Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing,  Topic of the Night,  Writing in Public

Topic of the Night: Writing a Novel in Seven Days: Epilogue



The Challenge Was 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.

Looking Back

The Writing of The Idanha Hotel: A Thunder Mountain Novel

Day 1… 3,700 words.   Total words so far… 3,700 words.
Day 2… 5,100 words.  Total words so far… 8,800 words.
Day 3… 5,600 words.   Total words so far… 14,400 words.
Day 4… 6,050 words.  Total words so far… 20,450 words.
Day 5… 7,500 words.  Total words so far… 27,950 words.
Day 6… 8,050 words.  Total words so far… 36,050 words.
Day 7… 7,000 words.  Total words … 43,050 words.

Killing Some Myths

All kinds of fun stuff about this challenge.

Myth #1 Shattered

First off, as I said way back in the opening of all this, my first thought when I heard this challenge was that I was too old.

For the record, I am 65 years old.

I had always read about how some of the great writers would do books about this length in a week or less. I always admired those writers and when I was going full force in traditional, I wrote at good speed for that system for decades.

But it was never close to what my heroes from the past had done. And as I got older and the new world of indie publishing started to open back up the freedom again, I just assumed I was too old.

So I went to something easy such as filling 70,000 words of my own magazine every month with only my stories. And including a novel every month and short stories and serial novels and features.


I am the only writer in history to do that. Or even attempt it.

This novel I just finished will be in Smith’s Monthly #30. And I’m still going.

But I still thought I was too old for this sort of writing focus and speed.

Turns out that was a myth I was believing. Total myth.

In fact, this wasn’t even stressful in the slightest. My hands didn’t get sore, my back is fine, everything I had been worried about turned out to be my critical voice trying to stop me on this.

Creative voice won that battle. Critical voice is whimpering in the corner.

Myth #2 Shattered

I hear all the time the excuse of “I have a day job so I can’t write like you do.”

Often I am insulted at that, but I never say anything. No point because it is a myth the writer is holding to help them not write. Their critical voice is winning completely and that’s not my fault they let it.

Not my fault another writer is not writing.

So what did I prove in this week of writing a novel about the day job excuse/myth?

Well, I worked 44 hours at my day job. In case some of you don’t know, I am the CFO of WMG Publishing and I am helping starting the store wing of the company. I do all the banking, errands, mail, and everything else, including teaching workshops and answering all the questions about them.

I usually work around 50 hours a week when counting the workshops I teach, but this week I got it down to only 44 hours.

So if you are using a day job excuse to stop your writing, you might want to start clearing out that myth. It’s just your critical voice finding an acceptable way to keep you from writing.

And if that makes you angry at me, might want to check in with yourself. You have some defense issues on this topic because trust me, your day job is no harder or easier than mine.

And at least you get paid for yours.

Myth #3 Shattered

I wrote a 43,000 word novel in 36.5 total hours of writing. (I’m counting another 7,000 words of writing nonfiction in the day job hours.)

Just under 1,200 words of fiction per total hour of writing. However, I did all that in many, many sessions.

In fact, I did 42 sessions to write the 43,000 words. Or about 1,025 words per session.

Each writing session averaged .86th of an hour.  Or about 50 minutes per session.

In other words, I typed at the blazing speed of 20.5 words per minute.

And that was all finished draft.

I printed up the book when I finished it and gave it to Kris to read. It will be turned into WMG Publishing for copyediting in a day or so. I’m not going to touch it again except to fix a typo or so that Kris finds.

So all the writers who think they have to write sloppy during NanoWriMo to get the words done, I just showed you how to not do that.

Write, finish, and release.

And right there a bunch of writers are screaming about how they could never do that, or that I am a mutant so I can do this, or that my books have to be bad because I wrote it fast without rewriting it, and so on and so on.

Actually, doing this has to plow into a bunch of the myths I wrote about in Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing. 

So if you are finding yourself making excuses about how you could never do this, stop and check in and ask where the belief system you are spouting is coming from.

Just trying to be helpful.

So In Summary

A 65-year-old-man just took time around his 44 hours of day job to write 42 sessions and start and finish a novel in one week.

Without an outline, writing into the dark completely, only one draft.

And the old guy has the audacity to say it was fun.

And horrors of horrors, he actually took a nap every day and watched a lot of television as well. And he cooked dinner four of the seven days.


How can all that be possible?

Because it was fun, that’s how I did it. The writing was fun.

Will I do it again? Oh, sure.

But next time I won’t make any big deal out of it. Next time it will just be part of my regular writing, now that I have proven to myself that I can do it and cleared out the age myth.

And I hope I have proven that anyone can do it easily. You just have to get rid of all the excuses, the myths, the belief that you can’t do it.

You can do it.

With a day job.

When you are on Medicare and Social Security, and still watch television every day and get a nap and a full-night’s sleep.

I just showed you it is completely possible.

And it really is a lot of fun.




  • Sean McLachlan

    Congratulations on making the challenge! I totally agree on NaNo. Too many writers use that as an excuse to write sloppy. When I first tried NaNo three years ago, I decided I wanted to write a GOOD novel in a month. It came out to 82,000 words and virtually nothing got changed in the final draft except fixing typos. Oh, and I blogged three times a week on my own blog and once a week over at Black Gate. Plus I did a bunch of nonfiction writing. Some people in my writing group insist that writing has to be slow but I’m always telling them, “Writing a book doesn’t take a set amount of time, it takes a set amount of effort. Work on putting that effort into a shorter time.” Not sure anyone listens. Oh well.

  • Jes

    I have to say you did kill my last myth of time being a factor and age. My practice lately when I write is writing clean first drafts, but it means I am writing less words per hour as I think through things as I go. My brain is a bit dyslectic and it’s logic is not the world’s logic so I have t unravel thoughts so anyone, but me understands them (and sometimes not even me ). I am not used to the slow going. Is this normal when first writing clean copy, does it get faster? I am hoping with practice it feel like I am writing at a better clip.
    You are a wonderful teacher and an amazing writer. Thank you so much for these writing in public posts.

    • dwsmith


      I suppose it would be normal to be slow, but the reality is that you are still letting in too much of the critical (I got to fix that) voice in and more than likely hurting your work. Just trust your subconscious to tell a story and then let it. Cycle back just once or so through what you have written and then keep moving forward.

      It will get faster, especially if you kill the critical voice trying to stop you.

  • Kate Pavelle

    Congratulations on finishing your challenge, Dean! (This just proves you’re a mutant. You had alluded to it yourself.) And you’ve done it because you’re 65, and there is a patience potion that comes with your AARP membership. (I’m fifty. I can join now! I can get my own patience potion!) Or heck, maybe I can just write more than 3k a day.
    And now back to writing, before I run into interference. Have a great day!

    • dwsmith

      Kate, actually, it’s the other way around. At 50 they give you a potion that makes you see clearly how fast time is going by and you lose all patience. Why else would I write a novel in seven days? (grin)

  • Gnondpom

    Congratulations Dean, and thanks for taking us along on the ride, it sure was fun to watch!

    It is funny how one person can be their worst enemy. When you presented this challenge I felt excited but also thought that you were most probably going to nail it (unless some unpredictable life event prevented you). And I’m sure many readers of your blog felt the same way, in fact several people commented so. Especially after watching you write a short story every single night last July (I guess lasting for a whole month must be harder than focusing for a week, even if the word count is lower).

    So it is funny that the only person who didn’t really believe in you was yourself. And I’ve seen that very often, we usually are the worst judge of our own qualities. We tend to think that what we do is just easy (of course, if we can do it, so it means that it is easy!), whereas other people are amazed by what we do (since it would be difficult for them). And it is so much more comfortable to not challenge yourself, to just think “He can pull it off because he is Dean Wesley Smith, but I could never do something like that.” And if you don’t try of course you’re not going to fail, but you’re not going to succeed either.

    From your blog it seems that you are a very persistent person, who loves a challenge (I mean, who else can blog for over 900 days in a row?), so your success was very predictable from the outside. Which does not make it any less amazing!

    • dwsmith

      Gnonpom, absolutely we are the worst judges of our own work. And especially early on. Some beginning writer tells me they are rewriting to make their story better and I want to always ask, “How do you know?”

      They don’t. The key is to have fun and even not getting as many words as hoped for, that’s still words and success.

  • Gary Speer

    Fantastic. Your “epilogue” here really brings it all together nicely.

    I especially appreciate the way you smacked that age myth around, Dean. That’s an issue I’ve got to overcome. I’ll be 69 in August. And that nasty little critical voice keeps murmuring and whispering to me constantly that I’m too old and arthritic to tackle such a tightly focused project as a novel in a week — or even two or three weeks.

    So excuse me while I switch over to my writing computer and start working at it.

    Thanks so much for all you’ve done here. Encouraging!

    The Old Guy

    • dwsmith

      Thanks, Gary. I expect to feel even younger at 69. Seems that writing isn’t a young person’s game after all, huh?

  • Dane Tyler

    Great job getting to the finish line, and showing us a path we can trod if we dedicate ourselves. It means a lot, Dean, and it was almost as much fun to watch as to do.

  • Kevin Riley

    Congrats! I still maintain that I cannot do the same thing at this time, but I am getting better a getting out of the way of my critical voice, especially when I write every day. I’m still a slow writer (~ 500 words/hour) but I’m getting faster.

  • robert bucchianeri

    Here’s an article on one of the most successful author’s in the world, Lee Child’s process. Sounds a whole lot like yours. He doesn’t have a clue where the novel is going when he starts and he only writes one draft. He takes longer(looks like around 7 months on and off) and only publishes a book a year but I guess he doesn’t have to bother with writing faster because the Reacher books sell in the multimillions. Anyway, another confirmation that your method works…

    • dwsmith

      Thanks, Robert. Yeah, knew about Childs and a dozen other of the top-selling writers. The difference with Childs is that he is like me. He sees no reason to play into the myths. He just says flat out what he does and doesn’t care what other people think.

    • JS

      You guys and writing in the dark not knowing where the story is going … you’ve been doing it long enough you have the plot structure and story charted out by habit. No need to write it down so you save a huge amount of time. You know you need the protagonist to do this or find that, some action must happen every ten pages, and the villain needs to do something at several key turns. Describing it as the muse causing the characters to write in some direction is as romantic as the notion of toiling for months to write a good book. “no plan writing” should really be on the myth list. 🙂

      • dwsmith

        JS, wow it worked that way. Not a chance, sadly. It would be so much easier I assume if all books were exactly the same as you imply and we could just plug in like coloring between the lines.

        Actually, come to think about it, that would be boring. But if you need that belief system to keep yourself outlining, no problem. But you are flat wrong that it happens that way. Sorry.

  • JS

    I expected that age gives you wings not slows you down, at least at 65. Compared to writing when I was 20 vs approaching 50? Much different, much faster now than then.