Writing Wednesday: Can You Write a Novel in 30 Days?

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National Novel Writing Month kicks off November 1st with its annual challenge: Write a 50,000 word novel before December arrives. What began in 1999 with a small group of 21 writers in the San Francisco Bay area is now an international, web-based creative project that connects and celebrates writers across the globe. Whether you are a first-time writer or an established author makes no difference in this community, as for NaNoWriMo all you have to do to “win” is get 50,000 words submitted before midnight on November 30th. Still feeling slightly overwhelmed at the prospect of beginning a novel before this weekend? Don’t worry, you’re not alone, and we’ve got you covered with these five simple steps.

1) Sign Up with NaNoWriMo.org

The easiest part of the challenge is also the most helpful. Registering your attempt with the National Novel Writing Month organisation and The Office of Letters and Light will instantly connect you to everything from tips on character development to pep talks from established writers.

2) Actually Take Advantage of the NaNoWriMo Community!

Whether you’re having trouble getting started or hit a road block at the halfway point, the online NaNoWriMo forums are excellent sources of inspiration. But novel writing doesn’t have to be a solely personal endeavour! Cities across the world hold events like Bubble Tea Writing Nights and “Thank God It’s Over” parties during National Novel Writing Month so you can connect with other people taking the challenge.

3) Keep Track of Your Progress

To come up with 50,000 words over the course of November, you will need to write an average of 1667 words per day. Using the online NaNoWriMo tracker will help keep you on top of your goals. Of course, 50,000 words is a fairly short novel (about the length of Brave New World or The Great Gatsby) so the word count is definitely just a minimum!

4) Check Your Word Count

To receive your official “Winner” web badge and PDF Winner’s Certificate you must upload your novel into NaNoWriMo’s online Word Count Validator before 11:59:59 PM (local time) on November 30th. While there are no official prizes for “best novel” or “quickest-written novel,” there should be a great deal of self-satisfaction that comes with completing such a creative and challenging task!

5) Keep Writing!

The most important part of National Novel Writing Month is the inspiration it provides aspiring writers. Just because the month is over doesn’t mean you can’t continue to work on your novel. Now that you’ve got the bare story in place you can refine and edit or expand its scope. Some novels written during NaNoWriMo have actually gone on to be huge bestsellers, including Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen or Lani Diane Rich’s debut novel Time Off for Good Behavior.

 

For an activity devoted to keeping the art of writing alive, National Novel Writing Month has faced a surprising amount of criticism. The harshest words tend to come from established writers seemingly offended that everyday people should dare to believe that they, too, could write a novel. What do you think? Is a 30-day writing challenge worth taking up or should writing be left to the writers?

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