90 Days to Your Novel Book Review

I saw that an Instagram friend of mine was doing a 90 Days to Your Novel challenge thing, based on this book. I was intrigued. I mean, who wouldn’t want to write a whole novel in 90 days? Can you really do that? Would it be any good? I know there are indie authors out there that crank out 4-5 novels a year.

Something I’ve learned in the last year is that consistency and frequency really help when it comes to growing a following. For example, I started this blog in August 2016. Then, I decided to start grad school to become a librarian. So, from June 2017-Aug 2019 while I was in school and working full time as a teacher, I posted infrequently. Since August, I have (for the most part) posted every Friday. The number of followers since then has nearly doubled and views on the website are way up. I expect by the end of 2020 the views will more than double from last year. BUT that is not nearly important to me as quality content. I try to be consistent. But sometimes I’ve got stuff going on in my life ( such as my MIL and my Stepdad passed away in the last 9 months) that prevent me from writing quality content for you, so I skip a week or two. Maybe that hurts the SEO, but I refuse to put junk out there attached to my name.

90 Days to a Novel?

by Sarah Domet
Publisher Writers Digest
275 pages

So that brings me around to this book. Can you write a novel in 90 days? Probably. Is it high quality? Maybe. Maybe not. Let’s look at what this book has you do.

image from Goodreads

My first impression of the book was that this is an old book. I think because this teal and brown combo were trendy a decade ago and sure enough it was published in 2010. So a lesson for your cover design, going with trendy colors will not hold up for a long time. If you do this, plan to redesign your cover every few years.

The author, Sarah Domet, guides you through writing a novel over the course of 12 weeks through 55 writing assignments. I thought this should be tackled in a very organized systematic way. I was looking forward to that. I was somewhat disappointed.

I read the first week’s assignments. They are very good assignments that begin of all things by having you write a scene then checking it for passive voice and fixing it. Um. Not what I was expecting. I kinda skipped to day 3 and fleshed out many of my characters.

Week 1

  • 1  Check for Being verbs- Passive vs Active voice
  • 2. Write with your 5 senses
  • 3 Write a 1-page character sketch for 3 Primary Characters and a shorter one for seven more characters.
  • 4 Reactions Given a situation, how would each character react differently to it. 
  • 5 For 3 MCs describe their rooms in a way that reflects their personality.
  • 6 Expressing emotions without stating them. (Show don’t Tell)
  • 7 Dialogue (internal conflicting against what they say)

Week 2

  • 8 POV– write same scene from 3 diff pov
  • 9 POV Write same scene from- 1st person, 3rd lim, 3rd omniscient
  • 10 Write for 30 m about mc- write a scene
  • 11 Conflict- What is at stake? Is the conflict enough to sustain the novel? 
  • 12 Secondary Characters– write 10 short bios for other characters in the novel. 
  • 13 Summary- Take a scene, read over it, and summarize the parts that are not critical to the plot. 
  • 14 Plot– brainstorm some plot points for the 1st ⅓ of the novel. Write 20 first lines of the novel, each on different. List 5 scenes in the 1st act. Write out one of those scenes.

Week 3

  • 15 2nd act plot out the second act and write one scene
  • 16 3rd act plot out the third act & write 20 ending lines & write one scene
  • 17 write a flashback scene and use this to deepen a story scene
  • 18 Tone– play with the tone of a scene using adjectives
  • 19 Write a long synopsis of your story
  • 20 Write a detailed outline of the story Include: setting, character, conflict for each scene and how each scene is resolved.
  • 21 Finish outline

Week 4

  • 22 Evaluate each scene’s purpose
  • 23 Assess scene variety
  • 24 Evaluate the Narrative Arc
  • 25 Research

Week 5- The Characters

  • 26 Character Descriptions- do they match personality?
  • 27 Character Descriptions- unique characters
  • 28 Character Descriptions- Backgrounds
  • 29 Character – Mind Reader- how does each character think differently
  • 30 Character – Unique Voice 

Week 6- The Beginning, Act 1

  • 31 First lines- What do the first lines reveal about your story, set up what expectations
  • 32 First pages- Characters, conflict, plot, complelling
  • 33 Middle beginning
  • 34 End of beginning

Week 7 Act 2

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels
  • 35 Internal scenes
  • 36 Mood & Setting
  • 37 Emotion
  • 38 Theme

Week 8 Act 2

  • 39 Action Scenes
  • 40 Dialogue 
  • 41 Action in relation to character

Week 9 End of Act 2

  • 42 In relation to the Climax- the build up, the message, …
  • 43 Climax

Week 10 The End

  • 44 The ending-Write the scene that follows the climax
  • 45 Tying of the ends- Write the scenes that tie up losse ends
  • 46 Connecting to the beginning, demonstrate change, look to the future

Rough Draft DONE!

Week 11

  • 47 Reverse Outline each scene and check for balance and Gaps
  • 48 Look at the transitions from scene to scene. Do you need any bridge scenes?

Week 12 

  • 49 The beginning 
  • 50 Reflecting at the End- Does it connect to the beginning?
  • 51 Theme

Week 13 Editing

  • 52 Back cover Copy
  • 53 Read through & Self-Editing Checklist
  • 54 Beta Readers 

After that…

  • 55 Lock it away and let it rest for a few weeks

You need to get and read the book to understand what my notes mean. She has a detailed explanation of each assignment.

Who will like this book?

I like this book, but not for the reason I expected I would. I do not like this book as a guide through writing my novel. I like it as a tool to strengthen my writing. I will write the novel in my own way. For Me...this book feels too disjointed and nonlinear for the way my brain works. For you…It might be just what you need.

This book feels like a blend between an outliner and a discovery writer. I like that she starts with character. That bodes well for a strong, well-liked story in this day and age. I found myself incredibly antsy when it came to writing character sketches before an outline. I usually start with an idea or situation and create the character based on that. Science fiction tends to be idea based stories primarily and character based second. Fantasy is a little more broad and plays with all the MICE Quotient aspects. Readers demand a strong character story, but that doesn’t mean it has to be the starting point.

For more information about the MICE Quotient see this post of mine or this one by Guinn Center for the Study of Science Fiction.

The Starting point

Part of my problem is I have been mulling over an outline for over a year. The characters were developed in my short story more than a year ago. I am eager to get started on actually writing the novel itself, not character sketches. I do those as they come up in the story. With my first novel (as yet unpublished and probably never will be) I came up with this huge cast of characters and the story ended up dictating a whole other set of characters. ugh! So much time wasted! #semperindoctrina

I think people who are a blend between an outliner and a discovery writer will like this book. It does have you write an outline and use it so if you lean too far left you won’t like it. If you are too far right–a totally analytical person who writes according to an outline from day one and write in order from page 1-end, this book with drive you nuts too.

So is this book a waste of money? Absolutely no! I love the assignments in the book.

Can you have a book in 90 days? Yes. Quality? Yes. But you have to be a fast writer. I would not be able to accomplish this feat because although many assignments are used in the novel, it does add a lot of extra writing that would not be included in the novel. They are absolutely worth doing, but I would not get all this done in 90 days. What takes most people 2-3 hours would take me 7-8 hours. In fact, I worked on the Day 3 assignment for 2 days and I already had my 4 main characters done before hand!

Disjointed

Another reason I can’t do it her way is the disjointedness. She says to write a scene here to practice character description and a scene there to practice setting description and another scene over there to show conflict in dialogue. Those are great exercises for practice but I have to write scenes in order or they will be an incoherent mess. Maybe you can do that though!

A Tool Not a Guide

So I will use this book to help me when I get stuck or want to strengthen an area of weakness, but I can’t follow as the author prescribes.

Perhaps this is the perfect book for the way your brain works. If nothing else, this book has some excellent exercises that will help you grow as a writer.

In case you missed it… my book is now available on Amazon!

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