Challenge,  On Writing

Writing Four Novels in a Month…


This challenge is nothing new for me, but since I did this challenge the first time, I have felt that I have slowly lost control of my time in general and writing time in particular. And I can’t think of a better way to snap back into controlling my time and my sense of time than a writing challenge. Not challenging anyone else or suggesting any of you even try this. Just doing this for myself.

My challenge is to write four novels in July.

Pretty simple. I write 40,000 word novels, so about 160,000 words of fiction. (Pulp Speed 4, but with also doing these blogs to form a book, I will end up over Pulp Speed 5 for a month.)

As I said, I have done this exact challenge before and hit it. Actually wrote a fifth novel the first week of August. I remember it was a blast. Hit and stayed in ground effect the entire time with my writing. I also did a challenge of writing a short story a day for the month of July another year. Hit that as well with 32 stories and you can find all that including the stories in the book STORIES FROM JULY.

With a different opening, todays blog will be part of the prolog to the book WRITING FOUR NOVELS IN A MONTH. And through this month I will talk a great deal here about the ups and downs, and writer thinking. Each day will be one short chapter. Not so much about my day, but focused on how I found the time each day to write for five hours.


Besides questioning my sanity, which is my critical voice trying to stop me, I am breaking down my day. In classes over the years I have told writers to do this exact same thing. If you can’t find the time to write, just break your day into 15 minute segments and trust me, you will find time.

I started with looking at the big stuff and giving each an average segment of time in my normal day.

— Sleep, eating, things like that takes up about half my day in one way or another. Give or take.

— I have regular email and workshop stuff to do. Varies by the day of the week.

— And Kris and I just moved, so we have two other condos to finish moving out of and get cleaned and ready to depart by the end of July. That will take a couple hours a day for the entire month, but also be good exercise. Good stuff to do on a break from the screen

— I also have exercise to ramp up slowly to get ready for runs this fall, but my focus in July is ramping down food and weight, so the exercise will take some time, but not as much as August and September.

So when I got done with looking at the big stuff, I looked for other distractions during the month. All are just a few hours here and a few hours there. A movie, a show, fun things, and dinners with friends and such. Nothing that would get in the way since I have flex time in some of the other big areas.

And Kris is planning on being very, very busy this month as well, so all good there. This will keep me out of her way.


I don’t plan my books at all, but got some fun series I would like to write in, and I am excited about writing in those series once again. So feeling very excited to write. No idea what, but ready to roll in this new office.

After I get through openings of each book, I tend to write at a speed of about 1,300 to 1,500 words per hour with a five minute break. Less than a thousand words per hour on openings. Depth cycling.

So on average, a 40,000 word book should take me about 30 hours to write.  About 4.5 hours per day doing a novel a week. About 6,000 words a day on average.

All those numbers will be goalposts along the way. Mostly I’ll try to hit the 6,000 words. A nice easy number to figure as I go along.

I will do 15 minute segments as well as numbers of hours segments each day, depending on the day.  No set time, just when I have 15 minutes to spare.


Do I have enough hours in my day to do this for a month? Some days will be a little harder, but if I stop whining and take back control of my own time just a little, I will have more than enough time each day to do this.

And it will be so much fun writing  that controlling the time will get easier after a very short ramp up.

Back tomorrow with the rest of this prolog chapter before I ramp up the challenge on July 1st.



  • Mihnea+Manduteanu

    I just finished a collection class and tomorrow I will publish my first one. Thank you for that. Couldn’t have done it without you. I am also just hitting full stride with the Great Challenge, so I am getting confident about my short story output. I did 14 in the past 19 days, which is not half bad I guess. So I want to try, in July, since it’s also my birthday, to maybe do half of what you will do. So two novels. For the past months I have been very comfortable with 2.5 hours per day and 3k words per day, never missed it, so if I just find another hour each day I might jus tbe able to hit it.
    Once again, thanks for the inspiration and motivation and I want to try and tag along in July.

  • MJ

    Just heard about you from medium post August Birch Analysis Paralysis. I have 100 how to write books, 28 years of nonwriting. Your strategy and challenge I will adapt.
    Best wishes on your success, let the wild rumpus start!

  • Philip

    I love how you break the day down into bite-sized chunks. I took your video lecture on finding time to write and it was very helpful.

    For those of us who work a full time job, other than writing as a full time job, I’d guess our equivalent of this challenge might be something like complete 2 novels in a month. Or even 1 novel a month. I’m working on 35,000-word westerns, and I can finish one in between day job and kids across about 2 weeks, so 2 per month. That’s 24 books at the end of a year, not including short stories which I love to write.

  • Jamie DeBree

    “but if I stop whining and take back control of my own time just a little, I will have more than enough time each day to do this.”

    Dammit. Truth hurts (me, in this case). *sigh*

  • Terry Heath

    Wow. That seems like a real undertaking. I had just heard about “How to Write a Novel in Half a Month” and came here to check out your blog. Now you’re doubling down? It’s inspiring. I think. I don’t know. I’m a little frightened too. I’ll be watching and maybe even trying to follow in your footsteps, but maybe at about quarter speed.

  • Kimberly Sue Iverson

    I don’t see you not hitting that goal, but I still wish you good luck. That’s a good challenge.

    You caused me to consider how long my writing is on average to finish a book. With my schedule and day, I can only handle an hour a day for writing itself. I can finished a novel in 3 months, which is only an average of 60-80 hours. That’s because of you, and your wife’s comments, posts, and her book on perfection. Now I need to learn to edit faster. Slowly getting there. That too, takes me about 3 months of average, but more hours in a day overall.

    • dwsmith

      And Kimberly, a whole bunch of people who know me just shouted “Incoming” and ducked. (grin)

      Imagine that when you finished the book in three months, it was finished and you just released it? Then instead of wasting three months because of fear, you actually wrote another book.

      Rewriting and editing only makes a book worse. Never better. Rewriting is a myth taught by those who can’t write and also it is a myth pushed to make you go away.

      Why write sloppy the first time through? Why not put it down cleanly and then just trust it when you are finished. Spell check and give it to one first reader to find typos.

      Stop writing sloppy. You will be stunned at how much better your books become.

  • Sheila

    “if I stop whining and take back control of my own time just a little”

    Pretty sure this is the true secret of the universe. I may get it tattooed somewhere I can see it daily. Or just write it down and look at it often. 🙂

    Good luck, and rest up from moving. lol