How I Finished a 19k-word Novella in 12 Days

This piece is not just about how to craft words into decent writing with title and ending. This is about commitment to side hustle.

Seriously, this post title could be anything. How I <insert your project name> in <any duration you think is a record time> is an example.

Photo by Andrew Neel

The building blocks of completeness are only time and commitment. People fret about not being able to finish projects they started, but it all boils down to whether the project is meaningful enough for them to present the deliverables. Rather than see my unfinished projects scattering around, why not dedicate time and presence to finish it?

I always aspire to be a writer, or more specifically, an author. I would not like to die with the dream of my own books be unpublished, how dire it might be. I would not even start contemplating the possibilities. And I choose to actually start finishing what I’ve written before. My half-finished novella, Monochromatic Rainbow (in Bahasa: Pelangi Monokromatis) was such a heap of plotless words. I halted the writing because of a major writer’s block caused me to not know which direction I should go for.

If you know Bahasa Indonesia, then I suggest you to take a sneak peek at my novella, Sirene Ketiga (The Third Siren) which is still a work-in-progress at Wattpad, but a finished project in real life.

There was no time to rewrite, I kept saying this to myself. Between job, me time, and organizational activities, I found no time to sit down and write. Then, the time came. I found a better opportunity, a new job. I took two weeks of me time during this career transition. My friends asked what I would do in these two weeks. I answered writing. They asked me whether I was interested in vacationing somewhere with the beaches or hills, I said no. I had an obligation due. People might think this wasted my time, but actually, it did not. There is this sense of maintaining Instagram-worthy life, including indulging in destination getaway, that urges people to go on vacation. But I find solace in writing, and as I said, this obligation is due.

Find Time

The two weeks window serves as an generous time for me to sit down. Alas, or sleep. However, keeping in mind that I have to finish because my time is limited kept me going. I would have started a new job in 14 days and I expected to not have any more spare time, just like any newcomers do.

So, I sat down, fired up my laptop, and typed.

Have a Plan

Yes, this plays a major role for me finishing that book. Without a plan, or a plot, my mind would wander around aimlessly just like the last time. That guarantees a writer’s block ensues. Hence, I kickstarted the 2-week period by thinking about the plot first. On the -1 st and 0th day, I sat down and opened up a spreadsheet, created 4 tabs consisting of plots, setting or worldbuilding, character development, and trivias. Just like the old adage: if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

I never believe in letting the characters decide what to do. Without penning down the plot, you will not know what to write.

Oh, and write your ending first is only half of the success plan. In my first manuscript of Monochromatic Rainbow, I did imagine my ending. I even had the major ideas panning several slides (yeah, I created a deck of the plot). However, this did not work out. I was lost in the middle.

Protect It at All Cost

Yes, baby, if you are only on fire on the first few days, your book will never finish, because it will not write itself! Consistency is the key here. I had 8-hr of writing time, despite I still made time for pampering like spa and such, and family trip. I cannot finish the book in one sitting, because this is a writing activity I’m talking about. Therefore, the total hours stretched into several days. And on each day I had to write, I protected my writing time.

Exercise Your Self-Discipline

Get yourself together. The hard work will pay off, I promise. It is seeing your story finished and you’re ready to pack it into an e-book.

Put down your phone, and disconnect your wi-fi if you must. As I will explain in the next tip, my focus can only be so long. Social media galore and wi-fi on my laptop entail disruption at every turn, so I know better not to waste my golden 2-week period. It’s a very rare time window, you know, because it’s not every year I change career. And annual leave has to be split into family occasions or other events.

Pomodoro Technique

My attention span is limited. I am not diagnosed with the attention disorder, in fact, limited attention span is the side effect of our modern lives. We spend a lot of time watching screens to absorb information. And scrolling endlessly is a typical passive reading where the person rarely involves active and critical thinking (at least me). I love reading Medium articles, but I do it passively. Even though I find something intriguing, it is just that, intriguing and sparking my curiosity. Perhaps, I will engage in commenting section, but it is not demanding as thinking to unravel a story.

I once attended a creative writing course where the participants were asked to write in sprints. Each sprint lasts for 15mins. So the cycle would be: sprint — break 10mins — sprint — break 10mins, and so on.

I also came across the Pomodoro technique, of which the mechanic is very similar to writing sprints. Pomodoro technique breaks down the sessions into intervals, normally each lasts for 25mins.

Each chapter in my book is 750–1000 words, so I broke down my sprint or interval into 250 words. That would total up to 4 sprints for each chapter. But I was lenient on this, as I could write relentlessly if I hit ‘the zone’. The zone is when my brain sparks lights and I elevate into a higher dimension, as illustrated by popular memes. Obviously, that was just a metaphor, but I know you get it.

. . .

Now, I am in the review phase of my book. I sent some beta readers the e-book, and I expect to receive their review in mid-January 2019. Besides, I also spend my spare time during commuting or lunch break to read and plan for my book marketing. As I travel the road of self-publishing, it is expected from me to portion time for marketing my book. I can write about self-publishing book marketing after I (fingers crossed) market mine successfully. Wish me luck, friends.

Do you want to share your story about finishing a project in your record time? Comment below. You might not realize your story might ignite other readers to start finishing projects they had started a long time ago.

Until next time,


Originally published at on December 22, 2018.



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Sekar Langit

Product management and fintech. Obscure taste of fashion. An author of serial novels.