How to write a novel in a month…or why you should do NaNoWriMo…


So anyways, November is around the corner…and if November is around the corner, so too is NaNoWriMo.

Nano wtf? National Novel Writing Month.

Essentially the challenge is to, along with a few hundred thousand other people, get 50,000 words out of your head and onto a page, or a laptop during the month of November. It’s a bit like a marathon for writers.

By the end of November, our poor little writer’s wrists are burning, our eyelids need propping open, our body fluids have been gradually replaced by copious amounts of caffeine or alcohol, and most of us have hit a wall at some point through the process. In our case the “wall” isn’t extreme physical exhaustion (although it can be)- more often it’s a blank screen, or page.

The hardest part of the process by far is fitting in the writing around life- because it doesn’t stop. For those of us with kids, we all know that November is the time of the year where end of year exams and end of year performances and presentation nights all start to fill up the calendar. In addition, most of us have jobs and other responsibilities.

So, if it’s that flipping hard, why do we do it? To be honest, asking a writer that question is a little like asking a marathoner why they lace up the trainers to put their bodies through 42kms of pain, or asking a climber why they do Everest. The answer is simple- because it’s a challenge and it’s there.

I’ve done it most years since 2009. Baby, It’s You started life at Nano, so too did Big Girls Don’t Cry and my current WIP (the one I’m putting to one side in favour of my shiny new idea) I Want You Back.

Am I entering this year? I wasn’t going to– I’ll be away on holidays for the 2nd half of November…but you know what? I’m thinking that I still might. I mightn’t get to the 50,000, but it gives me time to play around with this shiny new idea

Should you enter? Yes. Especially if:

  • You’ve been talking about writing a book someday for ever and flipping ever
  • You’ve got a story in your head that needs to escape
  • You like a good graph

Need more convincing?

  1. 50,000 words isn’t a full novel (unless you’re writing novellas, category romance or children’s books), but it’s a bloody good start.
  2. It’s a great way to take a new idea for a test flight. By 50,000 words you’re going to know whether it’s got legs and, if it doesn’t, you’ve only wasted one month. In my view, that’s an efficient outcome.
  3. It’s one month where you can experiment with different genres, different voices. Again, if it doesn’t work, you’ve only wasted a month. The year I drafted Big Girls Don’t Cry, I experimented with writing as if it were a project plan ie from the end backwards. The year I wrote Baby, It’s You, I wrote to a playlist. Because it is only a month, you can experiment with different techniques to get you through the wall, through the saggy middle and to have a little fun with the process.
  4. Even if you don’t get to 50,000 words, you’ll have more words at the end of November than you did at the beginning.
  5. It’s great training. To be a writer you have to get in the habit of writing- every day
  6. If you’re a plotter or edit as you go, this is a great opportunity to just let the words flow. See what happens. No edits…not until December 1.
  7. You get to see the graph on the nano site. It’s a great graph.
  8. With nanowrimo, there’s no escape, no catch-ups. If you’ve been struggling to establish a writing habit, I can’t think of a better way to do it.

If you’re up for it, you can sign up at the official site. You’ll find forums, events, cool widgets for your blog, emails of encouragement and a cast of hundreds of thousands of other people doing it with you.

Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

18 thoughts

  1. I’ve attempted this only the once and failed miserably. The minute the writing is forced the minute I can’t write. Not. One. Word. In an attempt to write a novel, I ended up with 172 draft blog posts. So I suppose not all was lost and I should at least give it one more try.

    1. 172 draft blog posts? All was not lost! I respond well to deadlines & like to write long form, so it works for me, but forcing yourself to create can also be counter productive…

  2. Yes, the primary reason why I joined in is because I always wanted to finish writing something…aaand by one way or another, I didn’t even get a start. Perhaps a greater push like NaNo is what I really need to overcome extreme procrastination. This will be my first time joining and I really hope I’ll make it. 😀

  3. You sure had! I’ve decided that I’m going to enter, but won’t join any group- I won’t be able to rely on having wifi access to participate…Even if I get through 30,000 words I’ll be stoked.

    1. You’re right- it’s not for everyone…but in a weird, challenging, love the pain sort of way it can be a little bit fun…

  4. I’m intrigued by the idea of doing the Nanowrimo challenge – except I don’t write fiction. I tried a few times years ago but it just wasn’t for me. I’ve written a non-fiction book in 3 months so I’ve kind of done something similar?!

    1. You sure have done something similar. Nano isn’t necessarily for fiction- it can be any long form writing project. I used it one year to get a start on an astro manuscript…which reminds me- I must dig that back out one day!

  5. Ohhh…this sounds fantastic and something I should give a try. I have three novel ideas that have been playing around in my head for the past few months. What a great motivation to get it out on paper. Will have a look and possibly join in.

    1. It sounds like you’re the perfect candidate. Pick the idea that’s screaming at you the loudest & go for it!

  6. I know someone who did it a few years ago – and is now very successful in self-publishing. I would like to give it a go but … there is always a but. The best writers I know always just do it regardless of buts. And it doesn’t have to be November. You just have to be ready. Signed, someone who has several partially completed manuscripts on the go. And needs a kick up the arse. Maybe Nano is the answer?

    1. There’s always a but…& always an almost time. Several partially completed manuscripts? I’d say nano could be for you! Thanks for dropping by 🙂

  7. Pingback: Friday Five… |

Comments are closed.