Write A Novel In A Month
National Novel Writing Month: My Experience
Each year in November, writers from around the globe participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to write a novel, 50,000 words or more, in 30 days. The rules are simple. You write, write and write some more. Any genre of fiction is acceptable. The catch? You aren't allowed to edit. Not at all. You need to keep going for 30 days straight. The purpose is not to have a polished, ready for print manuscript in 30 days, but to explore your creativity and push yourself to find out just what you can accomplish.
The emphasis is on quantity, not quality, as stated on their website:
"The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly."
The result? In my case, in the midst of the not so great, not so flashy, not so suspenseful writing, came a solid plot, interesting characters that I never would have met otherwise and a fair amount of quality fiction that I wasn't sure I was capable of creating out of thin air.
I think this method works well for me, because I hate having a plan. I hate making an outline. It chokes my creativity and sucks all the fun out of writing. But that's just me. And that's how I feel at this moment.
I had not written fiction since my college days. The experience of writing fiction this way, deeply immersing myself in the world I was creating and letting it take over was thrilling, even exhilarating. NaNoWriMo offers support and inspiration, right down to local meetups and pep talks from successful authors. With no clue how to proceed, I started writing.
My Novel: Autumn Falling
The creative process is often a mystery to me. I began with one line, one character, and no plot in sight. Sub-plot? Do I really need a sub-plot? After a few days of pushing myself to write and holding myself back from editing, I finally got the hang of it. The story and the characters simply took over and I couldn't type fast enough to keep up with them. I didn't make my goal of 50,000 words in thirty days. I barely made it to the half way mark, but I did learn a great deal along the way. Now I know if I - or anyone else for that matter - is willing to devote the necessary time to the process, it can be done. And it won't even be that painful.
Here is a excerpt from my novel. I'm not going to tell you the plot or set the scene for you, because the details will probably change. Please feel free to give me your opinion (constructive criticism welcome) in the comments section.
She turned on the water and lifted the hose, slowly sprinkling the side of the barn in the early morning heat as a precaution, to keep the fire from spreading.She heard a crack behind her that made her jump and turn. Part of the roof of the tiny cottage caved and fell into the fire and Tess considered for a moment, calling the fire department.
But what could she say? She moved the hose away from the barn, closer to the flames. The fire needed to burn it all to the ground. It needed to be gone, so she was patient. The sky was quickly filling with smoke. Surely some one would look up and notice. She couldn't allow it go on much longer.
Yet she did. She stood, rather frozen in the morning sunlight, horses neighing behind her, a blaze before her, staring but unable to comprehend what she was seeing. She tried to take control. She tried to do the right thing, but still it always ended like this. In flames. Then ashes.
She didn't pause to look through the rubble, not yet. She couldn't. She didn’t really need to. She knew the evidence burned. She found some comfort knowing nothing remained.
Finally, she walked slowly back to the old house. Her head was down, her clothes soaked and heavy, she watched only the grass beneath her feet. She was not proud, she was not forgiven, but she was free from the past.
After setting my work aside for a bit, I realize that I need to make major changes to the plot to make it work. I need to scrap entire chapters, which sounds painful, but is really just part of the process of refining. I see that now, so it doesn't frustrate me.
My love of writing fiction has only just begun. I have a long way to go and much to learn, but I'm looking forward to the process. Writing a novel in a month, even if it is only part of a work that will someday be complete, is well worth the effort for the pleasure of the creative experience alone.
While National Novel Writing Month is a great time to get started on a novel and provides a novice or experienced novelist with support and inspiration, there is no need to wait. If you have always wanted to write a novel, don't put it off.
Set aside time everyday. Make time to follow the dream and see where it leads you. Start, even if the finish line is inconceivable.
Have you always wanted to write a novel? What's holding you back? Tell me in the comments!
Update: I plan on participating in NaNaWriMo again this year. In the meantime, I have found yet another writing passion: travel writing. If you share my love of travel, or place-based writing or photography check out the Travel Writing Course: MatadorU. Their instructors will mentor you from the basics of writing through launching your travel writing career and even provide exclusive, paid freelance opportunities. I have enjoyed this course immensely and learned far more than I expected through this very affordable course.
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