Attempting a Novel in a Month


Every November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a challenge started in 1999 in America that is now attempted by thousands of people around the world. The challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. It sounds impossible, but the point is not to worry about the quality but just to get the story out. Editing and rewriting can come later, and some published novels, including Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus were originally written in NaNoWriMo.

For several years I’ve been planning to take part in NaNoWriMo but I always seem to forget about it until about halfway through November when it’s too late to join in. This year I decided not to wait till November but to have my own novel writing month in May.

I thought it would be easy. I had already written a synopsis. I knew my characters. I had even written some of the novel already (which is against NaNoWriMo rules). All I had to do was write the story, and it wouldn’t matter if it was filled with clichés or the characters were two-dimensional or I wrote it all out is a “and then this happened and then that happened” style. I just had to write 1613 words a day to get to 50,000 by the 31st.

I found I wasn’t happy knowingly writing badly just for the sake of writing quickly. Usually I write slowly, struggling over every word. Sometimes it can take an hour just to write a few sentences, but at least I know they’re the right sentences (even if the next day I rewrite them or delete them). Trying to write a novel in a month I started to feel I was wasting my time; I would get the whole story written out, but so badly that rewriting would feel like starting from scratch again.

It may be that I was too invested in the story. If was starting with a vague idea and writing to see where it went then maybe I wouldn’t notice how badly I was writing in the excitement of discovering the story and the characters.

The good thing about attempting a novel writing month is that I am now much more focused on the novel, I’ve set myself a (much lower than 1613) daily word target and often when I’m not writing I’m thinking about the story, picturing the settings, imagining how my characters feel, hearing their conversations.

I think it is worth attempting to write a novel in a month, it obviously works for some people, and even if it doesn’t work for you it can still help you to get more into your novel and find a realistic timeframe for you to work with.


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