How To Push Past The Bullshit And Write That Goddamn Novel: A Very Simple No-Fuckery Writing Plan To Get Shit Done

Life will never be kind to the writer. Particularly those who stay at home. You go to a full-time job outside the house, everyone gives you a wide berth to let you do what you need to do. Stay at home to write a book and everybody interrupts you like all you’re doing is watching a Teen Mom marathon on MTV while chowing down on pizza-flavored Combos and Haagen-Daaz.

Life intrudes upon you. It kicks down the door and stomps all over a writer’s practical aspirations to write. Kids. Dogs. A full-time job. A part-time job. Cleaning. Cooking. Pubic grooming. Xenomorph invasion. Hallucinations. Masturbation. LIQUOR AND MONKEY WRESTLING.

As your shoulders bear the burden of carrying the multiple shit-sacks of life’s daily ordure output, it gets easier and easier to push writing aside: “I’ll do that tomorrow,” you say, and next thing you know you’re in diapers once more, this time at an old folks’ home gumming chocolate pudding topped with a skin so thick you need scissors to cut it. Procrastination is the affirmation of an unpleasant and unwelcome but all-too-easy status quo. You merely need to do nothing and yet at the same time feel productive because you’ve promised no really I’ll pinky swear to put down some words tomorrow. You know what I want to say to that?

Tomorrow can guzzle a bucket of vulture barf.

Yesterday’s gone the way of the dodo. You have one day, and it is today.

Your promises are as hollow as a cheap-ass dollar-store chocolate Easter Bunny.

I’m going to give you literally no excuse at all to write and finish that novel. You know the one. The one that lives in your head and your heart but not on the page. The one you always say, “I’m going to write that book someday.” The one you talk about. But not the one you write. The one that makes you blah blah blah “aspiring” rather than the “real deal.” I’m going to give you a prescription for a writing plan that is simple, straightforward, and contains zero heinous fuckery. It’s so easy, a determined ten-year-old could do it. You will have no excuse. None. Zip.

Fuck-all.

Because if you come back to me and say, “I can’t do that,” you might as well have told me, “I can’t pick myself up out of this pile of mule poop I accidentally rolled in. I’m literally just bound to lay here in this once-warm now-cold heap of mule turds. Forever. Until I die. I have no self-capability and I am less motivated than your average sea cucumber. Please kick dirt on me, and if the word writer ever comes out of my mouth again, just slap my face.”

Further, if someone tells you they aren’t able to write a novel — “I don’t have time! My life is too busy!” — just send them a link to this post with my blessing.

Ready? Here’s the rules:

The Big 350

You’re going to write and finish the first draft of a novel in one year’s time.

You are going to do this by writing five days out of the week, or 260 days out of the year.

You are going to write 350 words on each of those 260 days.

That means, at the end of one year, you will have written 91,000 words.

More than enough for an average novel length.

To be clear, 350 words? Not a lot. At this point in your reading, this post is already 500 words long. You can sneeze 350 words. It’s like a word appetizer every day. Some days it’ll take you 15 minutes, other days two hours — but you’re going to commit to those 350 words every day, whether you type them out, or scrawl them in a notebook, or chisel them into the wall of your prison cell. You will carve these words out of the time you are given.

You get 24 hours a day. As do I. As do we all.

Grab a little time to write a little bit every day.

The Goal

The goal is not to write a masterpiece. It’s not to sprint. This ain’t NaNoWriMo. The goal is to finish a novel despite a life that seems hell-bent to let you do no such thing. It is you snatching snippets of word count from the air and smooshing them together until they form a cohesive (if not coherent) whole. It assumes a “slow and steady wins the race” approach to this book.

A finished first draft. That is the brass ring, the crown jewels, the Cup of the Dead Hippie God.

The Other Rules

No other rules exist. Next question.

Things To Consider

Wanna do an outline? Great, go for it. Edit as you go or all in one lump? I don’t give a monkey’s poop-caked paw how you approach it. Do as you like. Just hit your target of 350 words per day.

Let me say that again: Just hit your target. Don’t turn off your targeting computer. Don’t listen to that weird old man. Use your targeting computer, Luke. The Force is some flimsy hoo-haw made by a bunch of loveless space cenobites. No, not those cenobites, goddamnit you’re confusing your movies. Stop fiddling with that ornate-looking puzzle box. CRIMINY.

Wrote more than your allotted and expected count in one day? Fuck yeah. High-five. Fist-bump. Slap-and-tickle. Give unto yourself the pleasures of the flesh and celebrate that you’re this much closer to the end goal. Didn’t write today? Well, goddamnit. Fine. Guess what? It’s only 350 words. Cram it into tomorrow’s word-hole. That’s still only 700 words. It’s not even a 1000 words. Some writers write that much before they wake up in the morning.

Make a spreadsheet if you have to. Track your 350 words per day (you’ll probably end up writing more than that consistently and hitting your tally quicker, particularly with a spreadsheet to remind you — you will discover it’s actually hard to stop at 350 words).

The word count is small enough and steady enough where you can comfortably fuck doubt right in the ear. You’re creeping through the draft like a burglar. One step at a time. Relax. Breathe. Like that one fish says to that other fish in the movie about all the fucking fish: Just keep swimming. Or for a differnt metaphor, you know how you eat an elephant? ONE BITE AT A TIME.

Contains Zero Fuckery

This is easy! You can do this! You can do better than this! This is a plan on par with, “Do one push-up every day.” This is, “Don’t pee on the salad bar.” This is a bare minimum, common denominator, common sense, zero fuckery writing plan. You can’t do this, you don’t want to be a writer. You don’t get to be a writer. Not least of all because you can’t carve just a little bit of fat from your day to sizzle up 350 words in your story-skillet.

Lend this plan a little bit of your time.

Give this plan a little bit of your effort.

And in one year’s time, you will have a novel.

It won’t be a masterpiece.

It will need editing.

But it’ll be a first draft of something real.

Something many so-called “writers” never achieve.

One year.

Weekends off.

Just 350 words for 260 days.

Shut up and write.

(EDIT: Did a graphic for this:)

(Feel free to share!)

329 comments

  • What a great idea! 350 words is feasible and something I can do, even with a full time job. Thank you so much for your blog!! You always give me a kick in the butt when I need it, but also give great writing tips like nothing I’ve ever heard/read before!! 😀

  • Well, I would just like you all to know, especially you, oh mighty Wendigo, that this post gave me some of the gumption it took to make me bunker down and finish my shit. I actually did it. No, I have not been doing the suggested 350 words a day – I’ve been so excited about finish this damn thing that I often have exceeded 3,000 per day. In the fuzzy hours of around 3am last night, my full first draft was dragged kicking and screaming into being.
    Thanks Chuck, for all the wondrous kicks in the pants.

  • Chuck you are a great inspiration. I love your blog and the no nonsense kick ass approach to writing. Too many people make excuses. I’m a full time mum, wife and employee and I’ve written seven novels in less than a year by just hunkering down and using every minute I have to write, write, write. Sure, I ignored my family, my social life went down to a ball of crap, I didn’t eat (a pleasing side affect has been the weight loss) and everyone thinks I’m crazy but….(don’t try this at home if it will make trouble for you lol) I even found a publisher to take them all on. So I’m living proof if you stop the effing about, you can do it.
    Great site, great advice.

  • I need to read and re-read this every day in order to follow this credo. Yes, I will! Yes, I will! Yes, I will…

  • I just joined because I have been looking for like-minded people out there who have written a novel (yes, many, many words long) who are jumping into pumping energy into book 2 in the planned trilogy and give each other inspiration. I am not into whining and whinging about family and not enough hours and long work days – I HAVE ALL THAT ALREADY! Just encouragement to keep going and pushing forward to finally see my trilogy up on shelves in book stores. C’mon encourage folks because it can get very lonely and disheartening out there in the wide, wild literary world. Thank you, Chuck for reigniting the fire and making me feel like I can bloody-well do this!

  • Yay! Wrote my outline for the first half yesterday, and my writer friend gave me this link for this. Now I have goal!

  • Loved this. It was totally inspiring despite the fact I have already written nearly 200,000 words of my first draft…do I hear EDIT?…and am writing the 2nd draft while revising. Sure, I have time, but I have many distractions because my brain needs time out from the constant running prattle in my head. That prattle is the meat of my writing; I think about my story constantly. Sometimes it is quite annoying.

  • Oh I love this. My goal has been 800 words for the part three months, 6 days a week and it’s made all the difference. Once I got into the rhythm it surprises me how often I blast past my daily goal. Great graphic as well.

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