The 18 Day Novel

This summer while I was enjoying a little break from blogging, I saw in the CANSCAIP news an interview with Canadian author Valerie Sherrard.  I met Valerie last year at Word on the Street. She has the sweetest smile and gentlest spirit in the world. Valerie has had twenty books published and her YA novel, “The Glory Wind,” won so many awards after its publication I’m not sure how she keeps them all straight. Coincidentally, it won the Bilson Award, the same award “Bitter, Sweet” was short listed for in 2010. I was pleased as punch to find this out because I quite enjoyed the book. Some books you know are just destined to garner much deserved attention.

During the interview, Valerie mentioned that she’d written one of her books in just 18 days. Wow! 18 days!!! Did you catch that?  I mean most of us have barely booted up our computers in that amount of time. While I was wowed by this news it also made me question, what the heck is wrong with me?  No wonder I’m just starting my third novel. I picked away at my last novel for a few years. Started. Stopped. Started again until I’d finally made my mind up to finish it. Now mind you, I wrote “Bitter, Sweet” in about three months and was working at the time, but that doesn’t even come close to being 18 days.

Reading this made me wonder how much of my time I spend tooling around the internet and allowing other things to distract me. What if I simply made my mind up to write, write, write until I came to the end. I’ve got a pretty good idea where my next novel is going, I know who my characters are, so what’s the problem?

Discipline. A writer needs to have discipline, and not just those times when the writing process is going great and we’re loving every minute of our WIP (work in progress for my non-writing friends). Discipline is what keeps us steadily plugging away even when we’d rather be out enjoying the sun or watching our favourite TV program.

We also need faith– faith in the fact that we have what it takes to complete a project. This is another area I struggle with, and often why you’ll never hear me mention any details of my WIP. What if I can’t deliver the finished product? What if my story ends up being monkey crap? Oh yes, I’ve written my share of that over the years.

So what’s a writer to do? Why write of course: write and don’t worry about what other writers are able to accomplish. Who knows maybe one day I’ll write a novel in just 17 days.


Do other people’s accomplishments inspire you or do they make you feel as though you’ll never be any good?

Leave a comment


  1. I think a little of both, Laura. When I read things like that, I think, I’ll never be able to do that. Never. Ever. Ever.
    Then again, I don’t think I’d ever want to. But, at the same time I’m extremely slow at progressing, given the amount of time I spend on my wip. And that’s where I know that I can somehow be more efficient! Just haven’t figured out the how of it. I’m so fussy that I spend eons on each scene, each line, and then the real trouble is that I always come back & edit the some over–even after I thougt they were done! One day ill crack the code :)

    • Jennifer, this sounds exactly like me. I’ve been told recently, that while this approached likely worked well when I was writing short fiction, it probably ends up being more of a hindence when it comes to writing novels. I think I’m starting to agree. Just wish I could break that habit. If you find the key to cracking the code, please do share it with the rest of us, ;)

  2. Discipline? If you find it send some my way, lol!

  3. to be honest, they don’t really inspire more like they make me feel unaccomplished, a failure. I hear stories about authors all the time and I really would like them to say they have doubts, they do fail, they do have days where they waste away not writing.

    I have no discipline, I don’t even have a schedule, I start, stop all the time but I think it’s all part of the process.

    hope you have a great day.

    • Lissa, many authors have doubts we don’t always talks about it, sometimes only amongst ourselves. Do we fail? That depends. Not if we keep working to perfect our story. But there also comes the time to know when a story finally needs to be put to rest.

      I write whenever I can spare the time, some days this amounts to more than others. Discipline is not as easy as it sounds. Writers struggle with it all the time. And you’re right, we don’t always love to hear how easy something is for others when we find ourselves struggling.

  4. Hi Laura, great post — again.
    The most writing I ever did was during NaNoWriMo. (I don’t know if one could include many years of writing articles for a magazine I edited and published) I am not disciplined, I don’t keep a writing schedule – they worry me. Usually, I hardly believe I am actually a writer, so when I read of what REAL writers accomplish it is daunting to me.
    Truth is – I hope to one day pull out of this slump and really DO something, such as finish the novel I started, and maybe delve into short stories. (maybe I have a few of those started, but I’m not even sure)
    And one day I hope to be able to think clearly again with inspired enthusiasm. That is something I look forward to – with longing. Stress works against me these days.
    In the meantime I enjoy your posts, Laura, sometimes (I confess) with a little twinge of envy. And I’m glad to have met you. :)

    • Glad you enjoyed the post, Lynn. We can all only accomplish what is humanly possible. Sometimes life doesn’t allow us to explore all the things we’d like to. Your time for yourself, for your creativity, is limited these days and you really need to take that into consideration. Be gentle with yourself, and not too judgemental. It will all happen in it’s own time.

      I’m glad we met as well, Lynn. :)

  5. I had challenged myself to see if I could write an entire novel over the summer. As usual, when I accept a challenge, I jump in with two feet. Instead of the planned 60 days and 30,000 words (500 each day), I wrote 35,000 in 17 days. The first few days were the roughest, but once I hit the 10,000 mark I was off and running. This did mean I missed the blogs I usually read, seldom visited Facebook, missed a few blogs I was supposed to write and a few afternoons in the sun, but I did it.

    Now, I’m in the middle of another romance novel, but the discipline isn’t there. I’ve only written 22,000 words in 31 days. I’ve allowed things to distract me.

    Am I discouraged when others share how quickly they can write a book? No. It encourages me. What discourages me is the fact that someone can read a 100,000-word novel in three days. It takes me a month!

    Don’t worry about the time it takes, Laura. Just the quality.

    • Wow, Diane! That’s quite an accomplishment. And even to say “Only” 22,ooo words in 31 days sounds incredable to me. Maybe I’ll have to keep my day job. ;)

  6. Laura, I always celebrate other’s accomplishments. I think our community needs all the support it can get and one person’s success is a small part of who we all are :)

  7. 18 days! I can’t even imagine it. But yes, I guess it could happen if you did nothing else. I seem to need spaces in between to let the story stew.

  8. Yes, I love getting inspiration from others’ successes. It’s like water when I’m thirsting. I’m so glad you asked this question, Laura. I’ve got an idea for a post now. Yay!

  9. I find it inspiring, so maybe it’ll only take me 17 days to boot up my computer…;)


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