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Write A Novel In A Month

Updated on October 4, 2011

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.

Can you really write a novel in a month?
Can you really write a novel in a month?

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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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks Amy Jane. Good luck on your writing as well.

    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      7 years ago from Connecticut

      Hi Louise -just keep writing! Fiction often comes out of life experience (I know mine has to some extent). Creative nonfiction / memoir writing is still a creative process. Slowly let yourself move into other genres when you are ready. It will happen! :)

      Good luck in NaNoWriMo Leann! I hope you enjoy writing your novel in a month and enjoy the process along the way.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I have signed up and I am taking the NaNoWriMo challenge.

    • louiseelcross profile image

      Louise Elcross 

      7 years ago from UK

      Wow! A novel a month sounds like a great idea if I had the courage to do it. Ever since I was a young child I have dreamt of being a writer even though I have never actually written anything other than my life story, which I have recently been writing. I wrote my life story without stopping, just letting my fingers type the words that I thought. When I stopped typing I had written 50 thousand words, words I was compelled to write. Something about me is so terrified of writing anything else other than personal journals and diaries. Maybe when I have completed my life story and shown it to the world I will find the courage to write. Might even have a stab at the Novel Writing Month, in secret that is. Thanks for the hub.

    • molometer profile image


      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      OK I'm in too.

    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      7 years ago from Connecticut

      Thanks all! Having a daily deadline really does help you focus. I became a little consumed by it, but it was a fascinating process. National Novel Writing Month is just a few weeks away now...I'm looking forward to giving it another shot!

    • molometer profile image


      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Interesting. The setting of deadlines does focus the mind. Think I might try this method. I will be reading more of your writing too. Thanks. Voted up UI

    • Tracy Robinson profile image

      Tracy Robinson 

      7 years ago from Mauk, Georgia

      The past comes to haunt us. "In flames. Then ashes." See you this year at nanowrimo. Maybe I can come close to half way.

    • citychick profile image


      7 years ago from Ulster County, New York

      I'm so glad I discovered this Hub, Amy! It was great. You've inspired me to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. As for your novel, I was intrigued. Was she burning old love letters? Clothing? A little like the burning bed, but not. I hope you post more excerpts. Thanks for hubbing.

    • profile image

      Sara T. 

      7 years ago

      Hi, I'm trying to write a novel but I just can't stay focused. I've tried doing bunches of different techniques.

      Can you give me any tips?

    • Amber Colleen profile image

      Amber Colleen 

      7 years ago

      I love NaNoWriMo! It's a great motivator to actually get your novel written. :)

    • Alladream74 profile image

      Victor Mavedzenge 

      7 years ago from Oakland, California

      It seems creativity flourishes when you let it reign free. I enjoyed the excerpt from your story.Are you going to finish it off?

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This is cool. I'd like to take up the challenge myself. Thanks for sharing.

    • Cassidella profile image


      7 years ago

      amy jane the last line of your excerpt is really intriguing, "She was not proud, she was not forgiven, but she was free from the past." Makes me want to know the rest of the story. Even though you did not reach the goal of a novel in 30 days, you did make great strides in connecting with your creativity. Plus, being disciplined enough to set aside the time to do what you love was very productive. Voted this hub up and shared it! Let us know when you finish the novel.

    • caramellatte profile image


      7 years ago

      I liked this hub. I'm ready to read the novel now.

    • livingsimply profile image


      7 years ago from Isle of Arran, Scotland

      I would really like to give the 30 day thing a go. I think the discipline of writing like this would be good for me and that I would learn a lot from the process. Great hub - really useful. Freedom from the past....there is something....

    • trusouldj profile image

      LaZeric Freeman 

      7 years ago from Hammond

      Writing is so freeing. I feel anguish when I'm not able to get enough quiet in the house in order to write. Interestingly enough, the late Robert Parker (Spenser For Hire series of mystery books) wrote that he said all that he wanted to say in his first drafts.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      7 years ago from Long Island, NY

      I enjoyed reading your hub, especially since I relate to it. I wrote a book too, not a novel, but a self-help-book. However, I had the same problems as you describe. Making major changes every time I proofread, deleting an entire chapter that just wasn’t working for me. Even moving chapters around when I realized I needed to make reference to a subject later after explaining something else. It’s all part of the refining process, as you said.

      Thanks for the awesome hub and for sharing your experience. I voted it up.

    • JLClose profile image


      7 years ago from OreGONE

      Oooh, I think your story sounds very intriguing! Keep at it!

      I have officially started NaNoWriMo twice, and officially not finished TWICE! :0) Maybe I will try again this year.

    • writer83 profile image


      7 years ago from Cyber Space

      I wish I could write a novel !

    • sean kinn profile image

      sean kinn 

      7 years ago from Key West and Budapest

      Sounds like fun. Guess I'll have to participate. Is it cheating to get started early? Probably is, sorry for asking. :-)

    • Peter Owen profile image

      Peter Owen 

      7 years ago from West Hempstead, NY

      Interesting reading. I think the excerpt form your writing is just fine and actually quite good. I just wonder why you are asking people what they think of it - maybe you just need more confidence that, yes, you are a good writer.

    • msresearch profile image


      7 years ago from The Space Coast of Florida

      My granddaughter will be writing a 30,000 or more word novel in high school - great site. Thanks. Donna

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Bang on..two thumbs ...its the only way I know how to write and besides its fun as we never know whats going to happen next and we meet so many new characters...great hub...I trully beieve this is how we should be ..writers with out boundries


    • profile image

      Denise Taylor 

      7 years ago

      I enjoyed your Hub, and the novel excerpt. The advice that you give about the book in a month is something that I am going to use. I am new to Hub, and I look forward to more of your contributions.

    • profile image

      Salma Yeasmin 

      7 years ago

      Thanks for Helpful Information

      Salma Yeasmin

      Please Visit This Site Free Expert Article Directory for more Article

    • Rhonda Waits profile image

      Rhonda Musch 

      7 years ago from The Emerald Coast

      Great article. Maybe one of these days I will participate. Sounds like a lot of fun. Writing takes will power sometimes,for me that is. I have a lot to do like you do. Your articles are great and it is nice to meet you. I am currently writing a novel myself. Keep writing I will keep reading.

      Sweet wishes Rhonda

    • Lupin Kasumi profile image

      Lupin Kasumi 

      7 years ago from Austin, Texas

      You know, I've been writing my novel for two years. I've gone over every little detail with a fine toothed comb. I've added, taken away, and changed characters. I only recently got the idea to do what you're telling me to do now. Only I never thought of doing it in a month. I'm going to try this, starting now. I think I can, seeing as how I've got a little less than 14,000 words already.

      This really helped me, thank you.

    • webnh profile image


      7 years ago from Manchester, NH

      I'm glad to see NaNoWriMo continues to grow each year, I tried it 3 times and finished it on my last try three years ago. I've enjoyed your hub, thanks for putting it together.

    • carolapple profile image


      7 years ago from Suffolk Virginia

      I enjoyed this article. I didn't know about this novel-writing program and it sounds exciting. I may try in next November. I guess it's something any of us could do any time, but doing it as a group sounds like fun. I am also a non-fiction writer who is beginning the branch out into fiction. From your exerpt, it sounds like you have lots of promise. I find the main thing necessary to get started writing fiction is just having the courage to plow forward, and it sounds like the Write a Novel in 30-days idea is a great way to learn to do that. Thanks for sharing!

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 

      7 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Must say Amy, that I like the excerpt from your novel and would love to read more-- as for me-- I have four chapters of a mystery novel started years ago sitting in a drawer and there are a couple of my short stories online somewhere. ... but the sad truth is I probably will never write a novel-- I'm more a flash fiction kinda girl dontchaknow. Great hub!

    • Winsome profile image


      7 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Enjoyed this Amy, I don't know if I could do 50,000 but maybe I can write a novel in 5 words.

      Loved badly, serendipity, love reborn.

      Movie stars Gwyneth, Leo and Colin. =:)

    • thebluestar profile image

      Annette Donaldson 

      7 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Suffering a writers block at the moment so must give this a go. Who knows what pearls of wisdom might come forth. Good hub and useful too.

    • reallygoodpoetry profile image


      7 years ago

      if it februry can i still rite nove.l

    • mattdog profile image


      7 years ago from Oklahoma

      That sounds hard but i am sure that once you get something down you can push yourself (I think I can, I think I can)and get your brain firing more and more ideas. Keep it up!

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 

      7 years ago from UK

      A brilliant idea to unlock the creativity and let the dam burst with some right brain action. I think we should all try it... Love your excerpts ..great descriptive passages making me want to read more. voted up!

    • QHuman profile image


      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I loved reading about a fellow writer who participated in NaNoWriMo! Reading your experience makes me want to continue writing and get even more out of my novel.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Cool post. What is 50,000 words in 30 days -- like six pages a day?

    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      7 years ago from Connecticut

      Wow! Thank you all for the wonderful comments!

      rpalulis, I think you may surprised how much fun it is to work on a long term writing project. After writing article length pieces for the past three years, this has been a treat for me. I hope you give it try!

      Giselle, getting started is definitely the hardest part. Though actually finishing it is proving to be difficult as well.:)

      Thanks so much Sherri. This really has been an adventure for me. Thank you for sharing your experience. It's so interesting how our minds work when we write's like dreaming almost.

      Hi Michelle! I didn't know you were working on a book! Fiction or not I would love to read it, so please let me know when it's finished...and best of luck. :)

    • W. K. Hayes profile image

      Warren Keith Hayes 

      7 years ago from Bryson City, North Carolina

      Great article...I would love to participate this year but i'm already booked for November. Still, there's nothing better than sitting down and writing as it hits a person versus sitting there and toying with each line. Since this is how I always write, anyway...I would have enjoyed the fun. Great article.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 

      7 years ago from Ohio, USA

      Step 1: write a novel in 30 days.

      Step 2: get your Mom to read it.

    • bugslady8949 profile image


      7 years ago from The Bahamas

      I want a novel but I think it will take me from start to finish two months the least. I think a month is hard for me, but you do have some great key points in your hub. Keep up the good work.

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Hi Amy, you have always been one of my favorite writers as I like your writing style and I can understand what you are writing about! It's easy to read and follow and what's more you make each topic interesting too!

      I am in the middle of writing a book (not a fiction story though) hehe I am remembering this advice of not editing it while writing. Glad I saw your hub today. Blessings and love to you always!

    • Rastamermaid profile image


      7 years ago from Universe

      Great hub,full of useful info!

      Thanks for sharing!

      Sharing is caring!


    • Sally's Trove profile image


      7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      I enjoyed reading about your process and how the characters and the story took over. I think some might say your Muse appeared. And perhaps that's what it takes to bring her to your shoulder: immersion in the process.

      I'm guessing that you are also discovering aspects of yourself in the characters as they take over. Years ago I wrote a short story about a woman who refused to leave her seaside home as the ocean took over the shoreline. In her house she kept 6 fractious hermit crabs in a glass cage. Only when my cousin shared her thoughts after reading the story did I understand the woman to be my grandmother and the 6 crabs her children: my mother, aunt, and uncles.

      Wishing you many wonderful words and much discovery. ~ Sherri

    • giselle2323 profile image


      7 years ago from Peterborough, Ontario

      Fantastic Hub! The thought of writing a novel in 30 days sounds terrifying but I think the scariest part is just getting started. Once you leap over that hurdle, and the words and the thoughts start to flow, then who knows!! Thank you for sharing!

    • rpalulis profile image


      7 years ago from NY

      Wow a novel in 30 days, that is a challenge. Funny thing is that I was just thinking about this the other day. Most of what I write is niche related article writing. I thought that it would be fun to start something like this in my spare time.

      I think the excerpt to your novel is wonderful

      Thanks for sharing.

    • A.A. Zavala profile image

      Augustine A Zavala 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Thank you for the information. Discipline seems to be the key to success in writing. Thanks again for sharing.

    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      7 years ago from Connecticut

      Thanks all! :) SaffronBlossom, I share your problem! Paid writing comes first...everything else gets put on hold. For the month that I did NaNoWri, I tried to set aside two hours a day after I completed everything else I had to do...which probably explains why I didn't make the goal! I hope you keep following your dream! :)

      Glad you enjoyed this Eiddwen! A deadline can definitely motivate you. Good luck!

    • Eiddwen profile image


      7 years ago from Wales

      I think I may take up this challenge. if anything it would give me the push of writing for a date deadline.

      Thanks for this hub which is full of useful hints.I give this an useful and up.

      Take care.

    • SaffronBlossom profile image


      7 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hi Amy Jane! Great hub. :) I do write when I have time (nothing big--I have a small dream to be a published Harlequin author, haha)--but what holds me back is that I always end up writing for pay rather than for myself (the reality of bills!).

    • RunAbstract profile image


      7 years ago from USA

      A very nice read. I will be back to read more of your stuff!


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