How to write a novel


Write 700 words a day. That’s all it takes.

If you wrote 700 words a day you would be writing roughly two pages every single day. That’s roughly 255,000 words a year. Enough to write a lengthy novel, half of what David Foster Wallace wrote in his gigantic literary triumph Infinite Jest.

Of course, writing a novel isn’t just about writing. It’s also about editing, formatting, feedback loops, and getting the work out into the hands of readers.

But you can’t edit, format, or get feedback on words you never write.

With the days and the years ticking by, regardless of whether or not you write, why not write at least a little? If not 700 words, then what about 100? That’s enough to write a 52 page book in less than a year.

If writing isn’t your thing then the same approach applies to painting, photography, dancing, drawing, performances, and starting a business.

Small steps towards something bigger and better. We too often confuse the small steps for the work itself. We look at 700 words and think “This is not a novel.” 700 words do not typically make a novel, but 700 words multiplied by 365 is a very sizable novel. 700 strokes on a canvas is undoubtedly a painting. 365 days of sitting down for ten minutes to explore your creativity and produce something as a result are how you get somewhere with your creative abilities.

If you want to live a creative life you have to show up and work. Every day.

What better day to start then now, at the beginning of a new year?

You don’t have to even put in endless hours (though doing so certainly helps). Just a few measly hundred words. A few brush strokes. An outline. Then do it again tomorrow. And the next day. Not letting it discourage you when progress is slow or daunting. Just keep moving, keep showing up. All of the greatest artists have done just that.

Creative work is daily work, breaking away the bits of marble to unveil a masterpiece. Little by little. Word by word. Brush stroke by brush stroke.

Download Prompts on your iPhone or iPad to get creative writing prompts.