How to Write a Book in 90 Days with Kristen Clark

Writing a book doesn’t need to be hard. Many authors only need to learn to write faster and get out of their own way.

Would you believe me if I told you some authors can write a book in a few months? Some can even write a book in a few weeks.

What if you could write a book in 90 days?

Kristen Clark, author and cofounder of Girl Defined, has done it, and I asked her how.

How did you learn how to write a book in 90 days?

Kristen: I learned by accident. My sister and I co-authored our four published books, and we have a fifth we’ve just finished writing, which will be released this fall.

We wrote our first book, Girl Defined, in 2016, and we had no idea what we were doing. Our publisher told us, “People take anywhere from four to twelve months or longer to write a book, but we recommend trying to write it in six months.

Since there were two of us, we figured we could do that. But it was the hardest thing we’d ever done. Trying to write a book together in six months almost killed us, our families, and our marriages. When our publisher offered us another contract, we were excited, but we wanted to approach the process differently. We had to get more strategic.

We researched and talked to other authors and realized the problem was that we didn’t have a good plan the first time around. So, we made a plan. We wrote the second book in five months and the third book in 90 days. Then, we wrote a devotional, which was a little bit faster.

Thomas: When you write your first book, you’re learning how to write a book, which is a huge learning experience. Even if you hadn’t made changes, you probably would have written the second book faster, but your strategy made the process even smoother.

Besides learning how to write a book, what caused that first book to take so long? 

Kristen: We didn’t have very good deadlines. All we knew was that we had a date on the calendar, and we had to be done in six months. But we didn’t have shorter markers along the way to say. We need to make shorter goals, like finishing chapter two and getting to the halfway point.

We needed to calendar when we were going to review the manuscript. It always takes longer than you think it will, especially as we were giving and receiving feedback from each other.

We just didn’t have a good plan and reasonable deadlines, and we didn’t have it written out.

Thomas: I interviewed Jerry Jenkins on the show, and he’s a super-fast writer. He drafts a book in a few weeks. He begins with the expected word count of the book and works backward. I believe he measures in pages instead of words, but he knows exactly how many words he needs to write each day to meet his goal. Jerry treats the writing like a job, and he keeps working on it until it’s done.

Working backward from a due date takes very little time. The outline from your book proposal tells you there are 12 chapters to write in 12 weeks. Then, you divide that by the amount of writing you need to do in a day, and you’ll get an idea of the daily pace you need to keep so you don’t have to cram.

Kristen: Our publisher set our word count at 50,000 words, but if you’re self-publishing, you need to decide on the word count before you begin. You need to know whether you feel passionate enough to write a whole book on a topic or fictional idea.

Our books have been 50,000 words long, with the exception of our devotional, which was 30,000. We divided 50,000 by 90 days, which meant we needed to write 555 words per day.

Thomas:  When you say it that way, it’s not so bad.

Kristen: It does sound more doable, but it’s also terrifying because you know you have to write 555 good words every day. Most people need and want a break rather than just cranking it out day after day without margin or time of review. So, you have to factor in rest and review days.

My sister and I are millennials, and we’re all about digital tools, but for every book we’ve written, we ordered a 16′ x 20′ paper wall calendar from Amazon. We put a big star on the book deadline date and counted backward all the days that we would be writing.

We decided we didn’t want to write on Sundays because we wanted to keep that day free for church, worship, and family. Then we mark off any days we might be gone traveling or speaking or at a wedding. Don’t get yourself in a corner where you think you can realistically crank out 500 words every single day for months at a time.

Together, we block off all of those days we know that we cannot write. Then, we count backward and find out how many days we actually have within that 90-day period to finish that book. Then, we divided 50,000 words by the number of available writing days in that 90-day period, which ended up being about 75 days that we had to write. That approach gave us a realistic view of how much we had to get done on our writing days.

Thomas: That strategy accounts for real life.

I encourage people to schedule a few bonus days for the unexpected, like a doctor’s visit or ER visit. I bet that planning took you about 20 minutes.

There’s a funny saying in computer programming that goes, “Weeks of coding can save you from hours of planning.” Since programmers hate planning, they’d rather code for weeks rather than do a couple of hours of planning. But if you sit down and plan, it really does help.

What tricks did you develop that helped you write faster?

Kristen: When we wrote our third book in 90 days. We predetermined how many chapters it would be, and we placed those chapter deadlines on the calendar as well.

Before we put anything on the calendar, we decide whether we want it to be 14, 16, or 18 chapters long. With each book, we’ve written fewer chapters, and our most recent book was around 12 chapters. We then would determine how many words we want in each chapter. To determine the chapter word count, consider the content of your book and the topic. If you’re writing a Christin living book, one chapter may require 4,000 words while another may only need 1,500.

We break down the chapters and use that information to then plug the deadlines for our chapters as we work backward again. If we need 4000 words, we know we’ll need a certain number of days, so we count the days and put a big star deadline on the calendar when we need to finish that chapter.

After each deadline, we schedule a review day. We go back and review the chapter together. If you were writing alone, you could have someone else read your chapter and give feedback, and then you could make minor adjustments.

Having a strong vision for your chapters and content will help you as you create your writing calendar.

Thomas: That’s a great technique for co-writing because it’s easy to get way off schedule with your co-author. If you’re using the same calendar, you have this harmonization. You can visit with each other more frequently and make adjustments as you go rather than having to discuss, debate, and then rewrite large sections when you should be finishing. It ends up being a more efficient process because you’re wasting less time during the writing process.

What happened when your time estimation for a chapter was off?

Kristen: That happened at first, but now that we’ve written several, we have a good idea of how long it takes. We would even almost tailor the content in that chapter to fit the word count because we were so committed to making sure we reached our 50,000 words by our deadline. We did not miss a deadline. It’s important to take it very seriously and to try to meet every small deadline along the way so you can finish it on time. At times, we were a little high or low, but overall, we were really close to that number. If we needed more words, we would research the topic and look for where we could expand or unpack it to add a few hundred more words.

My problem is that I write too much. I’m too wordy and poetic. My sister says, “Just get to the point.” She likes bullet point lists, so we make a good team. I like to bring the stories and the personal touch, and she likes to bring the facts and theology, so we balance each other out. Having someone who can read and be honest and gracious helps a lot.

Sometimes, that person brings a fresh perspective. When you need to start another chapter but feel so dry that you don’t know what to say, having that other person can spark your imagination and get you rolling again.

Thomas: There’s a saying in the military that “No plan survives contact with the enemy.”

So why does the military spend so much time planning when no plan survives contact with the enemy? Why plan if your plan is going to get blown up?

The plan is evidence that planning took place. While the plan isn’t super valuable, the planning is everything. It forces you to think through what you’re going to need and do. , It’s okay that things don’t go according to plan. Fitting your word count into a certain space is a journalistic approach stemming from the days when journalists had to write a five-inch column, no more and no less. They learned how to fill that space exactly, and that’s a valid strategy.

But remember, the plan serves you; you don’t serve the plan. If you feel like you need to explore something more or something’s been said well enough, you can trim it down.

What techniques helped you speed up the writing process?

Kristen: We assembled a prayer team, which was less technique and more spiritual practice. Our prayer team prayed for us as we were writing our book. That might not seem like it would technically speed up the process, but it really helped our hearts. It helped us stay focused on the end goal, kept us focused on the Lord, and helped us remember why we were writing in the first place.

With each book, we’ve recruited close friends, family, and mentors and put together a small prayer team. We shared our vision for the book and asked them to commit to praying for us while we were writing it. Also, we even asked them to check in with us to ask how it was going or if we had specific requests for the week.

We would also send them weekly updates, thanking them for praying and reporting on our progress or mentioning our struggles. They came alongside us and helped bear our burdens in a Galatians 6:2-5 kind of way.

Writing is a calling God leads us to, but it can feel like a heavy burden. Just because God has called us doesn’t mean we do it alone. We don’t have to isolate in a dark room and crank out a book. We can invite other believers to come alongside us on this journey.

In the end, it’s a blessing for us and those who are praying for us. We’ve recognized how much we need God in this. We pray, “Lord, help us not to lose sight of why we’re writing this book and to keep you at the center of it, in our motives and our writing. I’m seeking your strength for the skills to press on, to meet deadlines.”

Having the support of the prayer team brought us a lot of encouragement, kept us focused on the Lord, and helped us write faster.

Thomas: A prayer team is a powerful source of accountability, too.

If you know that update every Friday about whether you’re on track, that can be a powerful motivator.

Many nonfiction writers have a prayer team. The spiritual warfare element of the writing is a little more obvious in nonfiction. They’re more likely to see it, but I think it’s just as important for novelists, too, especially if you’re dealing with important topics in your fiction.

Thomas: How did you write and manage all the distractions of daily life and the world we live in?

Kristen: For many writers, writing a book is an extra thing we’re adding to our daily lives on top of everything else that we’re already doing. Whether you’re a full-time employee, own your own business, a mom at home with kids, or a mom who’s working and taking care of kids, it’s so hard to add such a demanding project to your already full schedule.

We used the large paper calendar, but I also kept a schedule on the phone. I would look at my week and see when I could schedule writing each day, and then I would put it on my calendar.

I might schedule my daily word count from 6:00-9:00 am or in the evening after my kids go to bed. Occasionally, I’d crank it out over an extended lunch break from 1:00 to 3:00.

If we didn’t schedule the time block, the day would get away from us, and we’d go to be knowing we hadn’t done our 800 words.

The time you need isn’t going to pop up and happen. We have to intentionally plan a writing block. For me, it was easiest to schedule those blocks one week at a time.

Sometimes life happens, and you don’t get the writing in, but that’s what those catch-up days are for.

When we wrote our first book, we felt like we were writing morning, noon, and night because we didn’t have a good plan. Most of my evenings were taken up by writing because I wasn’t being efficient during the daytime. I remember my husband looked at me at the end of this and said, “I don’t know if you can write any more books. This has been rough on our marriage.” We just weren’t seeing each other because as soon as we were off work, I was off to write.

When we were planning for our third book, my sister and I decided we did not want to write in the evenings if we could help it. That meant getting up early or squeezing in pockets here and there. As we locked down on our third book and wrote it in 90 days, we discovered there were so many hours and minutes during the week that we found to write that we never noticed before.

Thomas: Plus, your brain is most fatigued and emotionally tired in the evening. You may have benefited by doing more of your writing earlier with a fresher mind.

Kristen: We were committed to writing without distractions. When we would sit down to write, we would turn off all notifications, put our phones on “do not disturb,” and shut down email. I had only one browser tab open to Google Drive where I was working on my chapter. I set my phone up so that my family could contact me in emergencies.

It’s amazing how we can waste several hours of writing time just by getting distracted by a text conversation here and there and end up accomplishing nothing. We do ourselves a favor when we turn everything off and focus on the writing.

Thomas: When you’re done with your 90 days, don’t turn those notifications back on because they’re not doing you any favors. By default, Outlook dings every five minutes, and I don’t know how people using Outlook can get anything done.

You can turn off Facebook notifications when someone likes your post. Those notifications are the most addictive element of Facebook. You can live your life as a more productive person and do more good in the world if you’re not distracted.

Thomas: When I’m writing scripts for my podcasts, I schedule an appointment with myself. I use Calendly to schedule appointments or calls with people so podcast guests can put themselves on my calendar. But to get my own work done, I have to guard my time, so I schedule a two-hour block with myself so that other people can’t make an appointment during that time. I need to get my own work done, so I have to guard that time on the calendar. Our podcast episodes are typically around 4,000 words, and you can’t cram that in at the last minute.

When someone wants to schedule their podcast interview or a call, Calendly shows them when I’m available. Calendly, iCal, or Tidy Cal are useful calendar tools.

Kristen: I used iCal. I would always set a reminder about my upcoming writing block. Since my husband and I share the calendar, he gets the reminders too so he knows when I’m planning to write. That functions as some good accountability, too. If I see I have a writing appointment with myself in 30 minutes, I know I need to start getting my computer out.

Thomas: If you do get distracted, you know what you sacrificed for that distraction. For example, if I’m not feeling well and I take a nap, I can see my nap cost me the 800 words I was supposed to be writing during that time. Then I have to move that time to another spot.

What encouragement do you have for somebody who thinks this sounds impossible?

Kristen: It does feel impossible, but with a plan and a prayerful focus, it can be done. Create a clear outline of when you’re going to start and finish, how many chapters you’re going to write, how many words you’re shooting for, how many words you’re writing on writing days, and you’ll accomplish your goal.

It is possible. I have done it and have learned by trial and error along the way, but I’ve seen so many other people accomplish the same thing. It is amazing how having that plan makes all the difference.

Another thing that was helpful was changing my writing environment. When I hit that halfway point and was struggling to keep going, mixing up my environment really helped give me some fresh inspiration.

If I was feeling uninspired, I’d write out the chapter title and do a little research to try and get some inspiration. But if that didn’t work, I would mix up my environment and go somewhere else to write. Maybe you find a coffee shop or even a different room in your house. Even if you “waste” 20 minutes to drive somewhere, that’s still better than wasting the whole two-hour block doing nothing.

There were days when I needed to write 1,000 words, and it was almost crippling. In those moments, I would drive to the nearest coffee shop and pull out my computer. It was amazing how mixing up the environment and getting a fresh coffee really helped. Suddenly, fresh inspiration would come, or I would have a new boost of energy.

Thomas: Another old technique is to leave your last sentence unfinished so that it’s a dangling thread in your mind. When you come back to your book the next day or after your break, you know how to finish that sentence, and you’re already writing. Then you are off to the races, and you’re no longer staring at the page, trying to figure out how to get started.

Learn more about Kristen and her ministry to young women and girls at or check out their podcast, The Girl Defined Show.


Christian Writers Market Guide

If you want help writing your book or you’re looking for an editor, agent, or publisher, there’s no better resource than the Christian Writers Market Guide.