Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing,  workshops

A Novel Challenge


Over the last week or so since I announced the short story challenge, I have gotten numbers of questions about doing something similar for novels. Being a first reader for novels in a workshop challenge format.

Now honestly, at first I just laughed. I flat didn’t do that sort of thing for anyone.

But I got a few more requests and got thinking about it and talked with Kris. She is really enjoying reading my new short story every day and thinks if I structured reading novels for the summer in a workshop challenge, I might enjoy it. And if I limited it.

Really, really limited it.

After all, I will be writing two novels per month as well.

So over the last few days I’ve tried to puzzle how this might work in a way that would be fun for me, a benefit to whoever was nuts enough to try it, and so on. I think I got it.

Here it is…

A Novel Challenge: 

 Finish one novel per month for June, July, and August. (Note, I said Finish. You must write at least 50% of the novel during the month you turn it in. The key is finishing it and turning it in.)

 Report into me your progress on a certain day of your picking every week.

 Novels must be longer than 30,000 words, no upper limit.

 I will charge $600 total to be your first reader for the three novels for the three months, paid to the WMG Publishing Paypal account. (Attached to my e-mail.) First come, first in. I will limit this.

 You turn the novel in to me when you finish, but the first day of the month is the cut-off for the previous month. (By the rules, if you finish the novel early, you can start on the next one as long as 50% of the total words are written in the month you turn it in.)

 If you can actually finish three novels in three months, you get two online workshops of your choice. ($600 value and you get my reading for free.)

 If you finish two novels in three months, you get one online workshop of your choice. ($300 value.)

 You can bail by the 15th of June on the challenge and move your fee to two online workshops ($600 value). That is the off-ramp. If you go past that date and only get one novel done, or no novels done in three months, no matter the reason, you have paid WMG $600 for me to be a first reader for for your one novel. (grin)  This is a challenge, remember.

— My duties as first reader will be this: I will read your novel, comment as a reader and as an editor some. I will tell you what I liked, what didn’t work for me, and general stuff like that, including what genre your book fits.

— I WILL NOT COPYEDIT or REWRITE your story. I will not be a book doctor. I will be a first reader. But I will help you with general things about your story and help you find the heart of your story if you are close and I can spot it. No promises there. I will also tell you if it worked and should be out to readers, so don’t always expect me to be harsh. If something works, it works. I will also tell you what genre your book is in. The point of this is to finish three novels and get two workshops in the process.

— I will send a full letter. You will need to give me a week to read your book, so you will need to be already writing on the next novel by the time I respond.

— Time limited. Only June, July, and August and then I am done. And sign-ups are limited to five or so.

— Cost is $600 and I will take anyone who is interested. But again, this is very limited. I feel I can be a first reader for about five books a month in this kind of workshop setting. Maybe one more. I will shout here when it fills.

So in summary, pay $600 to WMG Publishing Paypal account (attached to my e-mail address) to get me as a first reader for three novels if you can finish three novels in three months. And if you can, you get two online workshops and my reading feedback for free.

This is a challenge to you to keep you writing through the summer and end up with three books by September. Wouldn’t that feel great?

This sounds like great fun to me. Totally as silly as the short story challenge that four people are signed up to. From the number of questions I got about novels, I got a hunch this will be full by next week, so decide quick.

And yes, you can start working on the first book in May, just save 50% for June. (grin)

Of course, you could always just do it on your own and play along, test to see if you can do it without me reading your novels. Or you can try to match my writing speed for May, June, July, and August. I hope to finish 9 novels in those four months.

Any questions, feel free to write me or ask in the comments section.

Yes, I am this crazy. But you all knew that. I am working on story #27 for this month.

So if you want someone with my skills and editorial eye to read your work, (thirty short stories or three novels… both challenges have an opening) jump now. I doubt I will ever do this again.

Not sure of my sanity at this point as it is. (grin)


  • Thomas E

    I’m gonna try to match your speed playing on the sidelines, only one month late:)

    Not going to subject you to three of my novels though… Seems a nasty thing to do to a fella after they’ve had the “opportunity” to read 30 short stories from me (grin)

    Good luck to everyone who takes part…

  • Vera Soroka

    I would so take you up on this if I wasn’t dealing with what you and Kris call life rolls. My writing has pretty much stopped right now. The stress is too much to focus. I have been picking a way at my back list so that is something but if I didn’t’ have this on my plate I would jump in.

  • Leah Cutter

    So very tempting, Dean. I’m concerned that I’m focused on finishing trilogies right now, so you’d end up getting the last book of things. As I don’t intend for these to stand alone, I’m not sure that you’d be able to follow along well enough…

    But still, tempting. May play along on the sidelines.


  • Kate Pavelle

    Oh, wow! What a way to get through the Time of Great Forgetting, or whatever you call it, Dean. If I weren’t all set to do the Sheherezad Challenge, I’d be all over this. (The Sheherezad Challenge name comes from the fact that the goal is to entertain you for 30 days, and we all know how hard that is. No elves or magic unless on board of a starship cruiser, right?) 🙂

  • John D.

    What about just doing 30 novel chapters in 30 days? Or 60 in 60 days, since the novel challenge as laid out here seems to require more writing than the story challenge?

    • dwsmith

      Nah, silly enough as it is. And really, writing 20,000 words of a 40,000 word novel in a month is more than 30 short stories? Not sure how that math works. (grin)

      • John D. Payne

        Fair enough. Your challenge, your rules.

        For the record, I was looking at the total requirement (3 novels), not the single-month requirement. But regardless, it all depends on how long the stories and novels run. And if any of those novels are already half-done.

        In my case, my shortest novel by far is 50k, and everyone asks where the other half is. And I don’t have three that are half done. So my best guess is that completing three novels would require at least 150k, and probably more, rather than 60k Man, if I could complete 3 novels with 20k each, I would be all over this action. 🙂

        Probably for the best anyway. This summer we’re selling our house, looking for a new one in another state, and then moving. And
        once my wife returns to her 80 hr/wk job next week, I’ll be in charge of our newborn. So doing this challenge was going to be . . . perhaps not impossible, but a big stretch for sure. Maybe I’ll just see how I do on my own.

        • dwsmith

          John, yeah, I figure a writer will have to do about 130,000 words or so to do this challenge over three months, an average of about 44,000 words a month. Or about 11,000 words a week which is about 1,500 words per day. About an hour, maybe two for most writers.

          If I was doing it, I would have a novel half done going into June, get it done, get another well on the way for July, finish over half of it in July and hope I had a slight jump on August by that point. So August will be the worst part.

  • Meyari McFarland

    Okay, i’m in. Expect an email in the next few hours or so. Because I’m already planning on doing novels each month this summer and why not go for the gusto and make sure I have incentive to get it done. Plus feedback, plus classes on the other side?

    Yeah. I’m in. *grin*

    • dwsmith

      Mary, yeah, that is exactly the attitude I was hoping for. A focus, plus a free first reader from me and you get two workshops on the other side. Win, win, win.

  • R. J. Seymour

    My fiancee said that I could totally do this challenge. Seriously, she laughed at me when I said that I was thinking of the short story competition but says I can actually do the novel challenge. I know that sounds odd but I guess the numbers work in her favor. This is how she looks at it.

    My average short story is about 5,000 words if I make it really short
    30 stories x 5, 000 words = 150,000 words in 30 days.
    150,000 words in 60 days or 75,000 words per month.

    For my novels, I think I’d probably average about 70,000 per novel if I tried (80,000 is probably closer but for easy math, we’ll do 70k).
    Your novel challenge would have me writing 210,000 words in 3 months if you don’t count May, or 210,000 over a modified 4 months which works out to 52,500 per month (average).

    So she looks at it that I’d actually write less per month with the novels. Which when you work 50hrs a week and have young children who think daddy is their world, finding that much time can be another challenge.

    How about 3 novels in 3 months, an online workshop and children sound? 😀

    So I will definitely have to think on this one. Are any genres out of the category? I’m guessing from some of the comments above you are not a big fan of high fantasy, but do novels relating to fantasy but not involving kings be too much of a stretch. I’m thinking a Rambo/Spartacus mix if you get those references.



    Time to start seeing if I have $600 if not at least $300 for your new editing workshop. 😀

    • dwsmith

      No genres out of bounds. I read them all. When editing for the anthology workshop, I express my common likes and dislikes, but I read everything. I am first reader for Kris, so I get to read books from the high fantasy Fey series to hard mystery to wild science fiction, not counting all her romance novels. And I write or have written all of that as well, including erotica. So no genre worries.

        • dwsmith

          Over 30,000 words. Young adult is one of the reasons I set the limit at 30,000 words. Some of them are shorter books. Not all, but some.

          Easy reader and things like that wouldn’t work for this challenge, but young adult at 30,000 word range would be fine.

  • Michele

    I’m finishing one 80 000w novel … in French! Already saving for your fall coast workshop, and busy translating my works in two languages and formatting and putting those up, so I’ll pass for now.

  • Sheila

    Dude, you are off your nut! LOL I’m not that much younger than you, and the thought of doing this makes me want to hurl. Seriously. I get nervous even thinking about it. But then, that’s why you’re you, and I’m not.

    Good luck to everyone who takes the offer, and especially to Dean for all that reading. Man. Whew!

    • dwsmith

      LOL, Sheila. I’m not worried. Granted, when I was coming in and someone pro who had been around for 40 years offered to first read for three books, I would have jumped at it in a heartbeat and not even looked back. But I wasn’t worried about this challenge because it’s the Time of Great Forgetting. I figured if I got four it would be lucky and four novels a month for three months won’t even dent what I normally read. I am now doubting even four will sign up.

      The Time of Great Forgetting is a powerful force I have discovered over the years. I’m pleased I have five in the short story challenge, two in May, three in June. So the challenges will be fun for me and I hope keep a few writers writing. (I would never do these challenges in the fall or winter or early spring. There is a method behind my madness. (grin))

  • Sheila

    Watching everyone do their math is fascinating. My novels tend to run to the 150K+ range so the idea of writing three novels in three months is absolutely appalling to me. There. is. just. no. way.

    On the other hand, my short stories tend to run in the 2k range. 2k a day for 30 days = 60k a month of totally doable.

    • Thomas E

      Sheila, I’ve done the maths. From a math perspective, both challenges come out the same for me. About 60k of writing a month.

      From an ease perspective… The short story challenge is much easier for me than the novel challenge.

      To put it in perspective, making a living as a short story writer for me would take over 1000 short stories. They don’t feel ‘important’. Just fun. If one or even thirty doesn’t work… Who cares?

      But I struggle a lot more with novels.

      Novels feel like they should be important and not something you just flat chuck out if they don’t work.It’s the myths talking. They’re just stories. No one’s going to notice if they don’t work.

      So yeah… Math is not the challenge for me.

      Keeping the writing fun is the challenge for me.

      • dwsmith

        Thomas, just by being aware of that you are far, far ahead of the game. And it really is the key to long-term success. Thanks!

  • Laura W-A

    I have a series of six novellas I need to finish. Two per month would be around 50k… If you do this again, can two novellas count as a novel? 🙂

      • Patrick R

        Ah, interesting – opens the possibilities even more!
        Great question, Laura W-A.

        so, couple of novellas, 25k-30k each, per month? But not shorter, i.e. 2 x 15k or 3 x 15k. Maybe those are a different challenge.