Are you a would-be writer who has heard of people writing a whole first draft of a book in a month? Is it really possible to write a novel in a month? It seems like an almost impossible challenge.
The good news is that it is absolutely possible to write a novel in a month. Plan carefully and make sure to write daily, and it is achievable. Every year thousands of writers do exactly that in November during NaNoWriMo, with multiple examples of these books going on to publication.
Writing a Novel in a Month?
If you are a new writer struggling to complete your first novel, it can seem like ever finishing the first draft is virtually impossible, never mind trying to do it in such a short period.
Although it is not an easy challenge, every year, thousands of people sit down on November 1 and try to finish a novel before the end of the month. The now world-famous NaNoWriMo event takes place every November and tasks writers with completing 50,000 words in just 30 days.
By early 2021, this incredibly popular challenge had so far involved 798,162 active novelists who have collectively completed 367,913 novels (Source: NaNoWriMo homepage, April 8, 2021).
That is a fantastic achievement that just proves that a complete novel in a month is absolutely doable.
NaNoWriMo started over 20 years ago and has produced multiple published novels such as Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants and Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.
So don’t be put off by the sound of 50,000 words. In the rest of this article, we’ll cover some of the reasons to write a novel in a month. We will discuss some pros and cons and give you some helpful tips on how to complete the challenge for yourself.
Reasons to Write a Novel in a Month
So why should you want to attempt such a difficult challenge anyway? There are plenty of reasons and benefits to be gained by giving it a try.
It Gets You Writing.
The first reason is that it is an excellent way to get you into the writing habit. Being forced to write so many words in such a short period, you get into the process of writing.
People are often stuck even getting started because it seems like such a challenge to write a whole book, so this can be the kick you need.
It Establishes a Daily Routine
Because you have to write so many words in such a short time, it is critical to establish a daily routine, or you will never finish. Once you have done this through the challenge, you should continue with your new routine and become a regular, consistent writer. Just being forced to do this can have an ongoing benefit.
It’s All About the First Draft
It can be exceedingly difficult to make any progress for a new writer, as they are typically very unsure of the quality of what they are writing. This means they can end up spending valuable writing time rewriting and editing and then editing and rewriting again rather than creating new material.
Being forced to write a book within a strict limit means you do not have the luxury of rewriting passages repeatedly, and you certainly don’t have the time to much in-depth editing. The short timeline is a huge benefit in forcing you to produce words.
To Challenge Yourself
This competition is an excellent way to challenge yourself. You may be very unsure if this is really something you can do long term, so challenging yourself to create all or most of a book in a single month can help you figure out if you really want to do this as a career.
The Pros and Cons
There are pros and cons regarding such a difficult challenge, and you must decide for yourself if you think the benefits outweigh the downsides.
The New Mindset.
As we’ve mentioned above, getting into the process of writing a book could be difficult for new writers. This intense challenge can help get you into a new mindset where you know you can produce lots of words regularly. This new mindset can change you from a hopeful amateur producing little or nothing into a real writer creating actual stories.
Make Daily Writing the New Norm.
The best way to really make progress on any writing assignment is to write consistently daily. As we all have busy lives and likely families, it is critical to establish a daily writing routine during the November competition if you have any chance to finish.
Once you have seen the benefits of doing this and the amount of new material you can produce, it should be pretty evident that daily writing should become your new normal process for writing.
What an Accomplishment, You Have a Book!
Probably the most significant benefit from completing the challenge is that you actually have a book in your hands. Yes, it very likely needs lots more work and editing after the challenge is over, but for many people, just reaching the end of the first draft of any book is a vast motivating achievement that pushes them to continue writing.
Support from Like-Minded Writers
Writing a book is a very lonely experience, just by the definition of the task. A considerable benefit of the NaNoWriMo challenge is you’re doing it with hundreds of thousands of like-minded people. You can motivate each other, provide feedback and lots of encouragement when the challenge inevitably gets tough.
Putting Life on Hold
50,000 words is a lot for anyone, and the only way to do this successfully for someone who is not a full-time professional is to put at least some of your life on hold through November. This can be a more difficult challenge if you have family and children who obviously want to see you and need you for many ordinary everyday things.
While part of successfully completing your book means you have to ask them to indulge you when you take this challenge, you also need to balance the workload with everyday life. This can mean getting up very early, staying up late or more likely both if you want to achieve the 50,000-word goal.
The Real Work on Your Book Starts Now
So, the good news is you now have a book. The slightly more concerning news is that the work really only starts now. You have a first draft that is probably in rough shape because it was written so quickly and will need plenty more work. It is likely it will take a lot of editing and rewriting, quite possibly far more than the original 30 days it took you to write.
This is important to keep in mind and plan accordingly for the additional work to have a fully finished, high-quality book that you are ready to send out to people.
Not Finishing in Very Demotivating.
One danger of this challenge is if you do not manage to finish. We all know that things happen, and life, in general, can just get in the way of any plan. If you are only a beginner, it can be very demotivating if you put in many hours of work and still do not manage to finish a whole story or novel through the end of the challenge.
If this happens to you, it is essential not to allow it to stop you from writing. Acknowledge that problems will occur and things will delay you, but you should still continue writing and pushing forward.
How Do You Write a Novel in a Month?
At this point, hopefully, you have decided that you still want to take this challenge. If you have, how do you successfully complete it?
Here are a few tips to help you finish.
Outline in Advance
1st and most important is to have some kind of outline. The more fleshed out the outline is, the better chance you have of finishing your first draft and, more importantly, the higher quality manuscript you are likely to have at the end of it. If you have the time, try to flush out detailed information about your characters and at least the key scenes and how they flow together through the story. This will help you complete a high-quality book that hopefully will take less work in the editing stage.
The best way to make sure you finish strongly is to start writing daily right from day one and make sure you write at least something each day without fail. Getting into this routine during the challenge and continuing this into your general daily life is quite likely the most significant benefit you will get out of this.
Do Not Get Behind!
With a challenge like this, you will be writing over 1600 words every day to complete it on time. It is crucial that you do not get behind in your word count. It is possible to try and catch up a little on the weekend, but if you get too far behind, you will find yourself with an outstanding word count that is an almost impossible task.
Resist Editing as You Go.
It is very tempting to rewrite and edit as you go through your first draft, especially as a beginner. In regular writing, it is typical and generally OK to do this, but during the one-month challenge, you really must force yourself to be very limited in your editing, or you can find yourself running out of time. Just continue writing and only edit the bare minimum and most obvious problems and then leave the rest of the detailed edits for December and beyond.
Things Will Go Wrong but Keep Going.
At some point during the challenge, something will go wrong. That is OK. When you start writing, just accept that something will go wrong and make sure it does not stop you from writing.
Have a Place to Write.
Having a familiar and regular place to write has been found to be a big help toward success. Having a familiar place where all your materials are set out and ready to write means you can just sit and get started each day without having to figure out what you need and set yourself up before you can begin.
Try Speech recognition.
One thing that can be a huge benefit that most people never try is speech recognition. Most of us can speak far faster than we can type, and most modern devices come with some kind of speech recognition, such as Siri for the iPhone and dictation built into Microsoft Word.
These modern speech recognition systems work exceptionally well and are worth trying out at any time but certainly during the November challenge. They can dramatically speed up your writing and get you to your 50,000-word goal quicker.
Hopefully, by now, it is clear that you can successfully write a novel in a month, even though it seems like a monumental task. Just make sure you start with a good plan, put in regular, consistent effort, and you too could be a NaNoWriMo winner at the end of the month.