Rebecca Higgins

Written by

Rebecca Higgins

24 May 2024

Writing

Let’s Write a Novel in 24 Hours!

Write a novel in 24-hours - Photo by JESHOOTS.com for pexels


Let me paint a picture:

It’s the middle of the pandemic, and I’m living in one of the most locked down cities in the world

As a self proclaimed hermit, even I am beginning to climb the walls in frustration. I haven’t left my house in months. Running dry on regular content, I’ve turned (desperately) to Google, letting it recommend something, anything, to break up the monotony. While the algorithm usually misses the mark, today I am pleasantly surprised when something catches my eye.

In the article, a man recounts his attempt to dictate an entire novel in one day. He’s written off (no pun intended) trying to type it out, classifying it as an impossible task for him, but forges ahead anyway. 

Something feral stirs inside me.

I could do that.

Before I can really think about it, I’m already on Twitter joking that I’m going to give it a crack. 

My post catches the attention of a man I’ve never before interacted with. He tells me it’s impossible, calls me a ‘silly little girl’ and the final ingredient is added to my brewing cauldron of blind confidence and boredom. 

Spite, as it turns out, is an excellent motivator.

I give myself a week or two to prepare, breaking down exactly what I need to do. The day comes, and with the bemused support of my partner, I bunker down and begin to type.

If we consider that the average length of a first draft is about 50,000 words, I need to average about 40 words a minute.  It’s below my normal speed, but I know this isn’t a race; it’s a marathon — a test of endurance.

I’ve always liked to push myself to the limit: completing writing challenges in as few days as possible, committing to writing a million words in a year; even trying to write a novel every three months. I don’t always succeed, but I’ve always had fun trying. I’ve always learnt something about myself, about my craft, that drives me to try again and again.

In just over 16 hours, I blearily, triumphantly, finish my first draft of Vagabond and Rebels. It comes in at just over 50,000 words.

I am victorious, feeling an intense rush of equal parts disbelief and euphoria. Like I had throughout the day, I take note of my word count with a quick status update on Twitter.

As I drift off to sleep, I promise myself to do it again next year. Only next time, I decide, I’m going to convince others to join me.

That week, the man conveniently deleted his comments (and I’m validated all over again).

That was four years ago, and it’s how the 24-Hour Novel Challenge was born. And this year, we’d love for you to join us!

24-Hour Novel Challenge Banner
Download this banner to use on your socials!

The challenge has grown a lot since it started, though at its core, it remains the same:

Write what brings you joy (Neon-Gothic vampires for me this year!) and set your goal. Traditionally this is the 50k, but feel free to move this goalpost to wherever feels right for you- as long as it feels challenging!

The only “hard” rule is that you write for 24 hours over the weekend (break it up how you like. Accessibility looks different to everyone) and record how much you’ve done. At the end of the last hour, it’s pens/laptops down.

In the spirit of the challenge, if you push yourself, it doesn’t matter if you cross the finish line at 50k, 20k or even with two hundred words on a page. You’re still a winner, baby! And the benefits go far beyond bragging rights!

In preparing and attempting the challenge, you have the opportunity to connect with a wider community. You’ll be exposed to a variety of styles and approaches to writing. And in the challenge? For plotters, you get to hone those plotting docs, and see how they improve your workflow. For pantsers, it’s a chance to improve your flow; to figure out how to get those words on the page efficiently. Even in “failure”, there is incredible opportunity to reflect and grow as writers.

I now run this event every year because I love every part of it: it’s become a microcosm of everything I love about writing. It gives me a chance to celebrate and connect with my community, and for us to lift each other up. It’s an opportunity to truly challenge myself, to again push past what I thought was possible, and gives me a chance to change things up and get creative.

At the very least, it’s a great excuse to get some words down on the page — and prove that man wrong, for the fourth year running.

Want to join the fun? You can follow us on social media. We’re on X (@24hr_novel) and Instagram (@24hrnovel), or join us on Discord to chat with fellow participants, pitch your project, find accountability buddies, and do writing sprints!