How to Write Three Novels a Year in Your Spare Time

How to Write Three Novels a Year in Your Spare Time

This blog article is for all the writers who are wondering what I’m talking about when I claim to know how they can write three novels a year in their meager spare time. I’m not talking about 50K novellas masquerading as novels. I’m talking real books, around 80K words minimum.

The math is actually simple. There’s no trick, or rather, there’s one big trick: Developing enough self-discipline to sit down and write for one hour a day.

Before I get too far into this, let me offer some statistics on my own writing. I started self-publishing in June 2011. By June 2012, I had published 15 novels, including two non-fiction (a pet biography titled “An Angel With Fur” and a writing self-help parody, “How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time”), two trilogies, and a slew of thrillers. These were not short pieces either. My average thriller runs 85K-90K words.

Here’s how I did it: I committed myself to writing seven days a week, twelve hours a day. I figured I would do that for three or four months, then slow the pace, but I got carried away and kept it up for a year, mainly to set a kind of personal best. The truth is it became a habit. Not necessarily a healthy habit, as sitting in one place for twelve hours a day isn’t the best thing for your physiology, but it is what it is, and I’m still in one piece.

I’m not a whiz typist. If I can manage 700 words of decent quality work in an hour, I’m happy. Then I’d take a few weeks off and edit what I’d written, then spend some time plotting the next one, and then I’d dive in again.

I have a very special situation. I don’t work a day job, so I can do this. I recognize most can’t. That brings me full circle back to the topic of this blog.

Can you write three novels a year, say an average of 80K words each? Of course, you can.

Commit to spending one hour a day, every day, to writing your novel. If you are slightly better than I am (which wouldn’t be hard, really, as my typing sucks), you could average 800 words per hour. Multiply that by 300 days. Presto! You have three 80K word novels.

All you have to do is develop the discipline to write one lousy hour a day. That’s it. And you can take 65 days off per year from writing, and use 5 or 10 to plot the next one, and another 12 to edit what you just wrote. When you’re editing/rewriting, spend two hours a day. This will pay off and seem like not a whole lot after you’ve gotten good at writing 800 words every day.

Part of the secret is the preparation. I do a two or three paragraph outline of the high concept of my book idea, and then I do single sentence descriptions of each chapter, telling the story in snippets from beginning to end. Nothing fancy. Here’s an example:

Chapter 1, car explodes; protagonist introduced; bad guys chase her to mine; she escapes.

Chapter 2, flashback to claustrophobic accident as child; sibling dies but she is saved; flashback to present; she breaks into daylight at end of Chapter 2.

And so on…

That way I know roughly what I want to accomplish with each chapter, and I can estimate the number of words it will take. 2K. 3K. Whatever.

Then I sit down, and I start writing. I keep writing until I’m done. I don’t edit as I go along, and I don’t spend a lot of time agonizing over the perfect sentence. I have good days and bad days. I catch the bad days on rewrite. The good days tend to outnumber the bad ones so far.

Can this simple recipe actually work for you? Sure it can. Why not? It’s not superhuman. It doesn’t assume you’re Hemingway or some kind of writing ninja. It merely assumes you’re willing to devote an hour a day to your craft, and commit to it without making excuses or finding reasons not to write.

If that seems like too much, you can write two novels a year, and have more like 150 days where you aren’t writing – where you’re editing, or outlining, or researching, or just relaxing. The point is that you need to commit, focus yourself for an hour, then write, come hell or high water. If you want to be a writer, you need to write. An hour a day isn’t a marathon. It’s actually not much at all. Virtually anyone could manage it.

So here’s a question and a challenge. What are you waiting for? What’s your excuse for not being a writer? If you’re not writing your novel after reading this, you have no excuse. Stop telling yourself you have nothing to write about. Everyone has something to write about.

Now you know what you need to do. Have at it.

Russell Blake is the author of Fatal Exchange, The Geronimo Breach, the Zero Sum trilogy of Wall Street thrillers, Night of the Assassin, King of Swords, Revenge of the Assassin, Return of the Assassin, The Delphi Chronicle trilogy, The Voynich Cypher, An Angel With Fur, How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (even if drunk, high or incarcerated), and his latest, releasing July 23, Silver Justice. His blog can be found at and his books can be purchased at Amazon, where his author page lists his full backlist at

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