Tips to Writing a Rough Draft in 30 Days

Writing a novel is an enormous undertaking on its own, but to do so in 30 days is even more so. It may seem to be an impossible task, but it doesn’t have to be. All it takes is a little planning on your part and depending on if you are a plotter (organize everything in advance; have the story plotted out from start to finish), a panster (writing by the seat of their pants; not planning your writing), or an in-betweener (this is the place between advance planning and writing without a plan), just how much planning that involves.

A few years back I bought two books on how to write a rough draft in 30 days, the first book I hated, the second one I loved and still use. Much of it has to do with my writing style and not the authors writing style or methods. So I thought I’d share a few tips with all of you that I’ve picked up over the years.

Tip #1: Settle On a Word Count

This isn’t a set in stone word count, this is a goal to work towards. When I wrote My Lord Hades, the word count was set at 50,000 words. Setting a word count helped me stay on track and calculate where I needed to be each day or when to step up the paceif I was to meet my deadline at the end of 30 days. It also let me know how many words I needed to write the next day if I skipped a day.

Tip #2: Don’t Stop Writing

Churning out a novel in one month doesn’t figure in time for revision and editing, that is to be done after the first draft is complete. Often writers who complete a novel in one month, let the novel sit for a few weeks before diving back in to revise. Writers will, of course, experience rough patches and road blocks which is understandable.

One important thing to remember is to just write. Don’t go back and re-read or edit your manuscript during the process, it will interrupt the flow of ideas and slow you down.If you are able to stay on track there is no reason to not finish the novel in 30 days. The goal is to get the ideas on paper. Revision can and will come afterwards.

Tip #3: Use a Story Tracker

The Story Tracker was an idea I liked from Book in a Month by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, Ph.D. I have adopted this simple idea to my own use, modifying it as I like. You are free to do the same or use as is.

The main idea behind the Story Tracker is to keep writing without stopping to rewrite a plot, character, setting, subplot, or revise and edit. What you do is keep notes of changes you want to make to the story, so that you can remember what you need to do later when you revise the finished manuscript. This is where you jot down new ideas and new directions as they come to mind and then keep writing as if you made those changes already.

I tried creating a worksheet in my word processor that consisted of a table with the headings: Page #, What to Fix, and Additional Comments—these can be: why you need the change, what the impact of this change will be on other characters,. This didn’t work for me—needed more room or less than I gave myself in a table—so I made it into columns. However, now I just use a notebook to jot down my notes.

My examples:

Loving the Goddess of Love (Title of work at the top of the page)

-page 1-3, change POV character in Prologue to Aphrodite

-page 6-8, change character talking to Zeus from Hera to Rhea, more impact on Zeus’ decision if it’s his mom rather than his soon-to-be-wife

10 thoughts on “Tips to Writing a Rough Draft in 30 Days

  1. Renee Pawlish February 20, 2012 / 5:40 pm

    Nice post. I’ve typically written a book a year, but I’m trying to pick up the pace, and these are interesting points. I find the more I have the general story in my head, the faster it goes. But the problem is, I usually fly by the seat of my pants so I don’t have the story in my head. Ultimately, I want to make sure I have the best possible book, so if it takes longer but I’ve got it “right”, then I’m happy.

    • Stephannie Beman February 22, 2012 / 11:33 pm

      I just realized that the comment I made a few days ago was eaten instead of posting. I probably hit the cancel reply instead of the post comment. 😀

      There is nothing wrong with being a planner than there is in being a pantser as long as we produce quality work that we are happy with rather then producing quantity work that we will later be ashamed of. Good luck in your writing.

  2. robertyel February 20, 2012 / 6:53 pm

    I think my downfall you mentioned. I will be writing and it is flying along. BUT! I find myself going back over parts and rewriting when another idea pops into my head. I will rewrite rewrite rewrite the same area over and over again. It really kills my forward speed and starts depressing me. LOL!
    I tend to forget a rough draft is a rough draft. That is where the structure should arise. Development can come later. But I find myself fighting that all the time.

    • Stephannie Beman February 21, 2012 / 3:13 pm

      I did too. When I was first writing I think I rewrote the same scene about 20 times because things would change from my initial plan as I was writing. I felt like I had to go back and fix the problem in previous scenes. Then I ran across the Story Tracker and it helps to write what needs to be changed without going back to change stuff. It helps me to keep heading forward and not keep going back.

      If you keep an scene outline of what you’ve already wrote after you wrote it, it can be used with the story tracker to figure out what scenes you need to go back to to add things.

  3. Tony McFadden February 20, 2012 / 6:57 pm

    Definitely possible. I wrote 92k words in one month (it was a NaNoWriMo, so there’s that added incentive), but the only way I could have done that was with the almost 8 week planning in advance. So it actually took twice as long to plan my book as it did to write the first draft. That became my third book. My fifth took 6 weeks to write 98k words. Again, 8 – 10 weeks planning in advance.

    Absolutely spot on about just writing. Not worrying about spelling or grammar or anything other than getting the story on the (virtual) page. And with the chapters and scenes planned in advance, there’s no ‘writer’s block’. If I’m not in the mood for a touching scene between mother and daughter (or whatever), and someone has just keyed my car, I can skip right to the chapter where the bad guy really gets it. ;^)

    • Stephannie Beman February 21, 2012 / 3:23 pm

      I think planning is great. But I also think that flexibility in my planning helps too. Sometimes the story takes a different path from which I envisioned it and I’ll let it have it’s head. If it doesn’t work, I always have the story plan to fall back on and start where I deviated. 😀

  4. Tony McFadden February 20, 2012 / 6:58 pm

    Forgot to mention – if I do get stuck I add a {include description of hotel her} or {figure out how he got the cat out of the vacuum here} and come back to it when the thought strikes me. Just keep writing.

    • Stephannie Beman February 21, 2012 / 3:24 pm

      Yep. 😀 Just keep writing.

      Thanks for your comments, Tony.

  5. Reynold Akison February 22, 2012 / 6:57 pm

    I’m a fan of planning, although I’ve tried just taking off on a novel – or the seat of the pants approach too. I’ve found that the planning also takes 4 to 6 weeks, but it helps solve problems with the characters and the plot ahead of the writing. A plan also helps keep me on track on those days when I think I just can’t face the keyboard and screen again. But I don’t look at my plan as ironclad just in case my characters have other ideas.

    I like your idea of settling on a word count ahead of time, and I’m going to try it with my next crime novel. I’m also hoping that using a series character will speed up the planning stages. I’d like to step up my production (and also keep up the quality) since more published titles translates to more readers. By the way, the late crime master-writer Simenon is said to have written his novels in 6 days. How do we explain that?

    • Stephannie Beman February 22, 2012 / 11:28 pm

      A whole lot of time on his hands. 😀

      I know that some of my ideas are percolating for months or even years before I write them down. One of my favorite writing methods comes from First Draft in 30 days by Karen S. Wiesner. She combines the planning process with writing. In the end, the planning stage of the novel has become your rough draft.

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