How To Write A novel

How To Write A Novel In A Month – No, Really

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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 one I’ve had in my 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 that shit done, and finally create your 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.

Progress Report

The old saying goes that it always seems impossible until its done, and honestly, there’s never been a truer word spoken. However, something I’ve also discovered to be true 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 (or Twitter-managed, if you follow their word sprints account) time 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. 

Now I realise this may sound like I’m patting myself on the back, but you know what? I am. This is absolutely unprecedented for me. I’ve had ten whole months of this year so far to do this and I’d not even managed so much as a prologue. Somehow after nine days, I’ve actually got a plan, a plot and a baseline of something that didn’t really even exist until now. It’s really hard not to read your own work as you write, and I’m finding that I probably am writing a lot of fairly unoriginal stuff, but that’s ok because it gives me a foundation to build upon. Which is a lot more to work with than I’ve ever had before.

There’s something about NaNoWriMo and the community that surrounds it that is incredibly inspiring. 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’ve found 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, 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. Cake and a cuppa, well-earned.
  • 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 shit, 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 you 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 or over on Twitter. 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. 

Right, I’m off to start chapter 17. See you on the other side.

Writer, tweeter and illustrator. Starving artist and thrifting expert. Pen for hire and first-time author at work.

2 thoughts on “How To Write A Novel In A Month – No, Really”

  1. I’ve wanted to write a novel for years, but there is some gigantic block in front of mean that means I’ve never made it further than the painful dreams and resentment towards myself for never doing it. I struggle with the premise (what the heck to write about!?) and the fact I’d want to set it in America despite living in the UK and it all falls apart from there really… The idea of this writing challenge is quite an empowering one, but also one I think I’d stand no chance with. I therefore think you should be huuuugely proud of what you’re achieving, so definitely worth patting yourself on the back!! Wishing you the very best as you continue you writing, you can do it!! 🙂

    1. Thank you so much Caz, I hope you’re right! For what it’s worth I’ve had the exact same feelings about my book and just had no idea how to get started with it – I’d definitely recommend checking out the NaNoWriMo website though, it’s given me such a kick up the arse to get started – you can totally do it xx

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