Life, as with art, is about experimenting to find what works. For that reason, I’m always fascinated by other writers techniques and methods. Even moreso if they have found a way to be more productive in punching out quality work in less time.

Jeff VanderMeer wrote a decent novel in sixty days. I wanted to find out how by following the clues he left. It’s all about finding workable shortcuts that speed up the process without impacting the integrity of the story or the experience for the reader.

Here is the gist of it:


  1. Get as much support as you can from the person you live with to free up your time and be able to focus on writing.
  2. Use your networks to dig out information and experiences and interpretations to save time researching.
  3. Look after yourself with exercise and healthy eating to max the productivity – it isn’t time wasted.
  4. Have a system and structure to your writing. A plot outline and a method for what you do when eg write morning, edit afternoon, revise weekends.
  5. Build a stable of people (readers and reader/writers) who can read your novel on the go or as completed to give feedback before finalising publication.


  1. Have a detailed enough synopsis broken down into chapters with an idea of action for each one. This saves you thinking and contemplating along the way thus saving time. You can always edit later.
  2. Know what kind of novel you’re writing and remind yourself of it eg “I’m creating a relatively fast-paced action-adventure story with a subplot involving espionage and a tragic love relationship.”
  3. Use a simple and transparent style of writing. Being too literary is not usually compatible with speed writing.
  4. Deepen your main characters by creating them from people you know a little of and extending that.
  5. Write a scene from the viewpoint of the main character in that scene who has the most at stake. It’s ok to use multiple viewpoints throughout.
  6. Use a setting that has some commonality with an area you are familiar with to save time with evoking place.
  7. Focus on what’s needed, not what would be nice. Eg only descibe where the action is.
  8. Save time and increase uniqueness by playing against type. Your novel will be less sterotypical and cliched.

These are bullet points and Jeff explains them more fully in his post. Go check it out and bear in mind it is for a purpose – to produce a good quality work in a short timeframe.

How to Write a Novel in Two Months