Confession: picture books are my true love but, like many people, I had a novel I desperately needed to get out of my system. I had just submitted a series of picture book manuscripts to the Golden Egg Academy and a Penguin Random House competition. I was on a roll writing-wise. That’s when I saw KritikMe and Louise Dean’s “Novel in Ninety” plan on Twitter. Here’s what happened next:
Day 1: Ooh that sounds tempting. Will pop it on the list for next year.
Day 2: This Louise lady seems supercool too. Wait, she’s actually written a novel in 90 days and there are real live people out there who have done it too. What would that feel like?
Day 3: Signed on the dotted line and haven’t looked back since.
I know some people work on that first draft over 5 years but I loved the idea of an end-date. It’s not an “I-thrive-under-pressure” thing - I handed my university dissertation in 2 months early. It’s because there’s a magic to finishing. There’s a magic to getting past that blank page. Something to hold, something to edit. This will come out all wrong but I needed to know I could do it. I wanted that finished draft in my hands this side of Christmas and I got it - 30 October 2017. It had all the rugged charm of a first draft, which is code for “it was a complete embarrassment”, but it was a complete draft. I actually did it. And I can do it again.
I won’t lie. I wasn’t the best of students. I didn’t write for the longest time. At first, I missed days here and there - life took over. But I’d missed the point. There is a genius to this 90 day business. Louise is right - it’s about forming habits. Once I resolved to be faithful, to put the novel first and to write EVERY SINGLE DAY, there was an incredible transformation in my writing. I wrote 75% of the draft within 3 weeks. Towards the end, I was living and dreaming my characters. I had an amazing aerial view of the story with all the paths leading to that final climax - all the missing pieces and all the things I needed to revisit, revamp or create in draft 2. Heavy, I know, but it was a kind of enlightenment.
Gosh, this is all so self-involved. And that’s unfair because the KritikMe community has been a huge part of this. I have no idea how Louise has brought such an incredible group of people together. Is it self-selection? Whatever it is, it works. That community has been and continues to be my rock, my inspiration, my much-needed giggle on a slow or disastrous day. You see, there’s more to this plan than self-discipline, Moleskines, hero texts, an expertly crafted curriculum and a wonderful coach and mentor.
And yes, I’m an evangelist. If you have a novel you need to get out of your system, you can take 5 years over that first draft if that floats your boat. You can flirt with the idea of writing it. Or you can join the "Novel in Ninety" plan and get the thing done.