2020 Writing Review Part 4: The Novels

I thought I was done with my writing review posts, but I spoke too soon. I, uh, remembered that the bulk of my writing time in 2020 had not been spent on short stories and their submissions, but on a pair of novels. So, you know, maybe I should talk about that. 🙂

Okay, here are the basic stats on the two novels I worked on last year.

  • Late Risers is a supernatural thriller and clocks in it just over 100,000 words. It’s in final revision.
  • Hell to Play is also a supernatural thriller (unrelated to Late Risers) and now sits at 91,000 words. It’s in its second full revision.

I wrote Late Risers in 2019, though I did a fair amount of work on it in 2020. I thought it might end up being a trunk novel. Then I let an insightful and trusted critique partner take a look at it, and I have reconsidered. The novel is maybe better than I’d thought. Work needs to be done, but I believe it’s sellable. I wrote Hell to Play in 2020, and the bulk of this post will focus on that novel.

Let’s talk about first drafts. Here’s how Hell to Play came together. WPWD means words per writing day.

  • Date Began: 4/13/20
  • Date Finished: 7/14/20
  • Total Words: 89,188
  • WPWD Goal: 2,000
  • WPWD Average: 1,897

It took me roughly three months to write the first draft of Hell to Play, and I think that’s a pretty good pace for a novel. On the days I wrote, I averaged pretty close to my goal of 2,000 words. The first draft ended up right around 90,000 words, which, in my opinion, is a solid length for a supernatural thriller. It’ll likely grow a little in revision, but I wouldn’t expect it to eclipse 100,000 words. It was a lot of fun to write, and it’s based on my short story “Scare Tactics,” most recently appeared in Lost Souls an anthology published by Flame Tree Press.

Now let’s talk about revisions. I have undertaken two revisions on Hell to Play, and I’m currently on what I hope is my final revision of Late Risers. As a refresher, here are the steps I take when revising.

  1. Read and Revise. The first thing I do after I finish a first draft is let it sit a couple weeks. Then I come back to it, read it from start to finish, and fix obvious problems. I also clean up the prose, thought that’s not my primary goal.
  2. Critique Partners. After I finish my initial revision, I send the novel to my critique partners. I currently have three, and each one of them brings a different perspective and tends to focus on different areas of the novel. Their notes are invaluable in the next steps.
  3. Second Revision: Based on the notes from my critique partners, I revise the novel. This can be a lengthy task, and I’m currently working on this stage for Hell to Play. 
  4. Polish Prose. After the second revision, I’ll give the draft a fairly thorough proofread and fix up the prose. Luckily, my critique partners are awesome about helping with prose too.
  5. Agent Review: Once the first draft is polished up, I send the novel to my agent. He invariably has additional feedback, which kicks off another revision.
  6. Final Revision: Based on my agent’s notes, I revise the novel again, and, well, hopefully that’s the end of it until the novel is sold. I haven’t gotten that far with either of these books, so this is where my list ends.

I believe Late Risers will be in shoppable shape by the end of this month, and Hell to Play should be ready for my agent to review around the same time. Hopefully, March and April will be interesting months. 😉


That’s the basics on my novel-writing in 2020. Not bad, though I’d hoped I would sell one of the novels last year. Obviously, no one in the world expected 2020 to be, well, 2020, so I’m thankful I was able to produce anything at all.

Did you work on a novel in 2020? I’d love to hear about it on the comments.

5 Comments on “2020 Writing Review Part 4: The Novels

  1. I completed a first draft of a middle grade novel that currently sits at a whopping 14,500 words. It’s been almost 6 weeks now that I’ve let it sit, and I need to start Step 1 on your list.

    • Congrats on completing the first draft. I know nothing about middle grade, so is that word count pretty typical for the genre?

      • From what I’ve read, middle grade length is essentially equivalent to novella length for adult novels. So I may still be a little short.

      • Interesting. Well, it depends on whose definition of novella you’re using. I’ve seen the term applied to everything from 15,000 to 40,000 words. 🙂

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