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The 90-Day Novel: Unlock the story within

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  559 ratings  ·  67 reviews
Alan Watt wrote the first draft of his novel Diamond Dogs, in eighty-eight days, and later sold the North American rights for $500,000 to Little, Brown in a bidding war. The book became a national bestseller, won a slew of awards, and is soon to be a major motion picture.

Get the first draft down quickly! The 90-Day Novel is a day-by-day guide through the process of gettin
Third, 304 pages
Published (first published October 10th 2010)
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This book is a practical how-to book on writing fiction. Many of the how-to books are inspirational and theoretical as well as biographical. This book is about the nuts and bolts of getting the story out and onto the page.

The main idea in it is to write the first draft fast, fast, fast. It is messy and ugly and terribly flawed- but it has potential. And it gets you in the habit of writing past your inner critic. The next step is to work with the material it generated to hone a finished work.

da AL
Feb 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Good chance Julia Cameron fans will enjoy this, given that there are a few similarities. If Cameron doesn’t resonate, you still may find this bread-crumbs/inside-to-out writing approach useful.
Aug 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing-tools
I heard about this book in an interview with the amazing Ottessa Moshfegh. She claims (cheekily) that she used it to write her Booker-nominated Eileen. So I used it to write my book - or at least the first shitty draft of it. It was tough, many days of writing character backgrounds, building their lives and backstories. I am sure that had some value but I wonder if I would use it on my next novel - I don't think so. Overall though, I'm glad I used it, because it gave me a daily goal and helped t ...more
Nov 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to write a novel. I spent years laboring under what I thought my story was, and using this method, I wrote a first draft in only 90 days!

There is so much freedom in this method, but the book also teaches much about story structure. Most books on writing I've seen focus on either structure or freewriting - this book combines both, and beautifully.

I am told that he is working on a book called The 90-Day Rewrite also, so we will have additional t
Jerry Brown
Oct 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mandatory-craft
I needed a workshop to overcome a serious block, so I googled everything that was available, from online miracle cures to neighborhood reading clubs.

The only one that stood out was called "The 90-Day Novel Workshop." Unlike the others, most of which were built around structural techniques, this one said forget about structure, we need to probe our unconscious to find the truth about the story we want to tell. And let the structure reveal itself as part of the process. Two meetings a week, two h
Michael Shreeve
These days I only read "how to write novels in 5 days or less and make 1 million dollars" for pleasure. It can be an interesting exercise to look into the mind of another writer. Just realize it is another writer. It isn't you.

I desperately wish I could have the same success as Alan (writes a novel in 90 days. A few weeks after that sells it for $500,000. Not a bad way to make a living.). But this guy is writing a book with some serious survivor bias going on.

Good tips, but there is a long lis
Jul 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read over fifty books on the craft of fiction. The 90-Day Novel stands in the top five. Using the exercises in this book changed the way I write fiction. At the risk of melodrama, the book was life-changing in that it opened the door to help me understand why I write the kinds of stories I do, and gave me incredibly deeper access to my Voice. I highly recommend it. ...more
I read this book AGES ago. Followed some of the advice, but in the end you end up with nonsense. It would be cool if your subconscious could produce a great novel, but it really can't. It takes quite a bit of research and motivations and things that are well thought out.

On the one hand though, I found out my subconscious makes really questionable choices.
John Gilbert
Alan Watt has hit on an excellent (if not unique) method for leading novice - and experienced - writers towards the goal of writing a good first draft novel. Using stream of consciousness techniques he begins 90 days of writing exercises by exploring the fears of the writer, arguing that even they can be used to form the nucleus of any novel.

He then gets the reader/writer to mine and explore theme, character, and images that could be used to create a novel plot. I say, could, because Watt stres
Judy Croome
Feb 02, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Novice writers

Written in a friendly approachable style, THE 90-DAY NOVEL takes an unusual approach in that it makes a good effort at explaining the unconscious aspects of writing. Combining tips and secrets, quotes and writing exercise, Watt encourages the reader through the dynamic process of completing a first draft of a novel within a 90-day period.

His explanation of showing versus telling to add life to a story was very good, as were many of the writing secrets he revealed. At last I feel comfortable bei
Dec 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Couldn't Have Done it without Alan Watt and the 90 Day Novel!"

The 90 Day Novel is a savior!! Having never written a full piece before, I signed up for one of Alan Watt's 90 Day Novel Workshops and now am forever grateful!

I truly believe I never would have finished my first novel without the brilliance of the 90 Day Novels guidance. The structure it gives along with a 90 day time commitment creates an environment for creativity to freely flourish within the natural journey towards a transformat
Nov 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A friend wrote the words, 'Al Watt. The 90 Day Novel' on the back of her business card and handed it to me with an emphatic, "Check it out." The next thing I knew I was writing the book I'd put off for over a year.

In my experience, The 90 Day Novel provides an ideal balance between specific guidance and no hard and fast rules, and Al keeps the process moving at a pace that discourages resistance and promotes progress. There is an alchemy to it whereby decisions are made, protagonists come to lif
Gwyn Haller
Jan 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: aspiring and discouraged writers
Recommended to Gwyn by: Several authors
Shelves: writing-books
I pull this book out everytime I need to get going writing. It's not that I have writers' block but have writers' doubt. We have to pay our "dues"; have thick skin; and be open to critiques from anyone--and still get started on the next story. I'd write even if I never published. I'm a word smith and at heart the old fashioned story teller. So Mr. Watt is my comfort and acceleration tool until I'm pounding the keys on my own. I've read his book and the second time around actually did all the exe ...more
Jan 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Because of this book, I actually *did* write a memoir in 90 Days. So, if you want to cheat writer's block and have your story in your head--or heart--go for it. For those of us stuck in edits, it looks like there's a sequel int he works... ...more
Aug 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The title of this book doesn't do it justice. "The 90-Day Novel" sounds like a formulaic, prescriptive how-to text that shuttles the writer through a draft, making sure they hit each stop before driving them to the next. As these books have only hindered and frustrated me as I struggled to complete a draft of my novel, I initially didn't give Watt's book a chance. It was only when Sarah Selecky recommended it during her Story Intensive program and I listened to her interview with Watt that I dec ...more
May 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: keeper
A very hands on writing book. Watt takes you from the beginning and holds your hand all the way through to the end. He lists engaging questions to think about for your characters, helps you to see your way through the world and gets you started with every day.

The only complaint I had was that some of the days there towards the beginning seemed rather sparse in what was done for that day and it felt like some of the exercises and prompts could have been combined to move things along a little fast
Steve Sasaki
Nov 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The 90-Day Novel is a book and a process I believe in, and in my view may be larger than the author himself. Alan Watt’s methods coax, guide, and encourage, so virtually all can finding a story within, worth telling. He was able to take a novice, me, and provide an on-going writing process. I’m thrilled I continue to work with a sense of purpose and urgency.

In the past I had taken many writing courses and seminars. Most emphasized the elements which comprised a great story, but none provided a
Catherine Oyster
Jan 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Helpful and motivating. Four stars because my hero is a She so it really annoys me that He is the only sex used to refer to a hero. Was this book written before the 1980's?

I'd suggest instructional books written for men and women use he and she interchangeably throughout. Or pick "she" for the next two hundred years. It's rather alienating and dismissive of 50% of humans on earth and my main character on a subconscious level - which is the level these exercises are supposed to work on.

Nov 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Al Watt has an accessible approach to writing with "The 90-Day Novel" and his method is deeply satisfying. Watt puts you in touch with your deepest source of imagination and give you the tools and exercises to tap into that source to write your original story. Watt has reverence for the creative process and that humble approach and concise exercises related to structure allows students to write novels in 90 days! ...more
Prity Malhotra
Sep 16, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Write a Conflicting Book with Hero & the Antagonist having Backstories,strength,weakness,hidden agendas,lies etc etc. This is the only Advice the Author gives throughout this Book apart from self-publicizing his own Book Diamond Dogs. Now that you read this above Tips,you don't hv to read this 300 pages of GIbberish. ...more
Jul 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Particularly the first 28 days- once we started the actual drafting, I found it significantly less useful, but the character exercises in the first 28 days saved my novel. My new draft after completing them is finally clear and actually going to make it into revisions. It helped me find the story that I really wanted to tell.
Marcella Burnard
Feb 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Not that I'm DOING what the book says - which is writing my novel in 90 days, this book is more than worth the price of admission. ...more
Sep 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To anyone used to reading this sort of book, Watt has a very unique and, for me, a very useful approach. If this book does not get you writing, well, maybe take up knitting? Archery? Crosswords?
Ally Bishop
Nov 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a must read for any writer. It will change the way you look at your muse and blast through writer's block. Can't recommend it highly enough... And I'm not a fan of how-to books. ...more
Jul 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a highly motivating book. The formula is simple, but it's enabling.
I wrote my first snippet of fiction when I was about 9, started writing more seriously at age 13. By my mid-20s, I'd written 3.5 first drafts of original fiction and many more beginnings. I was very much a character-focused discovery writer. Alan would call it 'intuitive'.
During my PhD and postgrad times, I worked a lot on my plotting, since I knew this is where I needed to develop my craft, but I lost the ability to actu
Jun 25, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Otessa Moshfegh says this book helped her write Eileen, which I liked. I did not really like this book, though. I didn't realize it was self-published, which means that there are a lot of typos and misspellings. It seems to be better advise for writing a screenplay than a novel- not all novels follow the strict format Watt advises- and it's also just repetitive and dull in the way it's written. And Watt's idea of good writing is very...male. The ideas for stream-of-conscious writing prompts aren ...more
Clarissa Van Dell
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Definitely a book for writers on the "organic" side of the spectrum, Watt focuses on listening and exploring what the story wants to express, rather than trying to force anything. It's a book that comes with homework, and is best to buy rather than to check out from you local library. But it's book that gave me valuable insight into the themes and dilemmas of the novel I've been toying with for about a decade, so I enjoyed reading it. ...more
Oct 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I used this novel to draft my most recent WIP (an adult contemporary novel). I loved how all the exercises helped me get to know my characters from the inside out. I have a few voices in the novel, so I did them for each main character. He also includes character work for minor characters, too.

I did not come anywhere close to writing my novel in 90 days (more like 790 days), but I found this book really helpful as a guide, and I'm really happy with the finished manuscript!
Akku Vulcan
Mar 31, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: writing
Very boring and meaningless uttering resembling someone shouting gogogo all the time and telling you that you just have to go on sucking until you have a first draft and then revise and publish it. What a bummer. Yes, if it helps you quickly jotting down something meaningless, maybe it has done something for you (proving it sucks to be you maybe?), but I would strongly recommend to read any other book on writing instead of this one.
Nick Rogers
Dec 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Second time of reading...the idea is good for planning out a novel, but the content and advice is a bit wish-washy and not to the point. The character building and prompts are great, making it an nteresting resource, keeps you motivated (to an extent), has great potential, but falls short due to the content. I'm still eager to read the author's second book about editing however. ...more
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"Couldn't Have Done it without Alan Watt and the 90 Day Novel!" 2 24 Feb 19, 2012 09:54AM  

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Alan Watt is a novelist, screenwriter and playwright. His bestselling novel Diamond Dogs (Little, Brown), won numerous awards including France’s 2004 Prix Printemps (best foreign novel). He recently adapted the book for French film company, Quad, and it is soon to be a feature film. His book, The 90-Day Novel, is one of the top-selling books on writing. He's also the author of The 90-Day Rewrite a ...more

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