pages a thousand word essay would be, I started the following Monday. After deciding on my topic, I sat down with pencil and paper in hand and started writing. After what seemed like hours, I counted the pages. I gasped — there were only two! Now remember, as a twelve-year-old, I wrote in longhand and didn’t scrimp on the size of my letters. In other words, I wrote large words. For example, a six-character word would take up two inches of space on the page. Anyway, when I got done counting, I had a little over one hundred words. ONE HUNDRED WORDS! I anguished in total dejection, realizing the assignment would take me the entire two weeks to complete. I finished the essay and turned it in, all one thousand and eleven words of it. Wow, I remember thinking, I wrote over one thousand words! I was indeed impressed with myself.

Now let’s try to comprehend writing 50,000 words in one month. I managed a little over one thousand  in two weeks. That means I would have written a tad more than two thousand in a month. But let’s not forget my youth, inexperience, lack of attention, and absolutely no interest in the assignment whatsoever. I tell people who ask, that it takes me about nine months to write the first draft of a novel, which is usually three hundred pages in length, or about 110,000 words. I spend hours writing each day, but then I also edit my work as I’m creating the story, which takes time. But if I applied myself and just wrote without giving thought to structure or continuity, I imagine I could write a first rough draft in a month. But when I say rough, I mean really, really rough.

So, is writing a 50,000-word novel achievable in one month? Absolutely, and I’m sure there are a number of people who could do it in less time, and do it quite well, meaning the story would be sound and well conceived even in draft form. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people. But if you believe you are, then why not give it a go? I mean it is National Novel Writing Month, and the challenge awaits you. However, there is less than twenty days left in the month, so I suggest you get a move on it.

The Character I Like Most In My Books

Bad GuyI truly enjoy creating the antagonist — the “bad guy.” The development of the character is usually centered on all the negatives that I’ve encountered or experienced in everyday life. As a very simple example, do any of you get upset at other drivers when driving? I assume there are a few of you. Here’s another example. Does anyone have concerns about politicians? More significantly, what about a person in a position of power who will abuse that position at the detriment of others? Or how about the rich and influential who will harm and even kill in order to better their position in business or society?

Whatever I dislike, I take and create a character that possesses those attributes. I enjoy the process, because at the end of the story I get to deal with them in a manner that justifies their crime. Where else do we get the opportunity to do that? When we’re upset at politicians we can only shout out in anger. If a madman is on the loose, we pray that he won’t come in contact with us. In fact, if any horrendous situation is present, we run and hide if we can. But as an author, I can deal with all the human unpleasantries as I see fit!

When I first started writing, I was told to make sure that I took care of the bad guy in a manner that would satisfy the reader, since they’re usually looking for a justified outcome to the bad guy’s evilness. I believe I’ve done that in my novels, although I try not to over exaggerate the ending to the bad guy’s reign, and try to keep it in the context of the story for purposes of realism. But I do enjoy creating these types of characters. I can let out all my hidden angers as I create the character, sometimes even drawing on my own personal attributes that I’m not so proud of. Oops, I just gave away a secret.

Anyway, bad guys are fun to create. I can go places inside their minds that often scare me, sometimes wondering how I came up with the idea. I justify it all by knowing it is part of creating a suspenseful plot with a character that the readers will truly hate and, therefore, side with the protagonist in hopes that the bad guy will be taken care of properly.

So let’s hear it for the bad guy. Hip hip, hooray!