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

Topic of the Night: Writing a Novel in Seven Days… Prologue



This is going to be fun.

That’s how I am going at this new project and these chapters leading up to the challenge and the challenge itself.

I will be doing a chapter a day here on my blog through the writing of the entire novel, so you can follow along with the time involved, the thinking behind the idea to do a novel in seven days, the preparation, and everything else.

And I will detail out the writing sessions as well as I start up.

Today is Tuesday night, and I plan on starting writing on Saturday night. So a decent amount of time to try to clear some decks and get ready.

The Coming Challenge

What is this challenge? Actually, a professional writer friend of mine heard about some people trying this and after a long winter of not doing much writing, I thought it would get me back at the pace I want to write.

But when I first heard the idea, I have to admit I just shook my head. And my first thought was, “I could do that when I was younger.”

Not kidding, that’s what I thought.

So as I describe this simple challenge I’m going to try, check in to see what your first thoughts are.


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, you will have a 42,000 word novel.

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

7 Days.

Yup, my first thought was that I was too old to do that. I’m 65 and working more than a full-time job at starting stores and working at WMG Publishing. So I initially just shook my head and tried to forget the idea.

But this idea has a really bad mind-worm attached to it I’m afraid.

And I really needed something to fire me up and get me back on my normal pace of writing. Back to pulp speed on the fiction.

So for me, this will work out just fine. Sort of attaching jumper cables to my sluggish writing battery.

And I am not too old to do this.

My Thinking

Here is my thinking on approaching this challenge out here in public.

1… I make it all the way though I’ll have finished another novel for Smith’s Monthly. 

That would be a win.

2… The challenge and the run-up to starting it will focus my mind away from starting the store and back onto writing where it needs to be. And where I want it to be.

That would be a win.

3… Since I can average about 1,000 words per hour, this will take about 42 hours out of my week. And another ten hours doing these blogs (That will also become a book.) That is possible, but it means I will have to be careful on doing other things that week. In other words, figuring out where I am losing time and bad habits and clearing that out. Create new habits around writing as I go.

That would be a win.

4… Even if I only get 30,000 words done before getting sidetracked or ending face-down on my keyboard, I will have 30,000 words done and that is failing to success.

And that would be a win.

5… And if I can actually get through the seven days and blog about it here every night, just as I did with the book How to Write a Novel in Ten Days, then I will have another short nonfiction book with these blogs that might help writers. If nothing else, it might help a few of you reading it here. Or at least be entertaining in watching the silliness.

And that would be a win.

So all wins.

Where I See Problems

First off, I have online workshops to teach while this is going on. The really rough night of those for March is Monday night. And in the challenge, Monday night is a 5,000 word night in the challenge.

I can do that, but it will be a focus and not a lot of watching The Voice.

Also, I have recording to do of the last week of the Dialog workshop and the first few weeks of the Author Voice workshop. I’m going to do my best to get that done ahead of time. I’ll talk about that in the next chapter.

And I need to start the April workshops which is some work and that will be one of the last two days. Nothing I can do about that in timing.

I also have standard WMG Publishing meetings and my normal chores at WMG, so that will take time during the day as well. And on Monday we have the last move of fixtures into the new store.

I’m sure I’m missing some things planned for next week. I know I will be done with this on Friday, one way or another because I have a party to attend in Portland on Saturday.

In the first chapter tomorrow, I’ll detail more about the challenge, and how to deal with so many of the problems. And how to even start to get ready for a challenge like this.

But I do have one thing set, something I don’t normally do. I know the book I’m going to write. (No real plot, just going to be writing in to the dark.) It’s a Thunder Mountain book and will be called The Idanha Hotel.

I wrote a short story in the Stories from July challenge by that name and Kris liked it and said it would be a great novel. That comment has stuck with me since July even though I thought it worked fine as a short story and didn’t needed to be added onto. So I’m going to write that novel, even though Thunder Mountain novels are complex and often take me more time.

Just another part of the challenge. (Can’t make this too easy, right?)

Guess I should have Allyson at WMG Publishing do a cover for this new nonfiction book and a cover for The Idanha Hotel as well. Always fun to have covers for books ahead of time.

Stay tuned. This will be fun as I repeat over and over I am not too old to do this.


  • Dane Tyler

    Boy oh boy, this is gonna be good! I can’t wait to see this! And when it’s all done and the dust is all settled, I’m going to buy both the new non-fic and the Novel in 10 Days book and read them back-to-back.

    A great and exciting challenge Dean! Best of success! We know you can do it. 🙂

  • Anita Cooper

    Love this idea, Dean. Looking forward to seeing how it goes.

    Would you say it’s easier to do this kind of a challenge jumping into a world you’ve already been into or does that matter?
    I watched you write short stories in July…quite amazed and inspired by that too…so I believe you can do this.

    Rooting for you!

    BTW: Thanks for passing on the mind-worm, Dean. Now I’ve caught it. (grin)

    • dwsmith

      Anita, not sure if going into a series is going to help or hurt. I do know that in the past writing a Thunder Mountain book for me always seemed to go slower. So planning on changing that I hope.

      And yeah, this adding a thousand word challenge can really get inside your head. One of the next few nights I’ll talk about why the structure of this works so well. Maybe explain why it does function as a mind-worm. (grin)

  • Russ

    Dean – this sounds like a fun event to watch. I think it could only be done by a writer with a lot of confidence in their writing ability. Thanks for doing this in front of us so we can cheer you on.

    • dwsmith

      Russ, not sure about the writing ability, but I do trust the process of creation. And I don’t much focus on the writing, which is typing words. I focus on storytelling which a ton more fun. (grin)

  • Kevin Riley

    My first thoughts? I’d love to do it, but it is not going to happen for me in the near future. My “day” job requires about 50 hours a week when I’m not traveling, so after spending time on other things that matter, I only get about 1-2 hours a day to write. I average about 400 words per hour, and by best has only been about 700, so 10,000 words a week would be a stretch.

  • Kim Iverson

    You can totally do it. And you’re not too old. Only too old when you believe you are, so none of that nonsense.

    I’ll be reading–as usual–every day. I know getting in 7k words a day is a chore, but easily doable so I’m interested in seeing how you progress from that. Back when I wrote only on the weekends, I would do that in the span of (average) 8 hours, and in between have to do household cleaning and things. That also gave my mind a break because it was usually one story on Saturday and a different one on Sunday. I quit because lack of time on the weekends and it was hard to jump start my brain after so long off. I’d imagine more butt-in-chair work to get over 7k words per day. Unless you can get those fingers to move faster, haha.

    I have to p.s. here and say thanks to you I have been chronicling my writing each day I write. It’s fun to read your thoughts on the writing or what is in your brain as you work. It’s inspiring too. I find my own brain focuses better as I do that too. I just don’t talk too much about my day since I’d be chatting more about laundry and cleaning up after dogs, lol. But thank you for doing these blogs. Love to read them, even if I don’t have the time to comment. 🙂

    • dwsmith

      Not faster fingers. My typing style has hit that max a while back. So it has to be more hours. And you are more than welcome. The focusing on the day and how it breaks down is a good way to get lost time back under control. So thanks!

  • Harvey

    Your How to Write a Novel in Ten Days was a major benefit to me back when I started all this. It showed me what was possible if you just Keep Coming Back. I found it not long after I found Heinlein’s Rules (in your HR lecture) and writing into the dark. That was April 2014. I started my first novel on October 21, 2014 and just finished my 14th (plus a novella) a few days ago. Already started a new novel, and writing a short story every week. I’ve already told all my followers about it and now about this new venture and strongly recommend they follow your posts with bated breath. Or not bated. I don’t care. (grin) Best of luck on this newest one, Dean, but as you say, pretty much anything will be “failure to success” at a minimum and a win-win either way. Get ’em!

  • allynh

    My Rule of 48.

    6 x 8 is 48

    So, 6 x 7 is 42. Just shoot for 6k a day, and you will have a 42k story in seven days.

    Concerning all the other stuff that you “have” to do. To be honest, you’ve taken a week off to go play cards, and didn’t think twice about the day job, etc…, so take a week off, and write a novel.

    Why over think it.

    Once a year, spend a month writing a story a day; July worked well. You then discover a bunch of novels that you can then write in a week over the year until the next July. This lets you focus on these occasional burst of writing to shake yourself out of any rut.

    It’s just another form of meditation, to take you out of your comfortable certainties.

  • EE Isherwood

    This inspires me. But I’m 45. What is the conversion for words per day when you are 20YYTD (years younger than Dean)? Do I have to add a couple thousand per day? Could be a real challenge for me toward the end. 🙂