Wondering how to write a novel at all? So was I. I remember when I first launched my website, it was always intended as a precursor to the writing of my book. The story was one I’d had in mind for years but never really got around to actually writing.
The whole point of setting up this space for me to write in was to get me used to the practice of writing enough to actually write the bloody thing. Yet suddenly, I found myself in month eleven of this year already, with no real novel to show for it.
At the end of October, I decided that I was going to get involved with NaNoWriMo, a yearly writing challenge that encourages people to actually get knuckle down and finally create their novel. I’ll admit, I didn’t really hold out much hope for myself. I know my own habits well enough to know that I am often shockingly self-sabotaging in the face of a challenge. Still, I thought it might be worth giving it a try.
So on day one, I tentatively approached the starting line with an empty Google Doc and not a great deal else. I had a rough idea of what I could write about, but absolutely no solid plan or vision for where it could end up. I had no idea how to write a novel.
And then, I started to write.
The old saying goes that it always seems impossible until it’s done, and honestly, there’s never been a truer word spoken. However, something I also discovered is that you never know what you’re capable of until there’s a timer running against you. Something that NaNoWriMo does really well is to break your writing pattern down into self-managed timed challenges. You can set yourself a timer, say for 15 minutes or so, and then write freely until the time’s up. Then, you add to your word count.
I laughed at this to begin with, thinking I’d probably only manage about 300 words a day.
It’s now November 9th and so far, I’ve written 13,781 words. Across 16 chapters.
After nine days.
And, I had a day off on Sunday because I was playing rugby.
I realise this may sound like I’m patting myself on the back, but to be honest, I kind of am. This is absolutely unprecedented for me. I’ve had ten whole months of this year so far to do this and
There’s something incredibly inspiring about NaNoWriMo and the community of writers who take part. To know that there are so many others out there on the same challenge as you is really motivating, and the support materials that are provided to help you stay on track are fantastic.
I have no idea yet exactly how my book will pan out, but I do know this; if I can carry on a little more each day, I’ll hit the goal of 50,000 words by the end of November, I’m sure of it. Here are some quick tips I’ve picked up over the last week or so that’ll help you get that story written.
How to write a novel in a month
- Write first thing in the morning – I find it makes a huge difference if I sit down first thing and just go for broke for the first hour or two of the day.
- Do not edit as you go – big mistake. I found myself doing it without realising it, and actually, it wasted so much of my time. My plan is to just draft the full thing out and then go back once I’ve hit the big 50,000.
- Erase distractions and then reward progress – After your first few writing sprints, make sure you look at what you’ve actually put to paper (word count wise) and then treat yourself! I remember thinking 500 words would be a lot, but I’ve had days where I’ve written quadruple that amount without even realising.
- Keep going – just keep going. Even if it’s just a little bit each day, it’s better than nothing. We can do this.
- It might sound trite but just do it – again, refuse the temptation to edit as you go along. Just fire it out and you can correct the weak spots later.
- Research in your non-writing time -at some point you’ll realise you need to do some research to make bits of your story plausible. That’s a good thing, just don’t let it eat into your writing time.
- Don’t be afraid to let your story change – if it evolves as you’re writing it, just go with it.
- Resist the urge to share your work with others – it’s not ready yet! Get it done before you release your magic into the world.
If you’re taking part in NaNoWriMo, let me know in the comments, as I’d love to hear how you’re finding it. Also, if you’re looking for inspiration to get going, it’s not too late! Check out my post on creative writing prompts for some ideas, or you can have a look through my collection of prompts over on Pinterest too.