Write a Novel in 6months

Novel this way; Go for it!

How long does it take to write a novel?

When I was a teen, my favourite novel was Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan which the young Frenchwoman supposedly wrote in a three week sitting. However, I’m sure that legend is somewhat misleading. Though Sagan may have got the initial splurge down on paper in three weeks, it probably took many months of overhaul to bring to publishable standard.

Everyone writes differently. Everyone has their own approach. Some may write 2,000 words a day but may only be able to use about 200 of them come editing stage. Others might get 100 down, but they’ll be good, solid words you can bring forward. The former write from the outside in, the latter move slowly from the inside out.

‘Outsiders’ write manically, getting the story and the words on page. They’ll get a surplus of words on paper relatively quickly and will then spend the next six months to a year editing, rewriting, crafting, pruning and shaping. ‘Insiders’ tend to be methodical planners. They have a very clear idea of where they are going with their novel before they sit to write a single word and then they revise every sentence as they go. This method is quite painstaking, however the writer will not have much of an editing stage as they are, essentially, editing as they go. Therefore, it is hard to say how long it takes to write a novel. That very much depends on your approach.

The Six-Month Challenge

Having said that, I recently read about a ‘six-month’ challenge and I think it is a good regime for beginners. The idea is that you give yourself six months to write 80,000 words. You need to commit to writing 500 words every day. This figure is roughly a page of text, double spaced in 12 point Times New Roman font. Give yourself 45 minutes (at least) per day to deliver. Do not allow internet/phone/family/any distractions to interfere with this time. You may say that you are too busy but we can all find 45 minutes if we try. Get up 45 minutes early, skip your daily soap opera, cut down on your web-surfing etc… You’ll find the time if you want to. By the end of six months, you should have 80,000 words to spend the next six months polishing and editing. I am seriously thinking of doing the ‘six-month challenge’, to work on an idea I’ve had for a novel for a while.

I’m thinking of starting on October 1st. Would any of you be interested in joining me in this exercise. The team spirit would carry us all forward and would keep us focused.

Honk if you’re in!


About suehealy

From Ireland, Sue Healy is Literary Manager at the Finborough Theatre, London, a full-time Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Lincoln. Her book on theatre literary management is published by Routledge, December 2022. Sue is an award-winning writer for stage, TV, and prose writer. TV Her current project, a 6x60minute TV series, is under option. She is under commission with Lone Wolf Media, producers behind PBS’ “Mercy Street”, to co-write the pilot and treatment for a six-part TV series. Stage Her most recent stage-play, Imaginationship (2018), enjoyed a sold out, extended run at the Finborough and later showed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. Her previous stage productions include Cow (Etcetera Theatre, 2017) and Brazen (King’s Head Theatre, 2016), funded by Arts Council England. Sue’s short plays have been performed at the Criterion (Criterion New Writing Showcase), Arcola (The Miniaturists) and Hackney Attic (Fizzy Sherbet Shorts). Radio Her radio work includes nine plays broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (Opening Lines winner), WLRfm and KCLR96fm. Prose Sue has won The Molly Keane Award, HISSAC Prize, Escalator Award, Meridian Prize and has been published in nine literary journals and anthologies including: The Moth, Flight, Tainted Innocence, New Writer, Duality, HISSAC, New European Writers. She has been writer-in-residence on Inis Oírr, Aran Islands, and at the Heinrich Boll Cottage on Achill Island. She has also benefitted from annual artist residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, and at Ginestrelle, Assisi in Italy. An academic with a PhD in modern theatre history, specifically the Royal Court Theatre, Sue has presented her research internationally. She spent eleven years in Budapest, editing Hungary A.M. She has a PhD in modern theatre history (Royal Court Theatre) and is a UEA Creative Writing MA alumnus. View all posts by suehealy

51 responses to “Write a Novel in 6months

  • Steve Emmett

    Good post, Sue. Earlier this year I took part in ‘Write Your Novel In 90 Days’ which concentrated the mind. Six months is good for people who can’t write full time.

  • Steve Emmett

    I would offer to join you but I have to finish my current WIP by the end of the year. I just hope I can! Best of luck.

  • DanPos

    I really want to do this, but University calls 😦 But that said I may be able to fit 45 minutes aside for a side project, but Im writing so many different forms of media with so many ideas, from a film script to a radio script to 4000 word short story OR 4000 words of the beginning of a longer piece aha.

    I might try to do this toward my 4000 word project.

    All of the above are for University, how I would love to be able to just sit down and write one thing and invest all my time in it aha.

    • suehealy

      Hey Dan,

      Super! Come on, what have you got to lose? I’ve also got a full time job, a part time job, a screenplay collaboration, a completed novel to edit and a creative writing workshop going on… so, I’ll just have to get up 45 minutes earlier. If I can do it, you can.

      At least give it a try for a couple of weeks?

  • Write a Novel in 6 months | A Writer's Notepad | Scoop.it

    […] Write a Novel in 6 months How long does it take to write a novel? When I was a teen, my favourite novel was Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan which the young Frenchwoman supposedly wrote in a three week sitting. Howev… Source: suehealy.wordpress.com […]

  • elainecougler

    What a great idea, Sue. I am into serious final polishing so won’t be able to join you this time, but I wish everyone well. And, by the way, I am one of those insiders you mention. Also going back the next day and rereading, polishing the previous day’s pages helps me get back into the story. I guess I’m vain but I really like reading my own words. It gives me joy and that’s why we write, isn’t it?

    • suehealy

      Dear Elaine, I’m an outsider and once I’ve written something, I can’t bear to look at it again for weeks. My housemate, also a writer, writes just as you do and spends hours pouring over her work. For every ten stories I write, she writes one. Her one, however, is usually stellar and she has no problem selling it/publishing it. From my ten, seven will probably never fly – but three will go somewhere. I guess we all just write to suit our own needs, wants and personalities and we all get to the same place in end so it doesn’t matter how we do it, so long as its done. Pity you’re not joining us, but thanks for cheering from the sidelines. Wishing you well with your polishing!

  • Sunday Emerson Gullifer

    Love your blog, Sue. I’d really like to join you but need to get through the busyness of my last semester at university first – plus I’ll be on tour with a show when 1 October ticks over, making it tricky. So I’m going to shoot for 1 November to start my challenge, and will trail a month behind you!

  • L.S. Engler

    Oh, man, the last thing I need is to give myself another challenge, buuut….

    They’re so tempting! I’m the type of writer who thrives on things like outside structures and deadlines. I usually bite off more than I can chew and don’t actually reach those goals, but they allow me to actually still get a lot more done than I would have in the first place.

    So at the moment, count me in with you, Sue! I’ve got A Round of Words in 80 Days coming up on October 3rd, 750 words keeping me busy daily, and National Novel Writing Month starts in November, which will intersect with these Six Months (oh, and I might be trying The Weekend Novelist soon, too), but what’s one more?

    It sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But sparing 45 minutes a day on another possible novel sounds like a challenge I want to go ahead and try.

    I’ll just have to start keeping a checklist of all my different projects soon! Ha! So, five days to think of another possible plot! And the team spirit of doing something like this with other people makes a world of difference, too. I’m excited!

  • James

    Honk, I’m in. I’ll begin straight after NaNoWriMo.

  • andraya

    I am so in! I’ve been trying to kick-start a novel, but know I need to be consistent instead of a once a week writing spree. Thanks for the inspiration! Let’s keep each other on track!

  • Maria S McDonald

    Hi Sue, this is a very interesting project. Am currently proof-reading/editing a manuscript I’ve submitted for a competition, have a 3/4-finished novel I need to finish before I can work on another one, and have a 3-week overseas trip in December. Taking on this project might be the quickest way to shoot myself in the foot…

    Next time, though… 😉

  • Carol Lovekin

    Oh my – what a temptress you are. I have the bones of my new story & it would be a perfect project for your challenge.

    But… I have to finish the final revision of the WIP. It’s the crucial, polishing stage & already I’m allowing the new story too much head space.

    That said, I like the idea of attempting to get the new story down in some form or another in six months. So maybe later…

  • Are You Up to the Challenge? « L.S. Engler

    […] Sue Healy’s 6-Month Challenge: The other day, the wonderful Sue Healy posted about another fun challenge on her blog: write a novel of 80,0000 words in 6 months (approximately 500 words a day). She suggests (and I’m taking her up on it) to dedicate about 45 minutes each day specifically for this task, without distractions or anything else pulling away from the writing. The idea is that if you take six months to pump out the words, you have six months to polish and clean and edit, and will have a novel ready within a year. Sue’s starting her 6-Month Challenge on October 1st, and I’ll be there with her. How about you? […]

  • amyleebell

    I’m in. If I don’t start sometime, I will probably never write anything. It’s about time to make things happen. Thanks for the inspiration and encouragement!

  • authormercedes

    Count me in!!! ONE HUNDRED PERCENT ;]

  • Rob Kotaska

    I was going to write a litany of reasons why I could not do this. And then I remembered something…that is how I went into a 14 year non-writing funk. There are obstacles everywhere, so HONK, I am in.

  • BigWords

    Even though I’m probably going to get shouted at for adding another WIP to the list, this sounds interesting enough a concept to compliment the other “book in…” challenges (and I’m another NaNoer as well). If I keep writing novels, sooner or later I’m bound to hit upon something which doesn’t make agents recoil in horror…

  • Gillian Colbert

    I’m in!

  • Kori Miller

    I’m in. How are we checking in with each other?

    • suehealy

      Marvellous Kori!

      I have to admit, when I suggested this challenge, I wasn’t thinking any further than a couple of writers who might want to send each other encouraging comments when flagging… but I’ve had such a great response, I feel the challenge deserves a little more shape and attention.

      As I mentioned yesterday, I’m actually not going to be around on Oct. 1st so I’m not sure that I’ll be able to blog on the launch of 6-month Novel until Monday. So… ummm… let’s see, what about if I post my word count on Monday 3rd and it should be 1500 and you should aim to hit the same total on Oct. 3rd. And lets have a 6-month Novel virtual meeting on Monday re how to structure. In the meantime, all suggestions are welcome.


  • Kori Miller

    Thanks, Sue. I reposted this challenge on my blog:korimiller.wordpress.com (Kori Miller Writes).

  • lifeinanotebook

    Excellent post and idea. Though I’m planning to participate in NaNoWriMo come November, I know that once that challenge is done I will lose an excuse to write. Without motivation the words don’t come often.

    So count me in, I love a good writing challenge. Besides I’m sure I can squeeze in an extra 45 minutes of writing during the month of November and can give me something else to work on if/when I get stuck on a scene of my other project.

  • 3by3 method creator

    i will take the challenge, starting today but I have to admit, I’m going to cheat a little – I’m going to use my system 3by3, so unfortunately I won’t be starting the novel for about two weeks. I have to complete the first part of the plan.

  • Getting Your Head in the Game. « L.S. Engler

    […] for me in that month, not to mention it being one more step closer to November. Tomorrow starts Sue Healy’s Novel-in-Six-Months project, and I have not been able to dedicate the time I wanted to in planning just which novel […]

  • jimhewitt

    Hi Sue, great idea this, but I won’t “honk” at this stage as I have my eye on Nano yet again. I would like to see how those of you have decided to give this a go get on. If I may, I;d like to tag on a bit later, if that’s okay. (depending on how bad I do with Nano, again.) Best of luck with it. Jim.

  • 6 Month Challenge – Begin! « L.S. Engler

    […] not…you should!). About a week ago, Sue put out that she was going to challenge herself to write a novel in 6 months. She threw out the call for others who might light to join her, and many people, myself included, […]

  • Author Quotes: Jute. « L.S. Engler

    […] to write in this blog today, I was also struggling with the words I had written yesterday for the 6 Month Challenge. I wasn’t pleased with how I had started. It begins with an approach to the setting, and the […]

  • RoW80 Round 4 – Begin! « L.S. Engler

    […] –Novel in 6 Months: I’ve been writing my 45 minutes delicately so far, giving me 2880 words so far! It’s off to a great start, though I’m starting to wonder if this this how I want to start the book. I will not go back and rewrite it, though, tempting as it may be. 77,120 words to go! […]

  • RoW80 Round 4 – Begin! « L.S. Engler

    […] –Novel in 6 Months: I’ve been writing my 45 minutes delicately so far, giving me 2880 words so far! It’s off to a great start, though I’m starting to wonder if this this how I want to start the book. I will not go back and rewrite it, though, tempting as it may be. 77,120 words to go! […]

  • loz

    I only just saw this post, but I want to catch up. I think my problem is, I have to just stop making excuses, cut out some tv and apply bum to chair in front of the computer. 500 words a day makes it seem more palatable.

  • submeg

    I have found that I write “Inside Out”. I don’t like to write write write and then have to edit edit edit. I think if I ever got to this stage I would be driven crazy and eventually lose momentum.

    I feel that plotting out my story makes it easier to incorporate twists and turns without veering off track from the plot.

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