How To Write One Novel In A Year


I recently saw a blog post that detailed how to write four books a year. Of course, I know some writers who write more books than that, but there are plenty who write fewer. Chalk me up on that latter list.

But you know what there isn’t? I’ve not really seen a sure-fire way to struggle and stumble your way into writing a book over the course of 365 days. So….here we go. (By the way, this is roughly the way I’ve written my latest book, which may or may not be finished within the calendar year. [sidenote: it will. {side-sidenote: I really, really hope.}]).

Day 1: Write 27 words as a Facebook status update. Make it funny in an ironic sort of way and laugh about it quietly as a half-dozen of your closest semi-anonymous comment and/or like the post.

Day 2: Write 43 words. Again as a Facebook update, but loosely tie it into the original post from yesterday. Give a little backstory and create some forward momentum. And be funny. Chuckle as only three people “get” your unique brand of humor.

Day 3: Based on the previous two days of Facebook posts, add a twist. The post should reference the previous two days, but give the reader a sense of purpose and originality that is lacking in most Facebook posts. (Author note: this only works on Facebook. Don’t try this on Twitter or Snapchat or any of those other loser social media sites.)

Day 4-10: Add some other junk to your previous smatterings and tie it together in what we writer professionals call a “plot.”

Day 11: Take a day off. You deserve it.

Day 12: OK. So this is a thing now. True, you’ve only written 987 words over the course of a week and a half, but that’s still something, right? Maybe you should examine your characters and their motivations or something like that. Double what you’ve written so far in a torrential downpour of words. Then delete those words cuz they were terrible anyway.

Day 13: Enter THE BROTHER. (Alternately, THE SISTER may be a viable alternative.) THE BROTHER…we’ll call him Saul…sends you a message. “I like your story,” it says. “I came up with a plot device,” it reads. “Can I write more and we incorporate it?” You quickly reply “YES” because what he’s written is about 1×10^26 better than whatever you’ve written so far. Whatever you thought you were writing — YOU WERE WRONG and you need to reevaluate everything. Perhaps even your breakfast choices. A toaster pastry is clearly so 1990’s, after all.

Day 14-30: Marvel at what THE BROTHER writes. He claims to be just taking your lead on the story, but clearly his ideas are better than yours. Maybe you were really adopted? Your genes aren’t coming up with original ideas like he is. What’s wrong with you? Maybe switching from toaster pastries to Cap’n Crunch Berries wasn’t the best move.

Day 31: Time to get serious. Between you and Saul, there are now enough words to actually publish and not be embarrased. Problem is that you only have the beginnings of a story. Only the “P” of an actual Plot if you will. So, take a look at Saul’s additions and embrace it. Switch the entire POV of the narrative and go with the side character that he embraced as his protagonist. Oh…and decide to switch from first person to third person, necessitating an entire rewrite of the story thus far.

Day 32: Super Bowl. Eat Lil’Smokies wrapped in Bacon and dip it in Nacho Cheese. Enjoy the Bathroom tomorrow.

Day 33: Continue pondering where to really take the story.

Day 34: Continue pondering where to really take the story.

Day 35: Continue pondering where to really take the story.

Day 36: Continue pondering where to really take the story.

Day 37: Write a side plot cuz you can’t really think about what you really want to do with your main characters.

Day 38-75: Trade off storylines with THE BROTHER. Be envious when you realize he has the best storylines, and then realize he has the best ones because he wrote them that way.

Day 76: Realize he feels the same way about your storylines and accept that you might actually be a decent writer. Maybe. Perhaps.

Day 77-95: Take a break. You have a short story to write about zombies and football, so focus on that and let Saul take the lead on the book for a while. RIP Jellyroll.

Day 96-108: Stress over the potential edits of the aforementioned zombie/football story. Write 24-48 words a day while under the cloud of future edits, and occasionally go back and delete those very words a few days later.

Day 109: You’ve been working hard. Take a day off.

Day 110: Write a couple hundred words and wrap up a scene that’s been sitting open for two months. Breath a sigh of relief and throw out the Cap’n Crunch. All the cool kids are eating bagels anyway.

Day 110: You’ve been working hard. Take a day off.

Day 111-140ish: Work at a snail’s pace on the book, putting a rough plan in place to “HIT IT HARD” in the summer. As you and THE BROTHER are both teachers, the summer is like Shangri-la. A promised land with candy and time. This will be the summer of finishing ALL THE THINGS. Let’s do it!

Day 141-148: What were you thinking? You’ve got a vacation to start your summer break in the mountains of Tennessee. OK. Do the vacation and then when you get back, do ALL THE WRITING.

Day 149-150: Back from vacation. Worn out and the kids don’t seem to get the fact that you got stuff to do. Seriously.

Day 151-155: Another trip. This time a national tournament for the school’s quiz bowl team. OK. Have fun, and when you get back, do ALL TEH WRITING.

Day 156: Get back. Wife goes to her parents. Kids don’t get it that they need to stay quiet and work on their particle physics all day in their rooms. Especially the five-year-old. Sheesh.

Day 157-165: Wife still gone. Kids still kids. Manuscript still untouched even after weeks of summer break actually in existence and whooshing by like…things that whoosh by. Mind turns to mush after the tenth episode of “Bubble Guppies” in one day.

Day 166-180: Wife calls. Needs you at her parents to set up for an estate sale. Spend the next two weeks cleaning and emptying outside buildings and barns. Physical exhaustion sets in. An unfamiliar feeling…sleep beckons and will not be ignored.

Day 181: Estate sale done. Money made, but not for me. Book still unfinished. THE BROTHER notes your place at the bottom of the pit and tries to reach you. Unfortunately, he lives on the Left Coast and the humidity of the Midwest prevents his arm from reaching you.  Despair. Desperation. The book sits unloved on my Google Drive. It may never see the light of day.

Day 182: OK. First day of July. Let’s do this. Cracking the document open you realize the book isn’t half bad. It might not be half good, either, but it ain’t half bad. One of the kids is at camp…maybe you can get stuff done.

Day 183: Nope.

Day 184: Also nope.

Day 185: Add 500 words.

Day 186-194: Peck away word by word, but look forward to THE BROTHER flying to the Midwest in person. Know THINGS will be accomplished in his mere presence. Put your faith in the ridiculous idea you’ll write 40,000 words in a week of him and his family being around.

Day 195: Nope.

Day 196-210: Hang out with Saul. Talk about the book, but work rarely. Have 99 year old grandmother pass away in Upper South Dakota and have to travel there with the rest of the family. Manuscript survives. But just barely.

Day 210-220: School starts soon. Write a little, but prep for the Fall. Summer is gone and so was your chance to fully write. THE BROTHER starts school later, but he has second and third vacations so he doesn’t write either.

Day 221: First day of School. Yay.

Day 222: Second day of School. Double yay.

Day 223: Third day of School. The GRADING begins. Writing is tough enough without having to decipher the scrawlings of a 10th grade boy. Oy. Forget it. I’ll try again in a couple weeks.

Day 224-260: Try. Try to start writing again. Remember how great of a book this can be and write in spurts.

Day 261: Return of THE BROTHER, along with his cultivated ideas for where to take the story and how to finish. Shame upon your house for not getting it done, but praise be to THE BROTHER. Saul is your muse. Take it and run.

Day 262-285: Write. Write and write some more. Settle on the final details of the final scene. Realize your year-long novel writing plan may end up being a 10-month plan.

Day 286: Write a blog about how to write a book in a year.

Day 287: MAKE BANK>



Free Book Today – Baking With Swords


Concept 3

The short story collection I published a few months ago with my brother Paul and my sister Betsy is now available for free for a very limited time (just one more day!).
You can pick it up at no cost and enjoy three separate and different short stories. Paul’s story, The Price of Greatness, is about man’s eternal search rivaling the ordinary of daily life. Betsy’s tale, Flutter, tells about a mother and her daughter, who is undergoing inexplicable changes. My story, A Whimper, is an end-of-the world tale through the lens of one person and society’s dependence on technology.
To get it, just click on the large cover image above!

Baking With Swords: My Take


Concept 3With all the blog posts I’ve shared lately, I haven’t offered my own take on Baking With Swords — why I decided to collaborate with my brother and sister, and what prompted me to write the story I included.

While I was whittling down the days until I was finished writing and editing Dead Sight, back in February and March, I started writing a short story. I never had any ambition beyond it being a short story that I would just release as a stand-alone tale, similar to the first story I’d ever written and published, Perfect Game.

I happened to say something on Facebook about it, and my brother, Paul, asked if I could wait to publish it until he was done writing a story. (Here is his story on how he started writing.) It was a strange request, so I waited a little bit. After some more inquiry, I found out he wanted to just throw it in at the end of my story as a “bonus” of a sort to any potential readers.

I read his story — or at least, what it was at that time. It was good. There was some great ideas in it and it just needed some polishing. It was better than just an unmentioned add-on to a little short story I was writing. I also knew my word count on A Whimper wasn’t going to be much — probably 6-8,000 words — and his was going to be about the same.

So, I proposed the idea of splitting the book title, or even inviting our sister, Betsy, along for the ride. I knew she had been dabbling with writing fiction since I started my publishing journey and figured maybe she had something she could work up fairly quickly. (Read more about her road to her inclusion here.)

Betsy was game, so I put my story on the backburner for a little while. School took over and I let the two of them tinker and finish their stories. In the end, each of our stories clocked in at roughly the same length — about 7,000 words a piece.

I love Paul’s story because it really is heartfelt. There is a lot of emotion from his main character, Max, and the choices he has made in his life. Obviously Paul isn’t Max, but you can see the questions he has asked are questions Max faces as well.

Betsy’s story fits her, as well. She is a mother to two little boys, both under the age of four. There are so many fears and insecurities that accompany being a parent to a toddler and an infant and she confronts them head-on in this tale. Paul and I really challenged her in the editing process and I think she came out of it with a great story that will connect with a lot of readers.

As for my story? Well, I shared a bit of it with you a few months ago. (Here’s that link.) I must’ve read some technology story, or even Michael Bunker’s Pennsylvania, and thought of the ramifications should we ever have chips in our heads (PIPs as I call them in A Whimper). What would the effects be? I think there are so many effects worldwide that I really could have written a full-length novel, but I chose personal ones to the main character. It is told first person and my brother said the tone reminded him of Ready, Player One, which is a huge compliment and may be true since I had just re-read it prior to starting the work on it.

How will the end come for humanity? Will it go out in a blaze of glory, or will it go in a whimper? Most books and stories choose the former, but I wanted a look at the latter.

I’ll confess I’m not the closest person to his family. I don’t talk to them much. I last talked on the phone to my mother probably two weeks ago (Reminder to myself to get on that), and Facebook and text messaging is the best way to get a hold of my brothers and sister. I live in Southern Illinois, one brother lives in northern Illinois, my sister in Michigan, and my older brother in Oregon. We are spread out, but when it counts, we are there for one another.

I don’t know if Paul and Betsy will continue to write and publish, but with my limited expertise, I wanted to be able to help them on their first trip into self-publishing.

As of this writing, the collaboration has received five reviews, four of which are five-star and the other is four-star. I would love to hear back from anyone else who has read it. Really, you should buy the book for my brother and sister and hopefully my story in this book is the bonus, not their’s.

Oh…don’t forget about the BWS Launch Party Monday on Facebook. <– Click there to join.

Find the link and the massive amount of giveaways I’ve got scheduled right here —> LOOK AT ALL THESE GIVEAWAYS!


Guest blogger: Paul K. Swardstrom


When we create, it has an effect on us, on our friends and family, on our relationships. The impact can be positive, it can be negative, it can even be relatively neutral, but there is an impact nonetheless. I knew this when I began my writing my first novel last year and because of it, I didn’t even tell any of my family for months. When I did, the admission was made with a lot of self-doubt and humility. Not because I was guaranteed success; no — because I was simply fulfilling a dream when some of my friends and family had let their dreams run off long ago. Me as a writer reminded them of the ruts we fall into in life, but even with some, it took some time to really work itself out. 

That impact eventually turned positive. Over the past few months, I’ve really learned to treasure my relationships with my family even more. In doing so, my brother Paul, and my sister, Betsy, have collaborated with me on a short story collection we are calling Baking With Swords, to be released soon. I’m really proud of the work we’ve put together and am excited to see their names on a book for the first time. 

In anticipation of that, I opened my blog up to Paul and Betsy to share some of themselves and their motivations for writing. This is Paul’s entry: 


Choices. We all make them – well, not all. I suppose if you’re in a coma, you’re not making choices, but then you’re not reading this either.

Let’s start over. My name is Paul K. Swardstrom. If that name sounds familiar, then you’re right. I am the son of Paul D. Swardstrom, the son of Paul W. Swardstrom…


Paul told me to just take a picture from his Facebook page, so here is one with a bird on his head.  - Will

Paul told me to just take a picture from his Facebook page, so here is one with a bird on his head. – Will

What? Oh. Will. Yeah, He’s my little taller than me and eight years younger than me brother. Ok, back to the subject at hand….

Choices. They are like rubber bands. When we make them we never know when one will snap us in the katookus. What will we do today? Will we use our time wisely? When confronted with a difficult situation, how will we react? Do I brush my teeth after a meal with lots of garlic and onion?

I’ve made my share of choices – some good, a lot bad.

Excuse me, I have to go brush my teeth…. and, back.

I think that for me I think too much. I always have. I think if I were in the debate club in school I would always have been in last place, but by the next day, I would probably have 5 good zingers. That’s my deal with choices, and life, and my place in the world and well, everything. I analyze, and sort, and reanalyze and try to place meaning, and pray and pray and rail angrily, and …. shrug.

When I was seventeen-nearly eighteen and had to make choices for college, I had no idea what I wanted in life. I decided to take music classes in college and become a music major because I had taken private lessons on my instrument in high school and didn’t want to waste it (the responsible attitude of a first-born child) and since I enjoyed marching band so much as a teenager I thought the best thing I could do with my life would be to associate myself with it by becoming a band director – I suppose that’s a moderately acceptable as a reason for wanting to become a band director.

By the time I was in my early twenties, I wanted to be one of the best band directors in the state – Arizona at the time.

Well, life has a way of going sideways. I was a young man with not a very clear head on my shoulders. I’m a good thinker, but again those in-the-moment things are hard for me. Additionally, I was quite a right-brained thinker back in the early 90’s. Its taken nearly two decades for me to train my left brain to be able to do some heavy lifting.

I was never the success I wanted to be back then – partly because I wasn’t ready for it, partly because I didn’t properly prepare myself for it, and partly because life just went sideways… a couple of times.

Malcolm Gladwell has a theory in one of his books, The Tipping Point that it takes about 10,000 hours working on something before you attain expert status at something. For me, I calculated my hours teaching band a few years ago and it came out somewhere north of 9,000. You could say I was approaching my tipping point, and I knew it. I also felt it. Things I did were making sense, I had quite a few instinctual reactions to situations that I knew were simply because I had been in that role for so long. However, I read The Tipping Point and made this calculation one year after I had been shifted into a different teaching role in my school district. It would be two more years before I would be back in front of a band again. It was the most professionally frustrated as I’ve been, and it has been going on for the last four years.

I’ve had a lot of soul searching in the last few years. Do I try something else? If I do, what would it be? I had an opportunity to go into financial planning, but I know the right brain side of me is too dominant for that to work. Do I go back to school and find something else to do? Do I move to be able to find other opportunities? Whatever I’ve been faced with, it always seemed that the best option was to stay right where I was – which only continued the frustration.

When Will began to write, I didn’t take it very well. I wanted to be supportive, but it hit pretty close to home. My brother. Doing something that he loves. While I felt unable to do the thing I felt I was made for? It was tough for me at the time. Will and I hashed it out some months back, which I think was a major step for me. Strangely enough, I think that was a block in my own head that kept me from being free to explore other ideas. That… well, let’s name it here…. petty jealousy…. kept me locked up and once I was able to let it go I was then able to make something of some ideas that have been floating in my own head for a long long time. By the way, Will was extremely gracious about the whole thing. Another thing he’s good at, hmmm.

Anyway, sometime soon after Will and I had our hashing out, he posted a blog post called I Am Inadequate, where he went and described a lot of inadequacies, hangups, choices, lazinesses (is that a word?) and such that I also struggle with (we are related after all). For some reason, the genesis of an idea popped into my head after reading that, and combined with the struggle you see noted above, a story idea was born.

Concept 3Over the next few days, I popped in on that story every time I had a break and had draft one finished pretty quickly and showed it to my author-brother. With his encouragement, the story expanded, shifted some focuses and refined. What resulted was a story that is called The Price of Greatness, which will be part of the forthcoming collection Baking with Swords.

It feels as if the story of this blog post is unfinished, but I suppose that is as life goes. Life is unfinished, and to borrow a phrase, my story is still unwritten. I found it quite interesting that Twitterverse had two things to say about this today (5/23/2014), which I in turn found inspiring enough to write a blog post about. I will leave you with them.

Oswald Chambers @myutmost ·

“Ambition means a set purpose for the attainment of our own ideal, and as such it is excluded from the Kingdom of Our Lord.” –Chambers


kulturhack ‏@kulturhack

The Odd Wisdom Of Brian Eno: “Craft is what enables you to be successful when you’re not inspired.”


Cover Reveal – Baking With Swords


Cover Reveal - Baking With Swords

How exactly do you Bake with a Sword?
Good question — if you figure it out, let me know.
As for the book cover before you, this is my next book release, scheduled to drop soon with stories by me, my brother Paul, and my sister Betsy. I’ll have story descriptions up here in the next few days, but here are the titles of our three works:
Paul K. Swardstrom — The Price of Greatness
Betsy Baker — Flutter
Will Swardstrom — A Whimper