Tag Archives: writing a novel in 30 days

Four Lessons on How to Write a Thirty Day Novel

IMG_0523I once tried to complete the thirty day novel challenge and failed. Nevertheless, through the experience of this failure I learned quite a bit. The thirty day novel challenge is a writing exercise where an author attempts to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. This requires the author to write an average of 1,667 words per day throughout this time period. In the abstract this sounds like a task that can be readily accomplished but like most long term projects requiring discipline and dedication there are forces that will work to undermine this process as it continues.

When I set out to write my 30 day novel I started out strong. For the first ten days my average word count per day remained above 1,667. After ten days the average word count dropped below that number but I figured I could make it up by writing more before the thirty days fully expired. However, as the days after Day 10 progressed I found it increasingly difficult to continue. There was a point where the story that it eventually became began to emerge from the crap that I had written. At that point I began to think about going back and editing what I had written to conform to the story as I saw it emerging. The conflict between this motivation and my motivation to continue with the word count per day all the way to day 30 became overwhelming. It was at this point that procrastination in comparison with this overwhelming feeling began to feel like a better option. Accordingly, the project petered out by day 20 or so. Eventually I did go back and rewrite the whole thing which is the finished product now available on Amazon.com. But this was well after the initial 30 days had expired without a 50,000 word finished product.

Even though I did not completely stick with the 30 day novel for the entire 30 days I did learn four important lessons that I think would be helpful for anyone attempting this challenge. These are lessons I would certainly employ if and when I take on this challenge a second time. I have not fully committed to trying the 30 day novel challenge a second time yet but it seems like something which has become more likely after writing this blog post.

4 Lessons

  1. The over arching lesson is to keep writing every day. All the other lessons flow from this one. I know an easy criticism to make of me is that I did not follow this lesson when I wrote my 30 day novel. This is true and I cannot argue the point. However, I learned this lesson after I failed. As such, I am not technically being hypocritical from a chronological standpoint. You must stick with the writing despite the forces working against you attempting to complete this challenge. These forces will undoubtedly differ both in nature and power for different people depending on their personalities. But it is crucial to recognize these forces and their motivations. Treat them as the foreign entities and adversaries that they are and then ignore them. The ability to continue on in this manner is a muscle to develop by exercising it. The more you do it the easier it will become.
  2. The second lesson is to allow yourself to write crap. If you keep up with your writing the quality ideas will eventually materialize. But before the quality ideas begin to emerge you will probably write a mountain of crap. Recognize this fact and be forgiving of yourself. Allow to crap to flow so that the quality can also flow. Accept that this is the process. Therefore, keep writing and do not worry if what you write is good or bad. If you do give into the worry you will stop writing and not complete the challenge. You are training another muscle here which is the ability to come up with something out of nothing. This is a skill just like anything else it is just that the something will be buried in a pile of crap initially. The more you do it, however, the better able you will become to generate the quality ideas.
  3. The third lesson is to trust the process. As you progress, you may begin to doubt your ability to complete the challenge with a finished project that is worth reading. Your original inclination might be to think that if nothing of quality comes out initially then it must be impossible. This is an illusion. This doubt is another adversary that will attempt to derail you. Like the other adversaries, ignore it and keep writing.
  4. The fourth and final lesson is to save all the editing, rewriting and thoughts about crafting an intelligible story arc for Day 31. A successful attempt means that you have finished the 30 day challenge. If you are lucky then you might also have the germ of a story that has poked its head out of the pile of crap. If not then at the very least you have exercised the muscles necessary to become a serious writer.

Always remember there are two complementary dynamics at play when attempting the 30 day novel challenge. The first dynamic is to recognize and ignore the adversaries that will attempt to derail you from completing the project. The second dynamic is to recognize that you are working to develop the psychological muscles that will eventually make you a serious writer. In this respect the 30 day novel challenge is a symbolic microcosm of the challenge of writing itself. Taken one step further, the 30 day novel challenge is a symbolic microcosm of the accomplishment anything worth accomplishing. Perhaps seeing the 30 day novel challenge in this light will serve as further motivation to complete the challenge. Moreover, perhaps completing the challenge will serve as a means of better appreciating this important fact.

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I Write Content for Web Bots

galaxyI get paid to write content for web bots. Actually I am not entirely sure about this but I think it is true. Some months ago some guy in Salt Lake City running an SEO company hired me through Freelancer.com to write 300 to 500 word articles for him at $7.50 a piece. There are several different business clients of his for whom I write these articles. One is a house cleaning service in Salt Lake City, Utah. Another is a podiatrist in Boise, Idaho. There are others and each seems equally random from my perspective.

He was not my first employer on Freelancer.com, however. My first employer was a gentleman from Bangladesh who hired me to write fifteen 500 word articles for his health and fitness blog. He paid me $15 total but he agreed to give me a five-star rating if I completed the task. He gave me the subject and keywords for each article and I completed the task over the course of five days writing three articles a day. The job was a little more difficult than I anticipated at first. Much of the difficulty had to do with the fact that I found it hard to motivate myself to spend the time and effort to write when my compensation was so low. To exacerbate matters my Bangladeshi employer kept texting me with knit picky problems he kept finding with my work product. I was, however, able to power through with the understanding that my eventual five-star rating would attract other higher paying employers. When I finished he proved true to his word and paid me the $15 he promised me along with giving me the infinitely more valuable five-star rating.

I need not go into too much detail regarding my second employer through Freelancer.com. He was some guy who offered me $500 to ghostwrite a 10,000 word e-book on memory. He did not have any rating at all which should have raised alarm bells but I was motivated to earn a bigger purse with this job so I agreed. He gave me a weekend to finish the job which I did. At 5:00am on the day the project was due he texted me asking if I had completed the task. I told him I did and sent him a copy of my work. I never heard from him again. Lesson learned: do not conduct business with someone who has no rating on Freelancer unless it is for a smaller amount of money and effort.

Before I go any further I should point out that a big part of how I was able to land these jobs without a rating was that I could point these potential employers to my blog (the one you are reading right now) and my two published e-books Shame and Internet Trolling (a book about the connection between shame and internet trolls) and The Book of Bud (the story of a man writing a novel in 30 days) which are available on Amazon.com. These writing samples gave me enough credibility to get my foot in the door. But once I had a five-star rating I started to attract more legitimate and higher paying employers like my guy in Salt Lake City with the SEO business.

At first he wanted to know what topics I felt comfortable writing about. I told him I could write about anything. He asked me how many articles I could write a week. I got the impression that he was paid a certain amount by his customers for every article I wrote from which I was given a cut. Each article had to contain two links back to the customer’s website and contain whatever keywords were required. At first I did not question the reason he hired me to write these articles. But after a while I noticed that none of the articles I had written received views or comments. Then one day my employer informed me that it did not matter whether the article was grammatically correct so long as the keywords appeared in the article exactly as assigned. I could not figure out why someone would pay him to pay me to write grammatically incorrect articles that no one would read.

After discussing this issue with some friends of mine who are more tech savvy than I am we came up with the following theory. When people use search engines they input keywords into the browser which then displays a list of websites which match the keywords. The websites are listed in an order determined by the web browser’s algorithm. Obviously, the higher up in the list a link appears the more likely a web surfer will click it. One of the criteria which prioritizes a website’s place in the list is whether there are links to that website from third-party websites. That seems to be the desired function of the articles I write. That is, to create third-party links to websites in order to have the websites appear higher up in the search engine listings. If true, this means that the articles I write are not intended to be read by humans but rather by the web bots the search engines use to look for this type of thing. Of course this sort of tactic is a bit of a cheat because search engines prioritize websites that have other websites linking to them presumably under the assumption that these outside links demonstrate how popular and relevant the original website is.

There are many layers of misdirection at work here. The original business owns a website. The business hires my employer to increase the traffic to their website. My employer hires me to write fake articles. These fake articles when published list some other person as the author in order to appear to be written by an objective third-party. It does not matter what the content of the articles actually is so long as it has the right number of words, contains the keywords, contains two links to the business’s website and does not appear to be obvious spam to the web bot who reads it.

Obviously this is not the most satisfying work in terms of content creation. But I am intrigued by the amount of progress I have made. In just a matter of months I went from one dollar an article to $7.50 an article. Moreover, I find my creative ability to come up with something to say about any topic to be getting stronger. The trajectory seems positive and encouraging.

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