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Writing a Novel in a Month – Time to Prepare!

How to write a novel

Writing a novel in a month sounds like madness.

But some writers seem to zip through National Novel Writing Month—NaNoWriMo—and pump out 50, 60, even 70,000 words or more like it’s no big deal.

Others plod through, get discouraged, pick themselves up, and write like crazy on the final day just to hit 50,000.

And many quit.

Since I started participating in NaNoWriMo back in 2011, I’ve zoomed through, straggled across the finish line, quit, or never got started. Each time, I learned something new, and I finally completed two published novels.

Learning is the main point, after all, and plenty of NaNoWriMo participants go on to publish, including some bestsellers.

Here are my 10 tips for NaNoWriMo plus 11 Best of the Blogs articles. You’ll find everything you need to succeed during National Novel Writing Month.

1. Are you a pantser?

If you’re writing a novel “from the seat of your pants” without an outline, think about it. Do you know how to write a novel? What about the essential elements of a good novel? Is basic plot structure imprinted on your brain? If not, see Article #8.

Even if you do know all that, I recommend sketching out a synopsis (Tip #6) or a basic storyline anyway. You can always change it as the story unfolds. Besides, you’ll need an outline during revision to check for essentials, so why not start now?

2. Are you a plotter?

If you devise a plot and outline before writing a novel, don’t get mired down it. Don’t spend hours and hours on the setting details, world building, or what characters look like, what they wear, how they talk, or what their childhoods were like.

Sure, jot down the basic ideas. But get that first draft written; the details that come to you while writing may be quite different (and work much better) than any you can plan beforehand.

3. Are you writing non-fiction?

Whether it’s a memoir or an authoritative thought-leader type of book, non-fiction requires an outline and much more. What’s the goal? How can the reader reach that goal? Check out this site devoted to writing non-fiction in November.

 4. Are you writing fiction?

Knowing your genre or sub-genre provides you with guidelines from the starting gate.

Whether it’s sci-fi, fantasy, romance, literary, paranormal, thriller, adventure, children’s, young adult, or something else, knowing your genre and its conventions can help. Here’s an excellent breakdown of genres and sub-genres.

5. Decide on point-of-view (POV)

When writing a novel, you have three basic choices for POV. First person POV means “I did this and we did that.” A first person POV feels personal to readers as they see things from the protagonist’s or other character’s point of view.

On the other hand, second person POV means “You did this and you did that.” It’s not common, and it’s not easy to pull it off. As with first person POV, it feels personal, as if “you” are the protagonist. Some well-known novels are written in the second person (Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney is good.)

Finally, third person POV is the most common way to write a novel. “He did this and she did that, and they lived happily ever after.” But third person POV has several different approaches; my own novel, Colors, is written in “close third.” Read more here.

6. Write a synopsis of your novel.

Shoot for 500-600 words and describe the protagonist’s problem, challenge, or conflict and motivation to resolve it. Who or what causes the conflict, and does the protagonist succeed or fail in resolving it? How? Finally, how does the protagonist change? Here’s solid information on writing a synopsis.

7. Get all your laundry done and clean your house or apartment.

I’m not kidding. If you’re tight on time or prone to distractions, you don’t want to run out of clean underwear or be buried in rubble with a mouse infestation by month’s end. Enlist the help of your family, partner, or roommate. Why not hire a professional cleaning service? Clean, tidy rooms free up your mental space like shutting down apps frees up RAM.

8. Cook or stock up on food ahead of time.

Writing a novel takes time, and if you have plenty of it, skip this tip. Otherwise, cook or bake your favorite meals or treats (especially one-dish meals) and freeze them. Buy plenty of the usual staples, canned goods, or frozen foods you typically use. Chop onions, peppers, and other veggies for soups or stews and freeze them, too.

Or sign up for grocery or meal delivery for a month. A little preparation can cut down on stress and frustration, especially if you’re short on writing time.

And don’t forget pets! Stock up on pet food or cat litter (or frozen mice or crickets, depending on the type of pet you have) to last through November. If you have a dog, hire a dog walker for even more writing time.

9. Writing a novel with young children tearing up the house

Enlist the services of a babysitter so you can close the door and have uninterrupted writing time. Or go out to a café or library unless you’re likely to run into someone you know and start chatting! Here are some great tips for writer parents.

10. Writing a novel with Thanksgiving coming up? Yeah, right

If you normally enjoy a houseful of guests and serve dinner for 25, you might want to limit the guest list or become an expert planner. Develop your menu, get the grocery shopping done in October (as much as possible), and see what you can prepare well in advance and freeze. And ask for help! Hire a kitchen helper, have your dinner catered, or go out to eat. Anything to save time for writing as well as rest and relaxation.

Alternatively, get ahead with your word count. Shoot for 2000 words each day instead of 1667. Or when you’re on a roll, pump out 3000 or 5000 words or whatever is coming to you. Then sit back and relax for your holiday.

For even more on writing a novel in a month, here are 11 excellent articles with all the info you need.

1. How to Prepare for NaNoWriMo: Your 4-Week Success Plan

If you’re participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this November , you’re likely gearing up to plan your novel in October. Writing 50,000 words in 30 days takes work, and starting the month prepared makes it easier to hit your goal — or even surpass it.

Since all stories are about an interesting character solving an interesting problem in an interesting way, your first step is to figure out your main character(s), the story problem, and the main goal.

2. Writing a Novel – Tips for NaNoWriMo

If you’ve ever doubted you can write a novel in 30 days, rest assured. You can. And so have many others. It’s all in the preparation.

3. What to Do NOW to Prepare for NaNoWriMo

The official rules for NaNoWriMo state that writers are not permitted to begin drafting until November 1. But that doesn’t mean you have to just sit and wait. There are actually several things you are allowed to do to prepare for NaNoWriMo before it starts. Taking advantage of this time to prepare could make a big difference in how hard it is for you to cross that finish line to word 50,000.

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

Once again, it’s that time of year. Thirty days and nights of literary abandon, writing your little fingers off, and pure writing madness.

It’s almost here. Are you ready?

5. 12 Vital Preparatory Steps for NaNoWriMo

Thanks to the Office of Letters and Light, November poses one of the greatest challenges for writers: drafting an entire novel in one month. With a 50,000 word threshold, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) completion represents dozens of hours of work. To be sure, the challenge shouldn’t be taken on lightly—which is why October is the perfect time to start preparing.

6. 10 Tips to Prepare for National Novel Writing Month

Preparation means you’ll write less fluff and filler. And you’ll write fewer words, paragraphs, and scenes that are like mind maps rather than passages you can actually use.

Instead, you’ll write a logical story instead of a mish-mash of scenes. Sure, it will still need work. But it’ll be more like a rough-hewn path with a clear beginning and an end instead of a disorganized collection of situations and side roads.

And best of all, you won’t go crazy or quit. Here’s the plan.

7. How to Prepare for NaNoWriMo

Now that you’re pumped about participating in NaNoWriMo, let’s discuss how to set yourself up for success. You’ll spend a month in writer’s isolation (except for the one permissible time out where you emerge from your hole to gorge on turkey and cranberry stuffing). What do you need to do now to be prepared for the next 30 days? Here’s your prep plan.

8. Basic plot structure for your novel

Writing a novel? If you’re writing during National Novel Writing Month—NaNoWriMo—you’re probably too busy to read about plot structure, narrative structure, dramatic structure, storylines, or narrative arcs.

But plot structure can mean the difference between 50,000 words worth of beautiful descriptions, action-packed scenes, and witty dialogue—and an actual story.

9. Writing a novel in a month: 10 tips for plotters and pantsers

Streamlining your writing process is useful whether you’re gearing up for a novel-writing challenge such as NaNoWriMo or simply have a personal deadline. Here are 10 tips for writing a novel in a month:

10. How to Write the First Line and Paragraph of Your Novel

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, November is not the time to worry about first lines and opening paragraphs. But you have to start somewhere, right? And if you’re the worrying type, telling you not to worry won’t help. So here are some suggestions for getting off to a great start (and why you shouldn’t worry about it).

11. Stuck With Your Novel? Get Unstuck

You’re in the middle of NaNoWriMo, and you’re not coming up with anything. None of the prompts from the site are helping. Nothing is inspiring you. You’re completely frustrated—and stuck.

I know the feeling. It must be writer’s block, right? Or you’ve been deluding yourself. This just isn’t working for you. Maybe next year…

Stop right there. Quitting isn’t an option. And you’re not allowed to wallow in self-pity, either, so listen up.

Have some tips of your own to share? Have a question? We’d love to hear from you and help you if we can, so fire away in the comments.

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