News room: How to Write A Novel In A Month

How to Write A Novel In A Month by Jessica Barrah

When November comes around, thoughts turn to Bonfire Night, Remembrance Day, and growing facial hair for charity (althought that’s usually exclusively for men). However, for writers, it’s NaNoWriMo , or National Novel Writing Month.

The Challenge: Write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November.

Writers are always been told that they should exercise their writing muscles regularly, and the limited timeframe will certainly help spur you into writing every day! If you do decide to take part, then sign up and get more guidelines at the NaNoWriMo website.

We’ve compiled some quotations to encourage and guide you through the month.

1. “Once you can write an alphabet, you can write a book of 100 million pages. It’s just a matter of believing it as possible, and taking the cross millimetre by millimetre.” – Israelmore Ayivor

It is a big ask to write a book of 100 million pages in one month. Aim lower. A lot lower. But writing a book of a normal length is theoretically possible. There are thirty days. Write 2,500 words a day, and you’ve got a book of 75,000 words. 50,000 words in a month? Easy peasy.

2.“The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” – Agatha Christie

Are you a ‘’panster’, i.e. a writer who likes to get inspired as they go along, writing ‘by the seat of their pants’? If so, then sign up, and come 1st November, get stuck in! If, however, you’re a planner, then there’s nothing to stop you from making detailed charts and chapter plans to help you work out exactly how you’re going to get to the finish line. Start right now, so you’ll be fully prepared by next Tuesday.

3. “I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top.” – English professor at Ohio University

We should emphasise that no one is expecting these 50000 words to be beautifully crafted. Hopefully they won’t be absolutely nonsensical (unless you’re aiming for a kind of post-modernist riddle) but you can expect them to be rough and in need of a good deal of editing. However…

4. “Don’t cross out. (That is editing as you write. Even if you write something you didn’t mean to write, leave it.) Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar. (Don’t even care about staying within the margins and lines on the page.) Lose control. Don’t think. Don’t get logical. Go for the jugular. (If something comes up in your writing that is scary or naked, dive right into it. It probably has lots of energy.)”

- Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within

Natalie Goldberg’s book has lots of tips about ‘letting go’ and writing freely. Even if you don’t usually work in this way, NaNoWriMo is a great opportunity to just have fun writing, and seeing where it takes you.

5. “Ink and paper are sometimes passionate lovers, oftentimes brother and sister, and occasionally mortal enemies.” -Terri Guillemets

There will be times where the words will be tumbling out of you. Others, when you’re dragging each word out kicking and screaming. This is a challenge. It’s not supposed to be easy. Just get the words down on the paper – even if you don’t feel that they are particularly good ones.

6. “At first, all is black and white. Black on white. That’s where I’m walking, through pages. These pages. Sometimes it gets so that I have one foot in the pages and the words, and the other in what they speak of.”
- Markus Zusak, Underdog

You’re been writing for so long you’ve started hallucinating. Your characters seem more real to you than your actual family. Give yourself a break – a night off from time to time. But make sure that you get back to it – even just writing for half an hour. Get into the habit now, and you can carry it on in the coming months.

7. Put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it." ― Colette

This is a first draft . Don’t be precious about it. It’s just the raw material – the block that you need to build up before you chip away, sculpt, and finesse until it’s a work of art. You can rewrite and edit in December and then self-publish your book in the New Year!

Have you tried NaNoWriMo before? How did you get on? Are you doing it this year? Do let us know, and good luck to everyone who takes up the challenge.

Further reading:

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Written by
Jessica Barrah
Published on
November, Nanowrimo, Writing, Challenge, Authors, Self-publishing, and Publishing