How to Write a Novel in 13 Days

If (I should practice The Secret and say “When”) my book is published, and if (I should practice The Secret and say “When”) it becomes successful enough to be made into a film, I’ll likely be getting asked questions about where I came up with the story, what my writing process is like, and how long the book took me to write it. So, always one to get a jump on things, I figured I’d write a quick post on how I went from daydreamer to (soon-to-be-published) novelist.

If You Want to Write a Book in Just 13 Days, Do the Following:

1. SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS: Announce to everyone you know, love, or even meet while standing in line at the grocery store, that you have a great book in you. Tell them you’re going to be a published author someday. Sound super-sure of it, and repeat it often so that every single time you see these people they’ll say, “So, did you write that book yet?”

2. STAY AWAKE ALL NIGHT RUMINATING: Lie awake in bed (bonus points if you make your spouse stay up and do this with you no matter how tired they are) and brainstorm plot ideas. You know, “What if we wrote a story about that weird neighbor who keeps his Christmas lights up year-round? We could make it so that he’s keeping someone captive in the basement and she’s slipping SOS messages to the mailman via her captor’s dog?”

3. START BUT DO NOT FINISH SEVERAL STORIES: Start lots and lots (and lots and lots and lots) of manuscripts, get about 17,000 words in, and then quit because you realize it’s riddled with plot holes the size of Jupiter. Never address the plot holes (heavens no!), but rather just brag to people (probably the same people from #1 on this list) that you’ve got half a dozen partially written novels in a storage tote under your bed.

4. EAT UNHEALTHY FOOD & PEOPLE WATCH: Eat copious amounts of fast food over a period of, oh, I’d say a decade at least, and do this while in your car with the same spouse you keep up half the night. While you’re trying to debate whether or not to get a Starbucks after you finish eating, watch all the people who come and go. *This works best if the fast-food joint is in or near a shopping plaza. Make up stories about the pedestrians you see. Name them, so that it’s not just an old lady scurrying by, but rather “That’s Phyllis. Her husband died a few years ago, but she goes to Shop ‘n Save on their wedding anniversary each year and buys all the ingredients to cook the meal they had on their first date. That’s why she’s coming out to her car with roses. She puts them, along with candles, on the center of the table every year, and even pulls out the good China. Just because Sam died, doesn’t mean she’s going to stop the tradition. See how she seems to be in a hurry? She has to get home and get the meatballs cooking or the spaghetti won’t be done in time, and the meal is traditionally served at seven-thirty, the time of their first date at Bella Italia.”

“If I won the lottery and became an instant millionaire, I still would have had to write this book. I needed to get it out of me one way or another. I wouldn’t have rested until I did.”

~L.A. Wehner

5. SET RIDICULOUS GOALS: Set unrealistic goals, such as, “I’m going to write a full-length novel by my birthday” (which is in a really short timeframe like under 4 months).

6. OBSESS ON OTHER AUTHORS’ JOURNEYS: Spend every bit of free time watching author interviews on YouTube, reading online articles about how writers you like came up with their story ideas, and basically creeping on said authors while waiting for their genius to transfer to you through osmosis.

7. BUY BOOKS/UNLOAD THEM/REPEAT: Buy dozens and dozens of books on writing. Read them, highlight them, take notes in the margins, and create spreadsheets of data you compiled from all of your research. Then, just to make it fun, every time you get fed up with writer’s block, or decide you’re not good enough to go the distance, throw away or donate all these books. When you feel better, reorder them on Amazon. It’s easy, they’re all in your “Recent Orders and Returns” tab on the site.

8. SINK INTO A DEPRESSION: Go through some obvious depression while you second-guess yourself. Make it really draining on the people around you, just to drive the point home that you’re a writing failure. When anyone tries to cheer you up or tell you to “Just write something, it doesn’t have to be great,” sink even lower. And make plenty of excuses along the way. That part is critical.

“I’m not a particularly balanced writer. I may go months without writing a word, and then write 90,000 words in thirteen days. But never does a day pass when I’m not at least thinking about writing.”

~L.A. Wehner

9. BECOME A CRAZY, UNHYGIENIC MANIAC: When you finally get started on “The One,” dive in so deep that you barely come up to brush your teeth, take a shower, or sleep. Of course, when you get the chance to eat, eat the unhealthiest foods available and call it “Celebrating how good the writing is going!” When a loved one asks you to take a walk, watch a movie, or answer a simple question, get annoyed. Channel your inner Jack Torrance (“Wendy? Darling? Light, of my life. I’m not gonna hurt ya. I’m just going to bash your brains in.” ~The Shining) because you can’t be disturbed while honing your craft.

10. CRANK UP THE ANXIETY TO FULL BLAST: The better the writing is going, the more you’ll need to crank up the self-doubt and anxiety. Question if it’s really any good. Worry that every story has already been told. Fear the pressures your future agent will put on you to crank out the second book in a timely manner. Also, and this is important, don’t worry about these things internally. Share every single concern with the people from numbers 1, 2, 3, 8, and 9! By now, they’d be offended if you didn’t include them in this step!

There are probably a few more steps, but this will definitely get you started. It’s how I went about completing a manuscript start to finish in 13 days. Well, about 49 years, 10 months and 23 days give or take…

Oh, one last thing. When you do finish the novel, make your apology to your spouse commensurate with the time it took you to write it. In other words, if you write it in a really short time like me, the apology should be pretty “grand gesture-like.” Think about it, if you’re the type that can crank out a novel in thirteen days, that pretty much seals the deal that you are NOT an easy person to live with most of the time. So, yeah, I’m sorry James. Couldn’t have done it without you. I’ll come up with a grand gesture now that I have some free space in my mind to think…


  1. kara

    Ha! What a journey. Glad you have reached your goals before your 50th… what will you be spending your next 50 obsessing over now??

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