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Can you write a novel in 30 days? It’s NaNoWriMo time!


Update: Check out 10 Tips to Prepare for National Novel Writing Month for 2015! You’ll get far more than 10 tips and loads of details and links.

Once again, it’s that time of year.

Thirty days and nights of literary abandon.

Thirty days and nights of writing our little fingers off.

Thirty days and nights of pure writing madness.

It’s almost here. Are you ready?

November is National Novel Writing Month.

That means a gazillion writers from all around the world hunker down and write the novels they’ve been dreaming of writing. In 2011, 256,618 writers participated, and 36,843 writers won (no stats for 2012 yet). Check out more Facts and Stats.

That’s pretty amazing.

Some do it on the fly without much of a plan and mostly just for fun, to see if they can do it. Many others take advantage of the group energy and support to make serious strides in a novel they’re determined to publish. Many succeed.

Here are just a few NaNoWriMo participants who published the novels they wrote in 30 days (or less). There are many others.

Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants
Hugh Howey, Wool
Gayle Brandeis, Self Storage
Lani Diane Rich, Time Off for Good Behavior

Can you write 1,667 words every day?

Okay, that’s 1,666.6 rounded off, but you get the picture. That’s 50,000 words in 30 days, the minimum requirement to win.

On the one hand, it’s really not that hard, assuming you’ve already done at least a little writing and you’ve read plenty of novels. Serious writers should write a minimum of 1000 words a day anyway, even if just for steady practice and skill honing.

And you don’t have to write a novel that unveils the characters and the plot in perfect order. It’s considered a rough draft, a start, an exploration to be edited and revised later. Plus, you can skip around with scenes, dialogue, potential scenes, descriptions, characterization, and so much more.

Play around with possibilities. If your story takes place on a farm, for example, write a scene in which the barn catches fire or falls over from termites that nobody knew about. Have a UFO land in a field. Write dialogue between two cows planning a revolt with all the other farm animals.

Even if you never use the tangent you go off on, it might spark your creativity or provide new insight into a character’s personality or motives.

The best approach is to not take yourself too seriously and don’t worry about it.

On the other hand, it’s not just about the time required or what you write about. Taking part in NaNoWriMo and finishing requires a positive, upbeat frame of mind for most of us. Or at least plenty of energy. A healthy dose of humor helps, too.

Last year I barely got started before I quit. My head just wasn’t in the right place, and my heart was too heavy to summon up the enthusiasm I needed. I’d only recently lost a beloved cat to cancer after a three-year battle, and I had to use all my energy for work. I didn’t have anything left.

This year, though, I’m rip-rarin’ to go. I’m going to use what I learned from winning in 2011 and get ready with some serious preparation. I’ll share my plans as the time gets closer.

I’m looking forward to it! I have some barely-nascent ideas I want to develop, including four characters I invented while writing a blog post to illustrate some point or other. I cut that section out, but I never, ever throw out rough drafts and unusable “extras.” You never know when you might need them.

Are you doing Nano this year? Are you ready? Have you taken part before? How did it go? Share in the comments!

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2 comments… add one
  • I’ll be participating on my first NanoWinro next month and I must admit… I’m excited and a little anxious about it. I haven’t attempted anything this challenging and it will be a great chance for me to just jump in and do it. I’ve always wanted to write and be published and this is a great way to start on my journey to becoming exactly that.

    My objective is just to put in the required number of writing and word count each day and not aim for perfection. Just let my fingers do the talking and let it all fly loose. I’m already doing some form of writing each day, just to practice getting into the writing habit. I now have some stories ideas and still to finally choose what to write about. All in all… I am prepping for this challenge in a good way and that is good.

    I am glad a found NanoWinro and I am just hoping to meet the required word count and learn from the experience.

    Good luck to all who will participate in this writing challenge and happy writing!

    • Congrats on your first NanoWrimo! It’s definitely–at least–great practice for the daily discipline of writing as well as novel writing. Good luck to you too 🙂


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