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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Can You Write a First Draft of a Novel in 30 Days?

Next month is National Novel Writing Month or shortened it is known as NaNoWriMo. This is  when writers are challenged to roll out a first draft of a 50,000 word novel in a single month. This year I am going to attempt to do this so I can finally write my romance novel. I started it years ago and still have some hand-written notes but lost the computer copy due to technology changes. To get me ready for this writing challenge,  I asked for tips from a fellow writer & blogger, Esther Smith, who completed the task last year. Read on for her tips to make it a successful month!

If you need to write 50,000 words that means about 2,000 words daily. How long does that take?
I would say for the average writer it would take 2-3 hours to finish their word count, but that doesn't factor in procrastination or the amount of time they may have to write. Many participants who are busy make up for lost time on the weekends. But honestly I think it really depends on the writer, and the type of day they are having.

On my very best days I can write 1000 words an hour while on the worst days I find getting anything done at all is like pulling teeth. It can take you one sitting or several to get your daily word count done. But again it all depends on the individual. There are a few participants that have actually finished the 50k within the first week.

Tell me about your experience?
I participated last year and won, also did Camp June (made it halfway) and sort of July (failed because of being too busy), also I plan on doing it this November and maybe "win" again.

What is "Camp June"?
Camp June is just an extension of  Nanowrimo. It's a fairly new addition, I believe by only a couple years. It's simply alternative months (being June and August) to November where you can take on the same challenge. Some participants consider it a warm up, or can even be a trial run for those who may be weary of the challenge. It's the same in many ways but is smaller in scale and has a camp theme. Participants are placed into "cabins" with others, which acts like a writing buddy group.

How did you prepare?
What worked for me was preparing a loose outline, having the basics of the story (plot points etc). Then I split it into 5 parts (just what worked out for mine you could do however many you want) and determined roughly how many words I would want/need in each part. That helped a lot because it gave me an idea of where I needed to be if one part wasn't quite as long as I wanted.

How were you able to keep on track to write consistently for 30 days?
To be honest it wasn't easy. I just made it a priority in my everyday life. At the beginning it was deceptively simple, but once the new-project-sparkle wore off it was a real grind. I mean you have really good days but you also have really bad ones. I found the best way to get it done was to do half the word count in the morning and the other half at night and make it a habit. But it's different for everyone.

If as you suggest you keep up with other bloggers on the writing isn't that a distraction to your time to write?
I'm guessing you're referring to what I said about the Nanowrimo website. The forums and community can be a dangerous distraction if you allow it but it can also be really rewarding with the right amount of self control. If you are struggling you can find others struggling, you can ask for help with stubborn plots, give critiques. It's basically a haven for participants.

I would also encourage having a "writing buddy" which is a fellow participant that you talk to throughout the month.  It helps to have someone you can compete with. If your buddy has a higher word count it's a really good motivator, and they are someone you can directly turn to at problem points in your own story. You can get a buddy by finding the writing buddy topic in the forums, and posting a bit about yourself, your genre this month, and interests.

What are your tips for the actual month of writing?

  • Tell people you are participating, fair warning for them, and accountability for yourself
  • Write 2000 words a day when possible, this helps put you ahead so when you have days you are too busy or burned-out you can relax without falling behind
  • Find a writing buddy, whether from this site or from the NaNo site. It makes a world of difference to work out problems, and be encouraged by someone
  • Do your best not to edit. I sort of break this rule myself from time to time, but it's too easy to fall into a destructive cycle of editing. The best thing you can do is write and at the end of the day reread/edit as you need to. But after that day don't look at it apart from reference.
  • Week 1 is the easiest since your idea is still fresh and new. Around week 2 or 3 expect to want to quit, you are going to hate everything you've written. You will be uninspired. It can be an emotional roller coaster. This is when doing the extra 400 words a day pays off. You should have long enough to get back on your feet before falling behind.
  • Don't be hard on yourself. When you are pumping out that many words a day the majority of it will be crap. If you want to succeed you sort of have to accept that this is just a Draft Zero, getting down the words before doing any of the real work.
  • Lastly if you don't meet the goal don't worry about it. It's crazy to write that much in a month anyway.(lol) Just do what you can in your schedule and enjoy every minute of it.

What did you do with the writing after you completed the contest?
After the event I took a small break then finished off the draft. It's currently still in rewrites as I've been working on other projects but I do plan to market it when it's finished. I think every future participant should know that what comes out of this event is actually a draft zero that is very messy, with plot holes, missing characters, and shifts in tone. So rewrites are a must. The value of NaNo is really just getting your story down on paper.

Thanks for your insights! Are you ready for the challenge? Here's the link so you can sign up


  1. That is an awesome challenge! You have a new follower here via Book Blogs. I'd love for you to stop by and visit my blog! Here's the link:

    MaMa's Book Corner

  2. Thanks for stopping by! I hopped over to your blog and left a reply.