“How to Write a Novel in Three Days,” by Thaisa Frank

Oct 12th, 2022 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

Step One

So you want to write a novel! Good for you! There’s no profession except writing that pays less than McDonald’s. Since you may be eating a lot from the Golden Arches, this is a brave decision.

But take heart! You can write thousands of words a day using this simple method. But first answer these questions to determine if you’re really a writer:

  1. Do you say I have a book inside me?
  2. Do you ask people at parties to “take a look” at what you’ve written, like a doctor being asked to check a mole at an art opening?
  3. Do you want to write about your pet parakeet dying when you were seven?

If you’ve answered “no” to all these questions and still aren’t sure you’re a writer, see if you have these qualities:

  1. Gumption! This means wanting to share your words with people you don’t know—like whether they vote right or believe in the creation myth.
  2. Stick-to-it-ive-ness! That means writing no matter what, even break-ups, locusts, and visiting relatives.
  3. Carpe Diem! This means are you writing right now, even while you’re reading this important treatise.

If you can answer Yes! to all of these qualities, congratulations! You are a writer!

Step Two

Now that you’ve met these qualifications, let’s go over what you’ll need:

  1. A Room of Your Own: (A tent by the freeway is fine.)
  2. Words: Make sure there are spaces in between to tell them apart.
  3. Fritos, cookies, and one of the ice cream novelties. (Get the pun?).
  4. Booze. Your choice!

From these tools you can see that writers need ingenuity. And you’re lucky to have that, because it leads us to another requirement, which is having something to say. Popular subjects are: murder, love, and war, because there is always something at stake. You will learn more about something at stake when you get rejection letters from editors.

Okay! With Gumption! Stick-to-it-ive-ness! and Carpe Diem! you have all the qualities you need to be a writer.

And now you’re ready for:

Step Three

By now, you are writing and writing and writing. But are you sure you’re writing a novel? The best way to find out is to participate in National Novel Writing Month, affectionately known as NaNoWriMo. This is a yearly ritual in which writers all over the world write a novel in a month and post their daily word-count for everyone to see. A month! That’s a long time and a lot could happen: Another war, masks rumored a hoax so you never know whether to wear one, and hundreds of other catastrophes. A month is too long and, like all real writers, you want results now. So to see if you qualify for writing a novel in three days, take this quiz:

Do lots of words make you:

  1. Watch “cold case” docudramas where lawyers who once dressed like The Beatles expound from their beach chairs in Florida?
  2. Drink?
  3. Get stoned?
  4. Surf the web?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” there’s just one more question, which is:

Do you believe: One picture equals a thousand words? 

Take your time to answer this last question and do some serious research. This means travelling to your nearest art gallery even if you have to borrow money to rent a car. After you’ve looked at some art (another word for “pictures”), go to the museum café and see if you still crave quiche, croissants, éclairs, and wine. If your answer is “no!”, then you’re ready to write thousands of words a day. All you have to do is collect pictures.

You can guess what pictures you’ll need, but here are a few pointers: If your novel is erotic, think Peter Paul Rubens. If it’s a memoir, think Norman Rockwell, if it’s weird, think Lynda Barry, and if it’s experimental, think Jackson Pollack. You’ll need seventy thousand pictures for a potboiler, forty thousand for almost anything else, and twenty thousand for what they call “literary.” This may seem like a lot, but don’t worry! You can use the same pictures again and again. And during NaNoWriMo, while other people post pitiful word counts, you will have exceeded by thousands of words and finished your novel in three days!

Okay! Now that you know what to do, get started! The one-picture-is-a-thousand-words approach is a sure-fire guarantee for writing long, exciting novels. And if you want tips about marketing, you can sign up for one of my classes at www.thousandsofwordsaday.com.


Thaisa Frank’s fifth book of fiction (Enchantment, Counterpoint, 2012) was selected for Best Books by the San Francisco Chronicle. Her novel, Heidegger’s Glasses (Counterpoint 2011) was translated into 10 languages. New work appears in New Micro (Norton, ed. Scotallero, Thomas 2018) and Short-Form Creative Writing (Bloomsbury) (2019). “Fire,” a piece of flash fiction, just received a Pushcart Prize. She lives in Oakland, California, and is a member of The Writers Grotto.

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