Writing A Novel In A Month Not For Me
Let me state the first rule of writing before I begin. There is no one way to write a novel. Anyone who tells you otherwise is just plain wrong.
With that said, I could never write a novel in a month, much less in six days as has popular author R.L. Stine. Nothing against Stine, but reading how he wrote his famous Goosebumps series, saddens me. From 1992-1997 Stine wrote 62 books; one book per month. The actual writing of some of his books he says took six days.
How does Stine do it? He first comes up with a title and then an ending for his novels. He writes an extensive outline and adheres to it religiously. With the outline in hand he says "I know it all," and he begins to write. He doesn't deviate in any way from his outlines. And, he does no research. He just lets his mind go from the opening sentence to the final word. Including writing his outline you have a completed book in a month or less.
This has proven successful for Stine but I wonder if he's ever read one of his older books and thought "I should have changed that?" Or, "It would have been better if I had (fill in the blank)"? With his book completed and a new book waiting to be written there are no second thoughts.
On the other end of the spectrum there is the acclaimed Ray Bradbury. Bradbury's output is equal to that of Stine (short stories, novels, screenplays and teleplays not to mention some wonderful oil paintings he managed to squeeze in during his "spare" time). Bradbury often could write a short story in a single day. However, there are a number of novels he took years to complete and some he never finished.
Somewhere A Band Is Playing (Gauntlet Press; 2007) was Bradbury's last published novel. It took him fifty years before he felt it worthy of publication. Now Bradbury didn't work on the novel daily for fifty years. He had the idea for the story and did some initial tinkering before putting it away. Novels such as Fahrenheit 451, The Halloween Tree and Something Wicked This Way Comes followed, along with numerous short story collections. But over a fifty-year span Bradbury kept returning to his unfinished novel. The novel itself was published as a mass market hardcover, but a signed limited edition contained far more of Bradbury's musings. He wrote a number of segments for the novel which he later discarded. He even began a screenplay (before completing the novel!) which he never completed. Somewhere A Band Is Playing along with another novella was a mass market publication in 2007.
Unlike Stine Bradbury never had an outline he strictly adhered to for this novel. He had an idea, planned it out and over the years discarded portions of his original plan for something he felt was better. Had he cranked out the book in a few months what he added ten, twenty and fifty years later would never have appeared in print. Bradbury kept tinkering with his tale until he got it right.
Bradbury also wrote Masks (Gauntlet Press; 2008) a novel he never completed. He was fortunate to have a wonderful bibliographer, Donn Albright who kept every page Bradbury wrote and often tossed away. Albright was able to assemble a beginning, middle and ending from what Bradbury wrote over the years (like "Band" returning to it when the spirit moved him). He was never fully satisfied with the tale but agreed to its publication as assembled by Donn Albright.
Lastly, many assume that what is arguably Bradbury's most enduring book Fahrenheit 451 was written over a relatively short period of time and published in 1953. Nothing could be further from the truth. Bradbury began his tale on censorship and book burning in 1944 (the short story "Reincarnate"). Over the next nine years he wrote an additional thirteen short story and novellas (several of which were never published but appeared in Match To Flame; Gauntlet Press 2007). While most of the stories leading up to his novel were published he was tinkering with a larger idea. In 1951 he wrote the novella "The Fireman" and it was only then that he felt he was ready to pen the novel he desired. Here, again, Bradbury took years before he wrote his acclaimed novel. He took ideas from several short stories and characters from others before he was finally able to commit to his novel.
Should a writer follow Stine's plan or Bradbury's? Read what I said at the beginning. There is no . . . one . . way . . . to write a novel. There is no right way to write a novel. What works for me might hinder you. Stine takes less than a month and Bradbury, in one case, fifty years. I would never disparage either of them. But, in completing a novel in a month and adhering to your outline as if it were cast in stone you rob yourself, in my opinion, of the creativity to further explore your characters and alter the plot for the better. You stifle yourself. Stine's books have been immensely popular but are they well-written? And which will be considered classics one hundred years from now? Stine's Goosebumps series or Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451? I'm not here to judge Stine, just pose the questions.
Barry Hoffman is known as a publisher for Gauntlet Press, however his true passion is writing and he has penned five different novels. Hungry Eyes, Eyes of Prey, Judas Eyes, Born Bad and Blindsided.