I recently read The 9-Day Novel: Writing Fiction: How to Use Story Structure and Write Your Fiction Novel Faster by Steve Windsor. Yeah, there’s some keyword stuffing happening in that title (he managed to get both “novel” and “fiction” in there twice.)
I’m always up for useful writing and editing books, and this one was cheap, short and had some decent reviews. So I gave it a go. Here’s what I thought:
This book has one main point, and keeps beating you over the head with it. Most advice to aspiring novelists is “Write a little every day over a long time.” But that advice doesn’t work well for everybody. Windsor makes the point that maintaining your excitement for the story is harder the longer you’re slogging away at it. For some people, hashing out a rough draft quickly, in a relatively few long sessions, works better.
I actually agree with that. My friend Chris Garrison is more a binge writer than a slow-and-steady writer, and I have leanings this direction as well. So it is nice to see a book that affirms writing quickly, in fewer long sessions, as a viable option.
Aside from the “permission to binge write” part, The 9-Day Novel breaks down how to organize and outline your novel following a typical four-part structure (similar to the three act or 7 part story structure you’ve seen elsewhere). This is so when you sit down to those long binge-writing sessions, you are cranking out prose the entire time, as opposed to staring into space figuring out what happens next.
There are also chunks of advice on how to carve out time for those binge-writing sessions, which while not earth-shattering might include some ideas you hadn’t considered. Including faking a funeral to take a day off work.
Windsor writes action thrillers, so all of his advice is focused on that genre, as if that’s the only kind of story people really want to read. Apparently, nobody reads cozy mysteries, romance novels or epic fantasy (don’t tell George R.R. Martin), which have completely different required story beats you’d need to know to develop the kind of detailed outline he’s suggesting – and which this book doesn’t provide.
It’s also pretty dependent on outlining, so if you’re a die-hard pantser, this book is probably not for you.
The book is also kind of repetitive, especially the advice about finding the time to binge-write. In a longer book, it would be less noticeable, but at a lightweight 196 pages, it gets a little tedious.
Windsor’s voice is certainly… distinctive, and definitely not a dry academic tone. You’ll either enjoy his personality or it will feel like fingernails on a chalkboard, but you definitely can’t escape it throughout the book. It’s not a big deal except for the (to me, at least) cringingly misogynistic “sample story” used as an example, and the super-creepy, totally unfunny sexual innuendos he shoehorns into the opening of every chapter. He might want to consider that women also write novels.
Overall, as an eBook it’s a decent value if trying to write a little bit every day isn’t working for you, and if you’re planning on writing an action thriller. If your real goal is to make faster progress on your novel, I’d recommend Rachel Aaron’s 2 to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better and Writing More of What You Love. Which, at $0.99 is a third the price and which I found three times as helpful.