November is National Novel Writing Month, when authors can sign up at http://nanowrimo.org and receive encouragement as they work to create a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Hundreds of my students have successfully used NaNoWriMo to complete their first draft, so it’s a valuable tool.
It sounds like a lot of work, but you may be surprised how easy it is to create a novel in a month — if you approach that goal with the right strategy.
Here are my tips for how to succeed at NaNoWriMo:
- Don’t just start typing. If you do, you will get lost, hit a dead end, and give up. You must start with a plan, prepared even before NaNoWriMo begins.
- Start with a scene list. If you have a list of 50 to 100 scenes planned to get you from start to finish, then it’s easy to start writing each day, because you know exactly what you need to work on.
- Your scenes need to flow, so create them within a three-act structure. The easiest way is to use the nine checkpoints I teach in all my writing classes.
- To create a checkpoint structure you need to know your characters, especially your protagonist, so start by designing that character. Most importantly, you need to understand the flaw your protagonist must overcome to achieve the goal that drives your novel.
- Steps 2-4 may sound familiar. If you work through them in the opposite order — from character through checkpoint structure to scene list — you are following the path I teach in all my classes. With that done, success is just some dedicated effort away.
- So how much dedicated effort is that? If your scene list is ready to go at the start of NaNoWriMo, then you can focus on writing. 50,000 words is about 1700 words per day for a month. But you should write more than that, because Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or having relatives to entertain are all likely to get in the way as the month draws to a close. Plan on 2000-2500 words per day.
- How much writing time is that? Even if you can type very fast, you probably can’t “write” faster than about 20 words per minute. The great thing is that even if you can’t type very well, you can still probably write about 20 words per minute! That means you need to dedicate 90 minutes to two hours per day to writing during November. If that sounds like a lot, think about how much time you spend watching television. The easiest way to succeed at NaNoWriMo is simple: don’t watch any television in November!
If you follow these guidelines you’ll have a finished first draft by November 30.
Then what should you do?
Put it aside and enjoy the holidays. Then, on January first, create your own NaNoEdMo — that’s National Novel Editing Month! Polish it into a second draft and you’ll be ready for publication in February.
I’ve listed some course links with great discounts below, specifically for NaNoWriMo. The first three will get you ready for NaNoWriMo, and the last one will get you published in February.
Preparing for NaNoWriMo:
Novel Writing Workshop at 90% off (just $19)
Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy at 84% off (just $49)
Young Adult Fiction Writing Workshop at 90% off (just $19)
Publishing Your Finished Novel:
Publish Your Book Now! at 60% off (just $19)
Sign up today and you’ll have a completed novel on November 30th!