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Topic of the Night: Writing a Novel in Seven Days: Chapter Three


Chapter Three

This is going to be fun. I want to repeat that often. 

The Challenge is Simple.

Day One: 3,000 words.

And then each day after that add 1,000 words to the amount needed. Seven days, if my math is right, I will have a 42,000 word novel.

3,000… 4,000… 5,000… 6,000… 7,000… 8,000… 9,000 words.

7 Days.

Ready to Go

I’m going to start writing tomorrow. Honestly, I could have started today without much problem. But I scheduled starting tomorrow because of the work day outside of writing that I have on day three, where I will need to do 5,000 words.

Day three is full of a lot of work at WMG and on workshops. I don’t mind the work at all, just making sure I don’t stress the writing too much. So starting tomorrow makes that workable.

Attitude is Everything

For many people, putting deadline pressure on their writing actually feels like it will hurt you. If you are one of those writers, just sit and watch and see if you can pick up some things that don’t have to do with deadlines.

But many who claim to have problems with pushing their writing with deadlines often don’t. They just have attitude problems. (Oh, oh… I said that.)

Here’s why you might have an attitude problem.

Critical voice in all of us is designed to keep us safe, to stop us from doing things damaging, and to make us pay attention to coming problems.

Lawyers spend three years learning the law and making their critical voice extreme. That way, when a client comes in for them to do something, the lawyer can see all the problems that might arise.

In the arts, past a minor part, critical voice is deadly. Its normal job is to stop you, and yet in any art, including writing, the only way you can learn and grow and become a real artist is to practice and make mistakes and fail at times.

Artists, writers, learn from their failures.

But for some reason in writing, the myths have taught us that every word we type out is in stone, is sacred, must be perfect or at least rewritten a thousand times until it is perfect.

Myths are deadly to a writing career.

Instead of taking chances, the fear of failing overwhelms and the critical voice looks for a way to stop such thinking. So that comes out as not liking deadlines on the writing.

It’s one thing to have worked under deadlines for years and then decide to not do them anymore, but another problem when a deadline has not even been tried and are still feared. That’s critical voice problems.

So the only real way to fight the critical voice in writing is to change your attitude. Words and writing are fun.

Telling stories is play.

You have to take all the power away from the critical voice. When you believe something isn’t important, the critical voice goes off and is silent, letting your creative voice play.

That’s right, you have to make sure your attitude is that the deadline isn’t really important.

That’s why when I am asked about what I do for a living, I say, “I sit alone in a room and make shit up.” That job description can’t be important, can it?

Change your attitude about writing, about your writing having to be perfect, and you will tame your critical voice.

I Am Going To Have Fun

That’s my attitude going into this challenge of writing a novel in a week.

I had a poor writing winter due to numbers of factors, so I am really, really, really looking forward to getting up to pulp speed for a week and then going from there into the spring and summer.

I have a lot of outside things cleared for the week.

I also know I want to write a Thunder Mountain novel about a baker in the Idanha Hotel in Boise, Idaho in 1902. It will be a time travel historical western with a romance core, since my second character is a historical researcher from 2018.

I know all this because those are the characters in the short story I am jumping off from. But honestly, when I start they might not even be the same two characters. Don’t know and won’t know until I start writing tomorrow.

This will be the 9th novel in this series, so I know the world pretty well, but in the past these novels have taken three or more weeks for me to write. So bringing that timeline down to a week will be a challenge.

My attitude is solid. I’ve cleared what work I can clear out of the way, am excited to get writing and have fun.

Think of me strapped into the roller coaster car, right in the front, waiting for the car to jerk into motion and start up the slope.

So next chapter the book starts. I’ll detail each day and talk about how the writing went and my mental state and so on.

I hope to make these chapters interesting as I go. We shall see.

Onward to Day One.

And a lot of fun.


  • Kat Simons

    I love this challenge, Dean. Thanks for doing it in public so we can all play along.

    I have a question about the process. If you have a day, particularly early on, where you go past the word goal significantly, how do you figure that in? Are they just bonus words and you keep to the progression as laid out? Do you stop at the word goal no matter what so this isn’t an issue?

    I’m excited to try a version of this when I can organize my life (and kids) for a whole week, maybe in May as a birthday present to my self. 🙂 Looking forward to watching you play!

    • dwsmith

      Kat, that’s a good question I had just thought about yesterday, actually. And the second question is what if the book is shorter or longer, since I honestly have no idea when I start.

      On the first question, I think I’ll just hang it up for the day when I reach the word count or shortly after. Part of the value of doing it this way is the build-up, starting slow and gaining speed in the word count. So I’ll go past, but not much each day. As for my own second question, guess I’ll figure that out when I reach the end of the book. (grin)

      • Kat Simons

        Thanks, Dean. I love the ramping up idea because it plays really well into the way I generally write (into the dark and slower in the beginning), so I can’t wait to see how it works for you. I thought about the overall length too after I sent the original question. That’ll be fun to see what happens when you get there *grin*

  • Michèle Laframboise

    I’m ready and psyched up! Starting at 700 wpd and adding 700 words each day until story complete. I have three short stories I wanted to finish (Heinlein rules two) so it’s a good time to do it. Really motivated by your blog – and my recent Coast workshop.

  • Prasenjeet

    Thank you so much, Dean. Your book “Writing into the Dark” was really a blessing for me. It helped me finish my first novel and made it a fun process. Now whenever I hear what I’m going to write is plain boring, I know it is the critical voice in my head and I utter the words “Shut Up!” silently in my mind. That is enough for the critical voice to become silent. 🙂

  • Dane Tyler

    Very exciting! I can’t wait to watch it unfold. It’s sort of weird; I had a couple of ideas I started on but lost steam after very few words. Then I found one I liked and was going gangbusters until I just sort of hit a wall and haven’t come out since.

    Checking the attitude, checking whether I’ve made it important to write, checking on all the stuff you’ve mentioned, should help. But I’ve been wondering what the heck happened. Maybe your building progression will inspire me to break through. 🙂

    Can’t wait!