Imagine holding your novel in your hands
It finally exists!
A real, complete draft, and you wrote it in just six months
We’ll help you make it happen
Monday 5th March – Sunday 2nd September 2018
Applications are now closed
Writing a novel is a lot of work, and slogging along by yourself month-in month-out is hard even if you’ve done it before.
It’s easy to lose faith when the first 26,592 words look worthless (hello, wall).
There’s a reason that deadlines are a writer’s best friend, but wouldn’t it be even better to do it with a small team of fellow writers all working towards the same deadline?
And what if you could have all of that, plus guidance and support from people who know your work and are behind you all the way?
And if you could get all of that online, so that it fits into your life? Perfect.
We’re Charlie and Amie
Think of us as your guides, cheerleaders and personal trainers.
We’ll break the process of writing a first draft down to make it easier, then guide you through with loads of tools and support along the way.
We only work with small groups of writers to make sure there’s personal accountability. Did we mention the deadlines?
Carrot and stick, folks, carrot and stick.
What do you get?
4-week plotting bootcamp
We want to make sure your plot and characters work before you start writing. We’ll break the process down into fun weekly tasks that get you to really understand your story by exploring everything from character, point of view and setting to conflict, structure and subplot.
You’ll then write a plot outline – your map to save you from the swamp of saggy middles – and a plan for your writing months complete with those all-important targets. Everything feels much easier with a sensible, workable plan in place, and if you ever get lost during writing this will be the map that you use to get back on-track.
Plot outline review
We’ll work with you to make sure your character and story arcs make sense so that your story will satisfy readers, and that your map for the coming months is sound.
4 writing months
Each month has a theme that mirrors your writing progress: openings, turning points, climaxes and conclusions.
Four months somehow manages to feel like a very short time to write your novel and a very long time until it’s finally going to be done. Wibbly wobbly timey wimey, you could call it.
To put it into context though, if you aimed to write an average-ish length novel of 80,000 words and to have catch-up weeks off, you’d need to write 5,000 words every week. That’s 715 words a day with one day off per week, or one really solid day of work each weekend.
Target-setting and planning
We’ll help you to break the project down into manageable chunks and set targets for each of the writing months based on what’s realistic for you and what you need to do to complete your draft. Then we’ll hold you accountable.
We are now entering a no excuses zone! Nothing motivates a writer like a deadline, so you’ll set your own targets and submit your words to us monthly. We don’t read or judge them, but we’ll hold you accountable. This is a non-negotiable condition of the Six Month Novel, and yes, we chase if they don’t appear in our inbox!
At a few key points, you’ll submit a section of your writing for review by other writers, and in turn comment on their pieces. You’ll benefit just as much from reviewing what works and suggesting improvements for other writers as you will from their suggestions.
Your work is still in early draft form, so we focus on gentle critique and helping each other. We don’t throw you into the lion’s cage (that’s Amie The Editor’s inbox) until the end when you’ve had time to edit your first section, because drafts are delicate creatures that need nurturing, not criticism.
Weekly motivational emails
Every week you’ll get an email from us to help you keep going. Some will be pep talks, some will discuss the monthly theme, and we may even occasionally tell you to eat cake or take a day off.
Weekly accountability check-in
Every week you’ll keep yourself on track by setting goals in the forum, setting goals for the week based on your monthly targets and cheering on your fellow writers.
There’s a private online space where you and your fellow writers can support each other, share your work safely and securely and discuss the relative merits of hob nobs vs custard creams (chocolate hob nobs every time).
The other writers on the Six Month Novel will quickly become your teammates and trusted sounding-boards, and because we’re also in the forum you’ll be able to ask us questions whenever you need to. People who embrace the forum get so much out of the process and make writing friends for life (writers from previous groups now go away on retreat together).
Monthly online writing retreats (Get It Done Days and word races)
Once a month you’ll log in, set yourself a target and write like the wind alongside your teammates. Working alongside other writers will boost your motivation and help you hit those deadlines.
Monthly live Q&A session
Each month we’ll run a live online video call where Charlie and Amie chat about that month’s focus and answer your questions, both general and specific ones about your work.
We also talk about motivation, confidence, and generally help to keep you moving.
4-week editing bootcamp
We don’t want you to just spew out words for a few months then throw them away in horror. We’ll help you identify and fill in big-picture gaps before you gradually hone and polish your first 3,000 words.
You’ll learn about publishing options as well as self-editing tips and tricks, and you’ll leave with a system for editing the rest of your manuscript and a plan for making it happen.
Comprehensive professional edit of your first chapter
You will submit an edited version of your first 3,000 words at the end of the six months for review by Amie (who is a professional editor in real life).
What does it cost?
Applications close on Sunday 18th February 2018
I’m in! How do I join?
We have an application form. Eek!
No, don’t be scared. It’s there because we need to know that you have the time and dedication to get to the end, and that you have the basics of a story that will support a novel. We don’t judge or pick the ‘best’ ones, this is all about making sure we are the right approach for you.
We can only work with a small group of writers (about 16), and this is a big commitment both for all of us, so we want to make sure that the places go to writers who are serious about finishing a novel and that we are sure we can help. We don’t want you to waste your money on something that isn’t right for you any more than you do.
Things we’ll ask for on the application form include:
- Brief synopsis of your novel, 300 words max (see below)
- Confirmation that you’ve done/can do all of your research in advance
- What genre and audience you’re aiming for
We’d also like to know:
- A little about your main characters
- A little about your setting
- What your fears and concerns are, what’s holding you back
- A comparison novel, one that relates in some way to your novel that you can look to for guidance and inspiration (it shouldn’t have a similar plot – think of stellar examples of your genre, characters or voices you love, or one that is brilliantly structured)
The Mini Synopsis
We don’t expect your ideas to be fully-formed yet (what would be the point in a plotting bootcamp if it was perfect?) but we do want you to have given it some serious thought, and to see that your idea is or can become a workable plot.
This is 1-2 paragraphs (please keep it to 300 words) outlining the story. Basically tell us the big-brush strokes of your story, but make sure to include: who the main character is, what they want, what the central conflict/question is, who/what stands against them and how it ends.
- Please don’t send us 800 words. 300 should be enough.
- PLEASE TELL US HOW IT ENDS. We aren’t agents and we aren’t picking your book up off a shop shelf. We don’t want to be tempted, we want to know about your story construction, so we need to know the ending.
If you haven’t written a mini synopsis yet, take a peek at our free Novel in a Nutshell idea development worksheets, which gives you an exact formula. You’ll probably want to add some more story detail to it, but the last exercises of this will make sure you include the essential information.
Is it for you?
The Six Month Novel is everything we wanted someone to give us to help us to the end of a first draft.
We had both seriously considered doing a creative writing MA, but realised that while they are brilliant, what we really needed was to learn by doing, and that actually reaching the end of a novel was what we needed. We looked around but couldn’t find anything that explicitly helped writers finish that critical first draft. So we made it.
Like many writers, we spent years getting in our own way, getting discouraged, feeling like there was no point in finishing because it was bound to be rubbish. We still feel that way sometimes. But now we know that expecting yourself to overcome all of the practical problems and insecurities of writing through sheer force of will is ridiculous, and that it’s much easier to keep going with the right support.
This is perfect for you if
- You’re longing to write this novel.
- You know you’re capable of doing the work and dedicating the time. In fact, you’ve probably completed novel drafts before or even had something published… but it’s still daunting.
- You know you can do it, but seem to have lost faith in yourself. You’re struggling to start your next project. You’d love a little extra help and support.
- You’ve done all of your research, or can complete it by the start date.
- This makes you think: accountability, yesssssssssss! If it sounds awesome then it’s probably right for you.
We’re not right for you if
- You’re already half way through your draft; this is only for novels at the planning stage (or up to 10,000 words in at most).
- You don’t like planning. If you have a track-record of stalling though, it might be worth reconsidering your approach?
- You know that your creative process is one of constantly circling back and perfecting before you move on. If you’re that kind of writer and it works for you, don’t force yourself into the ‘write fast’ box, which is what you need to do to write a draft in 4 months.
- Your aim is to write a great literary/non-narrative work. Nobody aims to write bad fiction, but if this is your prime concern then consider carefully whether our draft-fast and lock-up-your-editor approach will work for you, and if perhaps you’d benefit more from the academic and critical rigour of an MA instead.
- You don’t have the time. You’ll probably need to do an hour of work every day. Yes. Every day. You can choose whether to do that in small bursts or a couple of long sessions a week, but there are no shortcuts.
Is it worth it?
Only you can decide that. Think about it this way… how long have you been wanting to write that novel? We’re willing to bet the answer is years. Are you going to actually sit down and write it in the next six months? If not, how much do you want to? Enough to put your money where your mouth is and finally commit?
You need to think about whether this is the right approach for you too, whether you want to be part of a group, whether planning well then writing relatively fast will benefit you, whether you’re able to just write without stopping for another round of research, whether you like having submission deadlines. Because these are all things we will expect you to do, so, you know, it’s probably better on balance if that sounds great rather than awful.
We think the Six Month Novel is pretty reasonable. The alternatives that we’ve considered ourselves in the past, including postgrad degrees and courses with big names, cost many thousands of pounds, may take years to complete and tend to focus on being taught how to write rather than actually sitting down and writing a novel. Sometimes you’re only asked to prove you’ve written 20,000 or 30,000 words, and people tend to run out of steam and find it really hard to write those extra 50,000 words once that support is over. We think that what you’ll get from a focus on actually completing that draft is priceless, and that pushing through and reaching the end is one of the best ways you can learn and improve your writing.
But you don’t need us to tell you that. If this isn’t for you then you’ll know, and that’s cool. There are many ways to write a novel and we wish you safe travels, friend. If you secretly reallyreallyreally want to join us though, you’ll already know that too. Maybe you just want a little nudge, or for someone to tell you it’s okay to take your dreams seriously.
If that’s the case, then nudge. We think your dreams matter. You should too.