You CAN write a novel, and you can do it in one month. That’s the goal of NaNoWriMo. To write a 50,000 word book in thirty days. If you break it down, it comes out to 1,666.67 words per day. I like to round up to 2000 a day so I’m ahead of the game, and I consider that the minimum number of words I need to write. Also, I like to finish BEFORE Thanksgiving.
It sounds like a lot, and it is. But it’s manageable if you are committed and willing to work and make it a priority. Here are a few of my tips:
1. Don’t re-read anything you previously wrote, unless it’s going back to look for a specific detail. Don’t edit. Don’t focus on the stuff you already wrote. You can go back and fix it later. Focus ONLY on new content and getting in your words every single day.
2. Don’t take a day off. Making up words for a day you missed is stressful.
3. Don’t stop to research or think too hard about details. I like to use brackets to indicate things I need to fix later (after November is over). That way, I can easily search my document for the brackets to find what needs to be added or changed. Example: Maria stopped in front of the martial arts studio, which was sandwiched between a [something] shop and a [something] shop.
I know I want the details of what, exactly, is on either side of the studio. But if I spend too long thinking about those details right now, I’ll lose momentum. So I put what’s missing or needs to be added in brackets so I can fix it later.
4. Keep a character sheet for quick and easy reference in a separate Word document or in a notebook. That way, you won’t have to go back to what you previously wrote for details. It doesn’t need to be fancy. Just list the name of your characters, and under each the important traits about her.
5. Decide if you’re a “plotter” or a “pantser”. Plotters are those who write an outline, of varying complexity and detail, before they begin their novel. Pantsers (those who fly by the seat of their pants), are those who have a vague idea of how they want their novel to go, and just start writing. You can also be a combination of the two. Usually, having at least a very loose outline will help keep you focused and on track. But if you work better just going with the flow, that’s fine too.
6. If you’re really stuck, and can’t think of a single thing to write, have your characters talk to each other. Write dialogue, even if it’s not completely relevant to the plot. You can always cut it later if it doesn’t fit. Or describe things. If your character is in a store, and you don’t know what to have her do, describe the things she sees. They might not make your final cut when you go back to edit (AFTER the novel is complete, remember!), but they’ll help you reach your daily word count, and they might spark an idea. Just keep writing.
Remember, the goal at the end of November is to have a rough draft of an entire novel. It’s called a rough draft for a reason: it’s not supposed to be perfect. But if you are committed and do it, you’ll have a 50,000 word book that’s imperfect but can be fixed. And that’s huge.
I have published nine novels, with another coming out in November. The first novel I ever completed was through NaNoWriMo. It taught me the discipline of having a word goal every day, and gave me the confidence to keep writing.
You can do it!