How to write a novel in 41 days

So how do you write a novel in 41 days? Real answer: I have no idea. But here’s my best guess. See, I wrote a short story two months ago called “I Like Your Neck.” It was about an awkward newbie vampire named Celia who falls in love with the smell of her neighbor’s blood. I sent the story off to a magazine, and the editor wrote me back. She said the story was great, but they couldn’t use it. Furthermore, she said “I Like Your Neck” should really be a novel.

At the time, I was disgruntled, because I’d just given up on a novel, and I really didn’t want to dedicate another six months on several thousand words that would surely suck my energy and soul. I gave it some thought but didn’t take the comment seriously until I mentioned the suggestion to one of my first readers, Dan, who responded: “Well, of course it should be a novel.”

Well, shit.

I started writing “Bite Somebody: A Bloodsucker’s Diary” in late May, and I finished it yesterday. Nobody is as shocked as me. I’ve never written a full-length novel so quickly before, which made me wonder: what made this one so easy? And don’t say, “It’s obviously just a piece of crap,” because it isn’t. I know it’s only a first draft, but I think “Bite Somebody” is really good.

In honor of my completed manuscript, I offer you some ideas on how to write something you love—and write it fast.

1. Love your setting.
I want to live on a beach, but I don’t. I live in a desert. That said, every April, I meet my Aunt Susie on Longboat Key on the Gulf Coast of Florida. There, we lay on the beach, swim, and drink rum punches. In order to spend more time in Florida, I set “Bite Somebody” on the fictional Admiral Key and therefore got to spend 41 days living on the beach with Celia. Because of her beach habitation, I woke up every morning wanting to go back to work—in a way, go back on vacation.

sleeping gull

2. Know your song.
Bob Marley’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” is the theme song to “Bite Somebody.” This might give you some idea as to what kind of vampire novel I’ve written. No one’s sultry. There are very few deep thoughts. Plus, Bob Marley is beachy, and in a book involving the beach, a hot ex-surfer, and Mary Jane, no song fit better. Every morning, before I opened Word, I listed to Bob. If I ever felt my attention waning, I listened to Bob. Bob was my anthem.

3. Love your lead.
Celia is a recovering fat kid, turned by a male vampire in a drunken stupor due to her red hair. She is obsessed with 80s movies and works at an all-night gas station called “Happy Gas.” She has no self-confidence, and her favorite film is Pretty Woman. (She dreams of being rescued by her own white knight.) Celia falls in love with the scent of her new neighbor, Ian Hasselback, and as she fights for fang control, she is shocked by his attentions. The Hot Guy has never liked her before. I wrote “Bite Somebody” as Celia’s journal, so I got to talk like her for 72,000 words. She says things no one should, and she’s painfully awkward. She’s basically me off medication. How freeing to write all the things I keep to myself! Talk about catharsis!

teeth

4. Love your romantic interest.
Ian Hasselback: ex-champion surfer, pothead, computer nerd, and really nice guy. He’s an accurate portrayal of my husband if he’d been hit in the head a lot as a kid. I’m not saying Ian’s dumb; he’s just chill. He’s funny, too, and he finds Celia to be fascinating. Let’s be honest: I have a huge crush on Ian. I think this is key to writing romance. If you don’t love your romantic interest, why should your lead character? Although I loved playing the voice of Celia, I loved being with Ian. He’s fun to hang out with … and the sex scenes weren’t bad either.

ian

5. Laugh a lot.
This conclusion is directed to people writing comedy. I don’t want you to laugh a lot if you’re writing, like, Gone with the Wind, redux. The writers of Sex and the City used to sit together in one room and type. They would read each other lines, and if they couldn’t make each other choke on coffee, the scene wasn’t worth it. That’s how it went with “Bite Somebody.” If I wasn’t making myself laugh—loud, freakish guffaws—I cut the scene and started over. I’ve never written a book this funny before, and it kept me coming back, no matter my mood, because if I felt down, I’d feel up by the time I had a couple paragraphs under my belt.

stoned

6. Know the ending.
I knew the last line before I started page one of “Bite Somebody.” This sounds dubious, I know, but it’s true. I therefore knew exactly where I had to go, and I looked forward to it with every passing page. Every page led up to a final line, and I was excited to reach that final line. I always think about Michael Douglas in Wonderboys—how he couldn’t finish his manuscript because he “couldn’t stop.” Know your beginning, middle, and end. That way, you can stop eventually and enjoy the ride to the end of the line.

“Bite Somebody” will now be scrutinized by my meanest critic: me. Once I’ve done a read-through, Celia and Ian go out to my first readers. God help us. And happy writing to you!

8 thoughts on “How to write a novel in 41 days

  1. Congratulations!! ^_^
    I don’t think first drafts have to suck no matter how fast we write them. I love the title, and these are all really good ideas as well. I had a theme song with my last project for the first time, and it really does help you with the mood of your story! I’m working on a playlist for my next project. 🙂

  2. I’m so excited to read more of it, also. I love to laugh when I read and it is a wonderful escape sometimes. Love, Mom

  3. Pingback: My novel has been picked up by a publishing house | Sara Dobie Bauer's Blog

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