How to write a novel in a day

A few days ago I wrote a novel in a day. A whole novel, in a single day.

I say “I”, but it’s only fair to point out that I had some help. Twenty-five of us got together and – over the course of twenty-four hours – produced “Made Man”, a 55,000 word tale of mafia life in 1960s Las Vegas.

You can read more about the Novel in a Day (NIAD) premise elsewhere on the site, but for anyone coming here new the basic concept was this: Someone would come up with the overarching story in advance, and break it up into individual chapters. On the day of the event, those chapter briefs would be emailed out to the participants who had the 24 hours to write their section and return it for inclusion in the final piece. An hour or so later, electronic copies of the book (PDF, ePub and mobi) were posted online for everyone to read. Other than their own brief, the participants had no idea what happened in the wider story, or where their chapter fell in the book… until they read the finished piece, of course.

As you can imagine, writing a novel in such a short period of time and such a horrifically collaborative fashion (whilst still being, you know, actually fun to read) took a lot of planning. To achieve that, I used Scrivener, which made plotting out the story easy, and the collation and compilation of the writing as pain free as possible. I’ve uploaded the Scrivener project file here, so you can download it and see what I mean. This file is the exact one I used to develop and produce Made Man. It’s not been cleaned up in any way(1), so it has a complete version of the book in it which you can try your hand at compiling to your own specifications (please respect the copyright restrictions, though… don’t distribute anything other than the official version).

I’ve zipped the file for ease of up/downloading, so you’ll need to extract everything from there after you’ve saved it to your computer before you can use it. You’ll see a few things in use that I have talked about elsewhere on this site: If you are using Windows, you’ll see I’ve changed the binder name. Chapter planning has used keywords to track locations and characters (so I’d know which ones to send to each person taking part).

Other things of note:

  • I used Snapshots to show how the chapters went from initial synopsis to chapter brief to chapter (some of the early synopsises may therefore differ slightly from the final briefs, and may have older versions character names). The chapter briefs can also be found all together in the Background and Notes folder of the Binder.
  • There are a couple of ‘saved search’ collections which were used to organise both the planning and the day itself. Firstly is the ‘To Do’ collection, which contained any document in the Binder which had been given the status “To Do”. This enables the entire binder to be a dynamic to do list, with everything from character sheets to chapter briefings appearing in the collection until their status was updated to ‘Done’. The other is the ‘Chapters still to complete’ section, which enabled me to see at a glance through the day who I still needed to hear back from.

The only difference between this and the template I use for my normal (ie non-collaborative) writing, is that my normal template uses an additional level of folders to allow Parts as well as Chapters.

If you have any questions about the template, or the planning / running of the event(2), then the comments section below would be an awesome place to ask them!


(1) I have removed a “Scapple Map” from the Research folder which provided detail on different ways the mob made money in America as I don’t own the copyright to this; it was recreated from a display at the excellent National Museum of Organized Crime & Law Enforcement in Las Vegas, Nevada.
(2) If you have questions about the book itself, then the Made Man page is the place to be.


Links to further reading:
For more about NIAD generally, visit here.
For more posts on NIAD, try here.
For the 2013 NIAD, Made Man, visit here.
For the 2012 NIAD, Lunar520, visit here.
For the 2011 NIAD, The Dark, visit here.
For more posts relating to Scrivener and Scapple, visit here.