Write Your Novel In A Year - Week 43: 3 Ways To Finish Your Draft Before The End Of The Year

Welcome to week 43 of Anthony's series that aims to help you write a novel in a year. Read last week's post here.

Goal setting

  1. Find a strategy for finishing your manuscript.
Breaking it down
Maybe you’ve got behind in your writing in the last few weeks or months. Or perhaps you’ve just hooked on to a great idea for a new story or novel – and want to get it down while the idea is still hot and fresh.

Whatever your reason for wanting to write faster, here are three methods to scale your word count and productivity in the next month.

1.  Nail it with Nano
National Novel Writing Month – or NaNoWriMo as it’s known – is a writing a challenge thousands of writers around the world take on every November.  The gauntlet? Write a 50,000-word novel, in just 30 days.

The initiative, launched in 1999, is today an Internet phenomenon. Some 350 novels written for NaNo have been snapped up by publishers. The idea is to fly by the seat of your pants – and just write!

If you’re going to take on the NaNoWriMo challenge, make sure you don’t skip a day. Once you get behind on your word count, it’s very difficult to get back on track.

You can join regional groups in your area – if you don’t fancy the idea of writing alone or just need to feed off the excitement and motivation of fellow writers. There are also online forums available.

So just follow your gut instinct on this one – either to get a rough draft down or to make up the missing word count on your existing manuscript.
2.  The Woodpecker Method
Woodpeckers peck at trees to find food or create a nest – there’s a reason to their rhythmic madness. The key to success in this method is simple: you have to be relentless and focused on your project.

It can be helpful if you have a stubborn plot problem or are faced with a challenging character. Once you’ve drilled through the hard exterior of the challenge, you’ll hopefully experience a breakthrough – you just keep pecking away.


In this method, don’t focus on time or word count. And don’t obsess about the bigger structure or plot of the story – you’re just making one hole at a time. So, set yourself a small objective and keep a laser-like focus on that objective.

Only once you’ve ‘broken’ that plot or character problem, can you move on to the next one. Again, one hole at a time.  While this may seem like a myopic approach, it can work for writers who are ‘all over the place’ or struggle to stay focused.
Source for gif

3.  The Slab System
With this system, you write a block or ‘slab’ of between 10,000 to 15,000 words a day almost as an uninterrupted narrative - it’s about momentum and ‘going the distance’.

‘When my horse is running good,’ William Faulkner famously said, ‘I don’t stop to give him sugar.’

This approach works well if you have lots of free time in your schedule or, better yet, have whole days at your disposal. If you can take a week or two away from the office or escape on a holiday on your own, this would probably be ideal.

For those of us who have to hold down a job or have family commitments, you could block out a weekend, which means you could conceivably push out 20,000 to 30,000 words in just two days. But you’d really have to be committed to writing the whole day: from dawn to midnight with short breaks.

Timelock — You decide

You can decide what your writing schedule looks like for the next few weeks.

5 Quick Hacks
  1. Turn off your Internet connection and put your phone on silent when you write.
  2. Keep some easy, healthy snacks nearby, and a flask of coffee or tea to keep you going.
  3. Keep a small notebook to record your daily word count - celebrate the small victories.
  4. And plan a bigger celebration for the end of your writing stint – perhaps a movie or a nice meal out with your family and friends.
  5. Always remember, as we say in Writers Write, ‘You have permission to write badly.’
Pin it, quote it, believe it:

‘I write fast because I have not the brains to write slow.’ — Georges Simenon

Look out for next week’s instalment of Write Your Novel In A Year!

 by Anthony Ehlers

If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg. 

If you enjoyed this post, read:
  1. Write Your Novel In A Year - Week 42: 12 Easy Ways To Find A Title For Your Novel
  2. Write Your Novel In A Year - Week 41: 7 Questions You Need To Ask Of Your First Draft
  3. Write Your Novel In A Year - Week 40: 3 Rules You Can Break To Start Your Story

Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

9 responses
Love the woodpecker analogy
Thanks, Lucie!
Done NanoWriMo it is tough but I got it done. I was writing literally every spare minute I had in November. Downside is I could touch it afterwards without almost feeling sick. Took me a year before I could start editing. But if you are going to do it good luck
thank you, this is very inspiring and good for my writing!
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