How to Write a Novel in ONE Sitting

Stop balking. It can be done! I’ve done it. In fact, it’s the best way for me to write a novel. Trust me. You do not want to be inside this head. I have the attention span of a–well of something with the most minute of attention spans in the history of attention spans. I prefer not to say a gnat, because, well does anybody actually KNOW what the attention span of a gnat is? For all we know, they could have a superior attention span. That’s attention span bigotry, in my humble opinion.

What was I saying?

Oh yes. How to write a novel in one sitting.

Having done this on several occasions, I could probably give a few tips on how to do it. The most important thing for me is to not take myself too seriously when I do this. Don’t get me wrong…I take my writing output very seriously. The finished product must be as close to infallible as possible. But writing…the actual act of sitting in a chair–or on a chair–or on a table–or on the floor–and writing? I can’t take that too seriously. F to the U to the N. That’s what I require when I decide to give my writing self 72 hours to come up with a complete novel. Stepping into a novel marathon situation with a sneer and a steel resolve to GET THINGS DONE would equate to ABSOLUTE FAILURE for me. If you think you can attack a marathon writing situation by approaching it without humour and with a resolve to GET SHIT DONE, by all means…give it a go. That’s not me.

Here are some points to consider prior to hunkering down for a one-sitting first-draft novel:

1. Remove all commitments from your schedule. This should go without saying, but you would be surprised. Don’t schedule a one-sitting novel writing jag with a doctor’s appointment in the middle of it. That’s a real life break. You can’t have real life breaks. They interrupt the flow of the marathon mind. That shit will fuck you up. Make sure your schedule is COMPLETELY open. No “I have to watch Matlock Saturday at 7pm…but that’s the only break I’m taking!” You can’t have things to distract you from the trenches. You can take breaks…I’m not saying you can’t. I’m just saying you can’t have REAL LIFE breaks. You can’t come out of the cave.

2. If you don’t have somebody looking after your dietary needs for the marathon sitting, make sure you have enough previously prepared food to take you to the end of the marathon. Refer to #1. Preparing yourself a 3-course meal on day two of your marathon would be a lovely reward for sticking it out, but it would also take you completely off course. Might as well pack it in, because your mind left the cave as you sliced the onions and mashed the potatoes. Nothing kills a creativity binge more than straining broccoli through a colander. Have everything you need for your meals readily available. The most you’ll want to do in the kitchen is nuke things in the microwave or send some bread to the toaster gallows. More than that, and you’re disturbing the force, Luke.

3. Stand up and move away from your screen whenever you desire. Writers know that not all of the writing is done in front of the screen. You can leave your shelter all you want, you just can’t leave your cave. Take a walk down the street. Do jumping-jacks or gestalt or scream therapy. Walk down to the water and jump in. Now you’re thinking ‘why can’t I peel potatoes when I can jump in the river?’ Don’t question me, grasshopper. I have done this several times. Just think yes to FRIVOLOUS ACTIVITY and no to CHORES. You can do one while remaining in your writing cave, but it’s hard to remain in the cave while doing the other.

4. Listen to music OR don’t listen to music. This is, of course, a personal choice. A lot of writers have PLAYLISTS for their novels. If you know what you’re going to write about during your marathon jag, create a playlist prior to entering your cave. Listen while you write, if that’s your thing. Or, if music during writing makes you want to pluck your eyeballs out, then don’t do it. The key is if you’re going to listen to music, have everything you need for it at your fingertips. Creating a playlist while you’re in the cave could be catastrophic to the force, Luke. You’ll think about searching for a certain song, and you’ll go to download it or what have you. Next thing you know, two hours have passed and you’re in some dingy basement backroom of Youtube, watching/listening to a 1970s bootleg concert of Patty Smith and you won’t know how to escape. You will have to surrender the fantasy.

5. Take a boatload of writers with you into your cave. There are now several novel marathon events around. Find one…participate in one. You will thrive on the camaraderie of being in the company of other writers while doing this seemingly impossible thing. You will feed off of each other in the most positive of ways. And you will walk away from your weekend (or mid-week jag, if you will) with not only a finished first-draft but a load of new siblings in writing. Relationships will be formed that you will carry with you for a long time.

6. BE FOOLISH. Allow yourself to laugh. You are doing a phenomenal thing. To write a novel from cover to cover in one sitting is extraordinary. You will be tired (EXHAUSTED), you will be emotional (A FUCKING WRECK), you will be excited and wired and down and up and sideways. Don’t try to hold everything in. Don’t try to make this a pseudo-military mission. There are no rules. There is only you and the unfolding story. You have to have fun. It’s the only way to get through it. Trust me on this. You’ll have some great moments. Breakthroughs will be everywhere. But at 2:30 in the morning on your second day you might want to pull out all your hair and set your legs on fire. You will be giddy to the point of crying…but remaining in your cave is the way through it. Let seriousness fall away and be your child-self. It’s how you will make it through the dark tunnels of the marathon. WRITE YOUR WAY THROUGH.

7. Whatever you do, don’t look back. Writing a novel in one sitting is not like seeing a runaway freight train bombing down the tracks at an impossible unstoppable speed. Writing a novel in one sitting makes YOU the freight train. Don’t, for the love of god, stop that train. You have to let go of the ego self that screams at you to edit that last sentence, that last paragraph, that last chapter. The editing can come later. Much later, if you want. During the marathon, there is only ONE DIRECTION. Forward.

That’s enough for now. The biggest thing about attempting to write a novel this way is that there are no rules. YOU FIND YOUR OWN WAY. These are just a few loose suggestions. (-: You have got to try to write this way. It’s so liberating. Magical. Imagine not needing to do anything else between the start and end of your story. It’s unfathomable, but not impossible.

Here’s a prior post I made about the MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON FLIPBOOK MOVIE.

A previous post I wrote on the Marathon Novel Experience.

Both my 2nd and 3rd published novels are the result of NOVEL MARATHON WRITING. Take a look at the Book Trailer for my 3rd novel, THE REASONS. On an unrelated note, it features some amazing music by one of my favourite bands…MEDICINE FOR THE PEOPLE.

By Kevin Craig

Author, Poet, Playwright. Author of The Camino Club, Billions of Beautiful Hearts, and Book of Dreams, all from Duet Books, the LGBTQ Young Adult imprint of Chicago Review Press. Other books: Pride Must Be A Place, Half Dead & Fully Broken, Burn Baby Burn Baby, The Reasons, Sebastian's Poet, and Summer on Fire.


  1. I’ve read so much about the novel marathon (the one in Muskoka, at any rate) but nowhere else have I read a description of the process that is so exhilarating. It makes me want to find my own cave, sans broccoli draining, and write a little novel of my own.

  2. Ha! Because broccoli draining is far too exhausting to do at a novel writing marathon, right! We both know this to be true. Cave on, my fellow marathoner! Cave on!

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