Six Months into The Fifteen Minute Novel: The End of June Recap

This year I decided that as a writing experiment I would take on one of the writing prompts I came up with and continue writing it fifteen minutes each day throughout the year. The plan was simple. I started with a general writing prompt, wrote for fifteen minutes and at the end of that writing, I took the last sentence written and made it my first sentence for the following day. Essentially I was sitting down to write a novel in fifteen minute segments.

There was no real planning. I wrote the first fifteen minutes and thought, ‘Okay this is a story about a man who spent his life fulfilling familial expectations without ever really thinking about what it was he wanted to do with his life. Now as our story starts he is cut off from those expectations and has to figure out what to do with himself.

That was all of the planning I did for the story. I wanted to have minimal prep work, minimal outlining and in short minimal work outside of those fifteen minutes. Essentially the experiment was to see if I could write a manuscript in only fifteen minutes a day.

For the past six months I have done that. As of June 30th the cumulative word count stands at 74,918 by my computer’s reckoning.

The story has shifted from James builds a new life from scratch after finding himself, to some sort of mystery regarding his family company. It is oddly veering into thriller territory. Which for me is uncharted territory as it is not a genre I write in. Ever. At times this has made some of my writing a bit vague. Because I never thought the company would be important other than it was a family thing and he followed in his father and grandfather’s footsteps, I never quite figured out what they did. Now they are in the middle of some sort of corporate espionage.

I’ve been keeping notes on the story in a separate file as I work. As I am not going back and editing anything until the end of the experiment, I often leave myself questions. In the beginning I glossed over physical details and then added descriptions of people to my notes. Lately the question of the company has been a recurring one. I have a list of possibilities and I think I am going with a weapons or biotech sort of angle. I’m actually leaning more towards biotech.

I know that once I finally reach the end of this year and this manuscript massive editing will need to be done. Not only will all of the details I skilled regarding descriptions need to be added, but I will have to add in grounding details about the company and there will be massive culling of the text.

While I am more comfortable with Sci-fi and Fantasy and know their word count generally comes in at 100K or more, I think that thrillers and mysteries typically are under 100K. So there will be lots of trimming and clipping to clean up the document before it can even be called a novel.

I plan to continue like this for the full year, running the experiment out. I have learned that as much as I don’t really like outlines, when I choose a writing prompt to write out next year (should the experiment continue) I might want to take a little time before the year starts and maybe set down some key plot points in a loose outline so that I can stay more on track. I think if I had done that with James there would be less drifting. I can’t say I’m upset about the drifting as it has taken me to writing I would never have chosen to do.

I think it might be interesting to compare it with a fifteen minute novel that starts out with a few basic plot points sketched out.

But for now, James continues. He is wobbly around the edges and will need serious editing, but it is nice to try something completely different every now and again. And it seems this year, James is it. I have six months done in the experiment and six months left. Who knows, by the time December rolls around, the corporate espionage might be solved and James might have figured out what he wants to do with his life.


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