Setting a year aside to complete your novel is a reasonable time-frame. If you approach this maturely and methodically, you should have no difficulty at all in producing a polished second draft after twelve months, which is ready for submission. Here’s how you go about it:
Month one: Excitement! Buy everything you need – maybe a nice new laptop and a paper notebook – and start doing your book research and plotting.
Month two: The heady thrill of finishing chapters one to three. All done and dusted. 10,000 solid words. Yay.
Month three: You really think that background you described in chapter two is believable? Really? Are you sure? Because it isn’t, you know.
Month four: Shit, shit, shit, the background is not believable and nothing in the book is working any more. Why write any more words when they’re all based on a flawed premise?
Month five: Take a holiday from writing.
Month six: Freelance work! Yay! Copywriting for a new bakery. Lovely money for writing facts about cake, not this stupid fiction.
Month seven: New chapters one to three completed, with new, believable, background. But somehow they are not as good as the previous ones you did, and you’re not sure why.
Month eight: Writer’s block. Cannot move forward with the new chapters. Whole book feels leaden. Your life feels leaden. The only thing you have energy for is complaining.
Month nine: You tell yourself it is fiction, for god’s sweet sake, it’s a work of imagination; if you wanted it to be totally believable, you would write three hundred words on honey-oat cupcakes and double choc fudge loaf. You go back to the first three chapters. Background doesn’t seem so stupid any more. You write chapter four.
Month ten: Panic! Your year is almost up. You write chapters five to ten. You now have fifty thousand words.
Month eleven: Fifty thousand words is not enough! You need seventy thousand. So in a final exhausting effort, you write the rest of the book, starting to write the ending when you are on sixty-five thousand words.
Month twelve: The book refuses to wrap up quickly. The ending takes another twenty thousand words, most of which are written in one final desperate sitting that ends at four a.m. You now have a completed novel that is eighty-five thousand words long. You are full of adrenaline, exhaustion, hope and despair. You put your novel away after backing it up on Google and every USB you can find. You brag about it on social media and get likes and loves, and then you go and lie down in a dark room for a few weeks.
Month thirteen: Editing month. Where did all these mistakes come from? They weren’t there in the first draft! The only thing that’s really working in this version is the background in chapter two.
The next blog post will focus on a more sensible way to write a book in a year, since this method (which I have tried) causes unhealthy levels of stress, and excessive consumption of wine.