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The 15-Minute Novelist

How to Write Your First Novel in Just 15 Minutes a Day

J.P. Choquette

The 15-Minute Novelist: How to Write Your First Book in Just 15 Minutes a Day

First edition (2015)

Copyright © J.P. Choquette (2015).

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, without the express permission of the publisher.

The 15-Minute Novelist / Choquette, J.P.

Published by J.P. Choquette, jpchoquette.net

Cover Design by James, GoOnWrite.com

Table of Contents


Chapter One:

The Writing Pitfalls

Chapter Two:

Determining your Writing Future

Chapter Three:

Getting Set Up for Writing Success

Chapter Four:

Planning it Out … or Not

Chapter Five:

When You Want to Give Up

Chapter Six:

Nearly There

Chapter Seven:

You Did It!

Chapter Eight:

Now What?

Chapter Nine:

Ready to Launch … and Starting a Second

Chapter Ten:

Continued Success in 15 Minutes a Day

About the Author


“So, what are you doing for a job now?” The woman asking the question was a previous co-worker I’d run into at a maple sugar open house. It was a pretty, albeit cold, March day in Vermont. Nose reddened by the wind, I’d walked into the sugar house and nearly been knocked over by the smell of hot sap, syrupy sweet and mouth-watering.

The question wasn’t a friendly, curious, I-really-want-to-know-because-I-like-you kind of inquiry. Instead, she’d asked it with a smirk.

“I’m writing,” I answered, lifting my chin a little. It was still too early in this new career to claim my title of writer, but telling people that I was writing wasn’t as stress-inducing. Though I still waited for the other person to point at me and say in a sing-song voice, “You’re just a fake, you’re just a fake.”

“Oh, how nice,” she replied, again with a smug look. “It seems every time I see you you’re doing something different.”

I can’t remember what my response was, but my cheeks flushed bright red. And it wasn’t from the cold this time.

It was true: I was a notorious job-hopper. I was just over thirty and had done everything from working as an attendant at a dog boarding facility to a before and after school daycare worker, from Montessori teacher’s assistant to vet technician to administrative assistant to case manager. I liked some of these jobs … at least when I started. “This time,” I’d tell myself the first few weeks of a new position, “this time I’m going to stick it out.” But I never did. I was a serial job quitter.

But there was part of me that knew, just knew, that when I found the right fit, I’d stick it out. The problem was that none of these jobs were it. None were creative. None allowed me to work hard at my strengths, to work at my own pace (speedy!) and quit when the juice was gone.

Instead, I spent many hours chained to my desk, a phone propped on one shoulder and my other hand shuffling papers and typing simultaneously. I spent a lot of time answering dumb questions (Sorry to all the teachers out there who say there is no such thing as a dumb question. There is, and I have heard some).

When the bug would bite, and I’d feel the need to peruse the classifieds, I tried to talk myself out of it.

“But you’re getting a good paycheck here.”

“The work isn’t so bad. Boring, yes, but not bad.”

“You’ve made a couple of friends at this place. Why not stay?”

Or, one of my personal favorites: “But in two years you’ll have an extra week’s vacation!”

But I didn’t want that. Didn’t want to be living for my next vacation, for the next three-day weekend. I wanted to love my job so much that doing it didn’t feel like drudgery to be “gotten through” but instead something exciting to build and create.

Can you relate? Are you someone who is a serial job-hopper? Have you sometimes wondered (or had other people ask you) “What is wrong with you? Why can’t you just be happy in this career?” Maybe it’s because that job or career doesn’t fit you. Maybe you’re a born storyteller, and your soul knows (even if the rest of you doesn’t) that you aren’t meant to work as a waitress or a manager or a financial counselor; you were made to write books.

Or maybe you really love your job. You might be working as a bank manager or at a shoe store, or as an artist or therapist or teacher and absolutely can’t see yourself doing anything else. You get a kick out of your work and are happy to go in most days. But still there’s this desire in you. The desire to tell stories.

When you have a book inside, it is your job to bring it out. You might not want to. You might be scared to let it see the light of day, afraid of what others might think of it. In fact, you might be doing a lot of things to make sure you “don’t have the time” to write that book. Spending too much time watching television (yes, it still counts if it’s PBS), following blogs, interacting on social media sites or even things like cooking, cleaning or reading. These aren’t bad things … but they may be things keeping you from fulfilling your dream of writing your first book.

And that’s where The 15-Minute Novelist comes in. Throughout this book we’re going to talk about a reasonable, realistic way to tackle this “not enough time” problem (and it doesn’t even mean giving up TV… completely). We’ll talk about writing rules and why it’s important to break them. We’ll discuss whether or not you might want to pursue traditional publishing versus self-publishing, the editing process (and why it’s not as scary as some people think), and ways to power through “icky middles.” I’ll share ideas and tips with you for making writing a new habit in your life, and celebrating the success of finishing your very first novel.

Whether you are still dreaming of starting that first book or are halfway through a manuscript or even struggling through the last few chapters, The 15-Minute Novelist will help you realize your goal in an easier, faster way than you ever thought possible.

I’ve written four books now (and am working on a fifth) using this method in addition to my regular full-time job of writing and teaching/coaching. If I can do it, you can too because there is absolutely nothing extraordinary about me. I just learned a skill, applied it, and got the results I wanted. And now I’m going to help you do the same.

Ready? Let’s get started …

Chapter One:

The Writing Pitfalls

“Real writers must practice their craft for at least two hours a day to get anywhere.”

“If you’re serious about finishing your book, you’d better forget about having a life outside of your office.”

“I strive for word count, not hours. My goal is four thousand words a day. And if I have time before bed, I’ll hit the computer again and bang out another thousand or two for good measure.”

Any of the above sound familiar? Open any writing magazine or how-to-write book, and you’ll see similar statements by many authors. Troll online writing forums, and you might see hours and word counts even higher than those above. Wow. Are there really people who can maintain this type of schedule?

Maybe … but maybe not. Sometimes professional writers or amateurs with hopes of becoming professionals burn themselves out early on by trying, and often failing, to keep up with such stringent standards.

I know because I’ve been there.

There are few things in life that I love as much as writing. It’s the way I communicate best, the way that I express thoughts, feelings, and imagination in a manner that’s ironically, hard to put into words verbally. Writing just works for me and is important on so many levels. But with that said, the minute I try to put “musts” on my writing is the same minute it starts to go downhill.


Take for instance the time that I read a Writer’s Digest interview of a famous author who I very much admired. This writer stated that she wrote for at least two hours a day, every day, without exception.

“Well,” I thought, “if I want to be a real writer, than that’s what I should do.”

So I did. For about, oh, two days.

It turns out that sitting in front of the keyboard and forcing myself to write doesn’t work so well. I become agitated. I can’t sit still. I start grumbling about writing instead of seeing it as the free, expressive art form that I love. Rather than my novels tumbling out in chaotic, happy paragraphs, the words start to feel stilted, stale. I start to feel a little stale myself.

So, Tip #1 in this chapter is break the rules.

That’s right. Break those writing rules that don’t fit you, and do not apologize for it. If you love spending two hours delving into your manuscript every day and that energizes you, then by all means, do so. But if you’re like me, and you either a) can’t sit still that long or b) stare with glazed eyes at your screen after a half hour, then stop. Reassess. What works for (insert famous author’s name here) may not work for you. And that’s OK! Just like we wouldn’t consider plagiarizing someone’s writing, we also shouldn’t covet their work style.

Think too, about the amount of free time people have. It’s becoming more and more limited for most of us. I won’t bore you with the hundreds of time management and lifestyle studies that are done each year; I’m fairly certain you know intrinsically what they all say. Work, family and community commitments, volunteering and faith-based obligations in addition to trying to (gasp!) have a hobby or even read a book is challenging. So many of us who want to write feel like failures from the get-go when we can’t squeeze in two more hours to “hone our craft” every day.

In addition to this challenge, we also have to face all the writing rules: things like grammar and punctuation, spelling issues and plot development, character visualization and story arcs and all the rest that the “experts” tell us we must, must, must know and apply before we ever set pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).

Well, honestly? I think this is a lot of bunk. Of course certain things like grammar, spelling and plot development are important. But do you have to do all of these things, and all the others listed above, perfectly before you can write a rough draft? No way! In fact, it wasn’t until I made two tiny changes in how I approached my writing that I finally finished a manuscript. Oh, I had lots of half-finished manuscripts lounging about on the hard drive, even more started that didn’t make it past chapter four.

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