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Write a Novel in 30 Days - NaNoWriMo

Updated on January 17, 2018
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Cynthia is a digital marketer, writer, and artist. She writes about diverse topics from digital marketing to languages and culture.

Writing a Novel in a Month

As someone who just completed the NaNoWriMo challenge, I can tell you, it is possible to write a novel in a month.

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month (or National November Writing Month).

You write 50,000 words from scratch staring on November 1st and end on November 30th, or earlier.

When I first heard about this, I was curious. I thought only an established novelist could attempt a challenge such as this.

Then I heard about other hubbers and writers who were going to take on the challenge. I went to the NaNoWriMo website to study up on how anyone could possibly tackle this monumental task in only 30 days.

With a gnawing pit in my stomach, I decided to jump in and rise up to the challenge.

I will relate my experience and how I managed to write 57,299 words for NaNoWriMo. I kept a blog diary of my day-to-day experiences, as well.

Resolving to Write - Be a Part of a Writer's Community

If you've ever thought about writing a novel, I would recommend being part of a writer's community. I had the support of fellow hubbers and writers, but NaNoWriMo also has a community of writers with whom to interact.

You see, when you can gauge the progress of other writers on the same journey, it acts like positive peer pressure to help you reach your goals. On the first day, I saw people with 5,000 words already and I was not about to be left behind.

Your community can cheer you on when you achieve your goals and can help you if you feel discouraged. Plus, it's a wonderful feeling knowing other people understand exactly what you're going through.

Writing a novel can be daunting, but it's entirely possible.  You just have to put your mind to it.
Writing a novel can be daunting, but it's entirely possible. You just have to put your mind to it. | Source

Get an Idea and Make an Outline - Or Not

I didn't come up with an idea of what to write about until about a week before NaNoWriMo was due to start.

A lot of people recommend making an outline.

I actually didn't. I made pages and pages of notes and graphic organizers and had a pretty good idea of where I wanted my story to go.

From my own experience, I would say that you need, at least, to have a solid idea.

Building Upon Your Novel Idea

You'll need a main character, who will be the protagonist. Then you'll need other characters who will be antagonists.

Your main character has to have some sort of problem or challenge to overcome.

For example, let's say you have a divorced, middle-aged woman who can't seem to find love. That's a challenge.

The minor characters, or antagonists, either can help or hinder your main character. Thus an old boyfriend can constantly interfere, a work boss can overload the main character's schedule, thus rendering her with no social life. She can take solace in her best friend or sister.

This is but one of many scenarios. The bottom line is that the protagonist has to spend time overcoming a challenge.


Do You Think You Could Write 50,000 Words in One Month?

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Dive In and Write

The best way to approach the writing process, at least for me, was to make a routine out of it.

I got up early every morning and before doing anything except making tea, I began to write. I let my subconscious mind work out the details.

I found out a lot about the writing process. If I could compare it to anything, I'd say it was like completing a painting.

When I have completed works of art, I would paint my idea on canvas. Then, I'd work on the details and let things happen that I didn't always expect.

I also wrote about what I already knew.

If you do that, you're not having to stop and research; you can always fill that in later.

The unexpected certainly happened! Though I had an idea of where I wanted the book to go, it seemingly took on a life of its own at times.

I invented characters that I didn't even know existed before I typed them out. Events occurred that I had not anticipated. In fact, the writing process parallels real life in many ways.

Another great tactic is to aim for a certain number of words every single day. To complete 50,000 words in one month, you need to shoot for 1,667 words per day.

That amounts to about one and a half hours of writing, assuming you can do about 1,000 words per hour, typed.

Some people did a lot more than that. There were NaNoWriMo authors who attempted 80,000 words, and they accomplished their goals!

My notes - yes, handwritten - in preparation for NaNoWriMo
My notes - yes, handwritten - in preparation for NaNoWriMo | Source

Do Not Edit

Turn off your voice of criticism and just write.

I admit, this was one of the hardest, most difficult things to do.

There were times I felt like my writing was terrible. Other times I wanted to scrap the whole challenge.

Still, other times I'd briefly look at what I was doing and think, "this is awful."

You have to plow through those uncertainties. You have to ignore the inner-editor, and inner-critic, then willfully silence them.

You will not accomplish your task if you wallow in self-doubt. You must learn to ignore it if you cannot silence it.

Your inner-editor can come out after the month is over, or after you have finished your first draft.

Personally, I have not edited my book at all, yet. I'm going to wait until after I finish the first draft, sometime in December 2012.

Is it a rough first draft? Of course! I wrote with reckless abandon for nearly 30 days! But, I'll have a chance to go back and edit everything soon enough.

I completed 57,299 words and I'm still going....
I completed 57,299 words and I'm still going.... | Source
After validating your novel, you can put this badge on your website.
After validating your novel, you can put this badge on your website. | Source

Tell Everyone!

One of the great things about telling people you're writing a novel is that if everyone knows, then they'll expect you to have produced something by the end of the month.

I can tell you I told everyone. As I told people, I'd hear the awe in their voices or see the looks on their faces. It felt great! I was going from someone who never wrote a book to being a novelist.

It's a powerful incentive to keep plugging on. If everyone is cheering for you, you're less likely to give up and let them down.

What To Expect

Week 1:

You're happy, and full of ideas. Things are sailing along at a rapid pace. You're busy establishing your characters and getting into the "thick" of the plot.

Week 2:

You hit a wall. It's hard. The words don't flow like they did during the first week. I remember being in tears on Day 9, wondering why I wasn't doing something that would bring me tangible money - at least in the foreseeable future.

Week 3:

This is much better. You have the routine down, and you're in the writing flow. All of your words seem more colorful and descriptive as you home in on describing your characters and their traits.

Week 4:

You're all but finished and the thought of crossing that finish line is a powerful motivator. You're declared a "winner" on the NaNoWriMo site when you reach 50,000 words (or more) and you validate your novel.

Edit and Publish Later

Once you finish that first draft, then the editing can start.

Now that you have a volume of work, though, you're likely to not "scrap" it. Some will shelve their book, but I intend to work with mine and publish.

That's my experience anyway. There have been times when I wished that I could write more fantasy or young adult material, but I ended up writing about "what I knew."

My story? Is about a college-aged girl who encounters monumental struggles and finds herself embroiled in a relationship with a man who has a deep, dark secret.

After all the editing, the publishing process will begin.

© 2012 Cynthia Calhoun


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