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NaNoWriMo: Can You Write A Novel In A Month?

Updated on October 6, 2012

I have always tried to surround myself by people whose actions push me to improve. Years ago, one of my best college friends got her MBA while working full time and training for a marathon. Another friend, after committing full time to photography, was named best “Family Photographer” in the city in which she lives. Most recently, a friend’s personal business became so successful that has been able to embrace philanthropy. Earlier this year I was introduced to a stay at home mom who decided to take up a challenge given to her by her book club. She mentioned a word I had never heard of: NaNoWriMo. I knew this was someone and something I needed to get to know better.

She wrote a novel in thirty days!

My Friend's NaNoWriMo Novel: The Magnificent Mamas of Manatee Court

A NaNoWriMo Novel: The Magnificent Mamas of Manatee Court
A NaNoWriMo Novel: The Magnificent Mamas of Manatee Court | Source

Committing To Writing A Novel?

My new friend’s book club was reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. In the book the main character participated in NaNoWriMo and at the end printed out a souvenir copy of her story in book form. At the book club meeting my friend mentioned to the other members that she was intrigued by this. Being a math major, she has already done the calculations. She only had to write around 1700 words per day for thirty days in a row and then she would have a 50,000 word novel. Her book club dared her take the challenge. Although had never written outside of school assignments, she dared them back stating that she might just write about them and their crazy antics. Her novel, Magnificent Mamas of Manatee Court, was born.

A bigger question emerged for me. What is NaNoWriMo?

What is NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo is the National Novel Writing Month. While you can take the challenge any time of the year, the site officially supports the annual challenge in the month of November. It states that November 1st through the 30th are thirty days of literary abandon. By choosing to participate in the November challenge as my friend did, you can:

  • Track your progress
  • Participate in the word count scoreboard
  • Meet others taking the same journey
  • Give and receive pep talks
  • Receive web badges noting your participation and completion

In conjunction with the official website, join your local NaNoWriMo club to:

  • Receive a local mentor
  • Participate in kick off parties
  • Attend write-in sessions
  • Receive prizes for participating and achieving goals
  • Attend the “Thank Goodness It’s Over Party!”

NaNoWriMo is run by a tiny but mighty nonprofit called the Office of Letters and Light, OLL. OLL's other programs include:

  • Young Writers Program
  • Write-A-Thons
  • Camp NaNoWriMo

What Is Camp NaNoWriMo?

Imagine wanting to take the NaNoWriMo challenge, but November is not an ideal month. Check out Camp NaNoWriMo. According to the site,Camp NaNoWriMo provides the online support, tracking tools, and hard deadlines to help you write the rough draft of your novel in a month… other than November!” The camp started in 2011 and session will occur in June and August.

Maybe your novel will be born this summer!

What Is The End Result Of the NaNoWriMo?

After reading more about the NaNoWriMo challenge, the program encourages a hard core month of writing. What is the end result? For some, like my friend, it is a novel ready for print. For others it is an excellent start to a novel. Many writers have generated 50,000 words ready to be molded into a finished product. My friend said that she was shocked to find out the Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen started as a NaNoWriMo novel.

I have a better understanding of NaNoWriMo. I will admit that it still has me very intrigued.

For me, there is still a question of logistics. How do you find the time to write a novel? Once you have one written, how do you get it printed?

Finding The Time To Write A Novel

I was still full of questions. I wanted to know how a stay-at-home Mom, with children the same age as mine, seven, five, and two, had the time to write a novel. As a stay at home, time is more flexible. We have the opportunity to take advantage of ‘free time’ during naps or if the kids are at school. She laughed while explaining the biggest benefit of writing as a stay at home mom. She could continue writing, “if I was on roll in the evening because it didn’t matter how disheveled I looked in the morning.”

However, the biggest reason she was able to complete a novel in thirty days is that she committed to a challenge. Finding time is one thing. Being motivated and committed to such a task is quite another. After taking the challenge, she said she had four pieces of advice for those interested in NaNoWriMo.

1. This challenge is all about creating the clay that you will work with later. Forget about quality and embrace generating ideas.

2. Because of the time limit of thirty days, create an outline in advance, even high level. Break up the outline into thirty segments so that each day you know what you need to accomplish.

3. Embrace the NaNoWriMo mentors and forums. Taking the journey with others is less lonely.

4. Think about an illustrator. My friend picked a friend who was computer savvy. She asked him if he would draw a little doodle for each of the chapters and maybe design a cover for the end product. She said that this was also beneficial because he had helpful feedback and she was able to bounce ideas off of him.

Toasting A NaNoWriMo Success!

Toasting the day the NaNoWriMo book, The Magnificent Mamas of Manatee Court,  went to the printers.
Toasting the day the NaNoWriMo book, The Magnificent Mamas of Manatee Court, went to the printers. | Source

How Did You Publish Your Book?

Not everyone will end the NaNoWriMo challenge with a book suitable for a national publishing company. Many still want the trophy for their month (or more) of hard work. Self-publishing can be an inexpensive option. Gretchen Rubin had chosen to publish her book in the novel The Happiness Project. My friend chose to do the same. is a free self-publishing option. You pay for the cost of the book. She chose the less expensive paper and size options so it only cost around $6.50 to print her book. It cost $1 to make it available as an e-book. There are options of having your book available on the lulu website. You control the price, as long as it exceeds the cost to print. Additionally, the author gets 80% of the revenue that exceeds print cost. Books can also be made available on Amazon and at other online retailers. My friend said that forty-nine copies of her book and six e-books are floating around the universe with her NaNoWriMo ideas inside. How cool!

Is It My Year For The NaNoWriMo Challenge?

Is It My Year For The NaNoWriMo Challenge?
Is It My Year For The NaNoWriMo Challenge? | Source

Could I Take The NaNoWriMo Challenge?

Hearing my friend’s story has my mind wondering, “Could I complete the "November Month of Writing"?”

Could I be the next NaNoWriMo success?

What if I let my mind start generating some ideas?

We have five children including two sets of twins. What if I write about their crazy stories? What if they became spy kids?

Could I do some planning in advance so that I could be engrossed in this project when the next "November Writing Month" began?

What if I starting working on my thirty day outline?

I am committing to jotting down new ideas as they come to me. I enjoy the discipline and achievement of a challenge.

Will this be the year my novel is born?

© 2012 Karen Lackey

Have You Taken The NaNoWriMo Challenge?

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    • twinstimes2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Lackey 

      6 years ago from Ohio

      I bet you will do an amazing job, Janis. I would love to know what you come up with. My issue is that I don't even have an idea in my head to start with. But, I have 2-3 weeks to come up with one. We shall see. :) Best of luck on your writing adventure, Janis!

    • Janis Goad profile image

      Janis Goad 

      6 years ago

      I have signed up. Why don't we all sign up? I figure that even if I can only do some of it, for example five days a week, I will get more written on the book than if I left it in my head. My goal for the month end is to have the bones of the first draft done.

    • twinstimes2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Lackey 

      6 years ago from Ohio

      Maybe you need to put on some summer music and turn all the lights on in your house before you sit to start writing. Maybe even make a summer drink! Even if you don't finish, you will have a good start to something I bet! Good luck!

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judi Brown 

      6 years ago from UK

      I signed up in a moment of madness - on a bright, sunny Summer day during the school holidays it all seemed so achievable - I thought I'd have time to kill after the AP, so why not! Now, back at school on a dark, drizzly October evening I have to say my resolve has been melting away - but your friend's story has made me think again. May be I can do it!

    • twinstimes2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Lackey 

      6 years ago from Ohio

      I can't imagine this is limited to the US. I am not certain if you will have the same ease in finding a local support group while you are working on your book when you are ready. However, you can always start one! I would love to know if you decide to do the month of madness!

    • KarenCreftor profile image

      Karen Creftor 

      6 years ago from Kent, UK

      What a wonderful idea!

      I've had some stories for children/teens developig in my mind, but always considered them a 'I'll do that one-day' thing. Maybe I should get them down on paper....

      Probably a bit late for me this year, but certainly something to consider for next year. Is it limited to the US?

      Great hub~ voted up, awesome and shared :)

      ~Kaz x

    • twinstimes2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Lackey 

      6 years ago from Ohio

      Well, steel engineer, you have done one more day than I have! Perhaps this year you can do three days. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    • Steel Engineer profile image

      Steel Engineer 

      6 years ago from Kiev, Ukraine

      I've done the nanowrimo challenge. And, I was on-pace after day number one. After that... *sigh*

    • twinstimes2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Lackey 

      6 years ago from Ohio

      I have been using this as my method to collect my writing and inspire me to write more. I was very inspired by my friend. I would love to know if you attempt the NaNoWriMo challenge!

    • KrystalD profile image


      6 years ago from Los Angeles

      I love this idea and I love this hub! Thank you for taking such a personal touch. I am inspired by this as well. I have been using hubpages for my writing challegen this year and I have to say, I have written entirely more this year so far :)

    • twinstimes2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Lackey 

      6 years ago from Ohio

      I will let you know for sure. Not sure where I will be mentally (or inspiration wise!) come November. I do know a handful of people seem interested. There needs to be a Hub support group for this challenge for sure! I would love to know, Marcy, if you decide to attempt it! Thanks for taking the time to comment and stop by!

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      6 years ago from Planet Earth

      I need to join this challenge. Let me know if you start a group! It's time for those books in my head to be put on paper (or online!). Great hub - very inspiring!

    • twinstimes2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Lackey 

      6 years ago from Ohio

      Thank for reading, Jimmy. I haven't had the courage either, but I am curious if the challenge will have good timing this year. Or, perhaps, we might be a little burned out after the program! We shall see!

    • jimmythejock profile image

      James Paterson 

      6 years ago from Scotland

      Very inspirational and insightful, I always wantedto write a novel but never plucked up the courage.....jimmy

    • twinstimes2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Lackey 

      6 years ago from Ohio

      Your comment made me excited! Cclitgirl, I hope that you are able to make the career change. Please let me know if you decide to creating your novel. That would be inspirational as well! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      6 years ago from Western NC

      This is SO EXCITING and SO INSPIRATIONAL!! I'm considering a career change - one which I work at home and write, do computer art, and blog. Now I find this. I already have a memoir written - unedited and unpublished - but, come August, I've thought about turning it into a novel. Soooo bookmarking this. Thank you so much for sharing. BTW, YOU CAN DO IT!! Just commit to the challenge, let friends and family know what you're doing and they will respect that. They'll rave when you have an end-product at the end of the month. WOOHOO!

    • twinstimes2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Lackey 

      6 years ago from Ohio

      I wasn't sure if I was the only one who did NOT know about this challenge. We are all obviously into writing! I would be curious how many out of our group end up with a novel/book at some point! I would love to know when you publish your book!

    • Janis Goad profile image

      Janis Goad 

      6 years ago

      Great hub, Twins times 2!! This is exactly the information I am looking for. I have a manuscript ready now and am researching self-publishing options. I am also starting to think of the November challenge, and working on my 30-day outline. What a great idea!! thank you.

    • twinstimes2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Lackey 

      6 years ago from Ohio

      I would love to know when you write a book, Good Lady! Thanks for reading!

    • twinstimes2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Lackey 

      6 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks, Denise. I am guessing that many in the writing communities are aware of this. But a newbie like me (and you I believe) may not. Let me know if you try it!

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 

      6 years ago from Rome, Italy

      I thought I could write a book in three months but I didn't go through NaNoWriMo, so perhaps that's why I hardly put a dent in it! Maybe I should this coming year.

      Thanks for your Hub.

    • denisemai profile image

      Denise Mai 

      6 years ago from Idaho

      Wow. This is fantastic. I think I will try this in November!

    • twinstimes2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Lackey 

      6 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks, Brainy! I will for sure let you know if I do attempt it this year! I can appreciate that it is quite the challenge! I did see mention of the Young Writer's Program. What an amazing gift for the grandparents. I will have to look at this for my older boys as well. Thanks for sharing your comments!

    • Brainy Bunny profile image

      Brainy Bunny 

      6 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      I've tried NaNoWriMo several times, although I haven't finished. My sister did, though, the first time she tried. I was very proud of her, because let me tell you, it isn't easy! I plan to try again this year; let me know if you want to be writing buddies! (There's a social component to it, as well.). And you'd probably be interested to know that they have a children's version called the Young Writer's Program. When my daughter was in first grade we both worked on novels, only she finished hers. (The kids get shorter word counts, depending on age.) We made her finished "novel" into holiday presents for the grandparents.


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