Have you ever thought about writing a novel or a full-length book? If so, then there’s no time like the present. November is National Novel Writing Month.
Since 1999, thousands of people around the world have dusted off their pens, pencils, notebooks, laptops and desktop computers to hunker down and get the writing projects they’ve been meaning to do done.
You see, National Novel Writing Month (often called NaNoWriMo for short) is actually a singular challenge: write a novel, a full-length book or the beginning of one with at least 50,000 words during the month of November.
According to the challenge’s rules, outlining or pre-planning what you’d like to write about before November 1st is permitted, but all of the book’s actual writing must occur between November 1 and November 30.
You can write about whatever you want. National Novel Writing Month was created with fiction writers in mind, but nonfiction writers have long joined in on the fun as officially sanctioned “Rebels.” At NaNoWriMo you can write whatever you want on any subject. The goal is just to get it done. Some adventurous souls have written long-form poetry!
You can win National Novel Writing Month. You just need to register your project, write it and then validate your book’s word count on their website before the end of the month.
While NaNoWriMo is an individual challenge, it certainly doesn’t have to be lonely – a whole community has sprung up around it.
If National Novel Writing Month sounds like something you’d like to do, here’s what you need to know and how you can get involved.
Preparation Is Half the Battle
You don’t need to train for this type of marathon like a runner might. However, that doesn’t mean preparation isn’t key. There are four things you can do to set yourself up to become a roaring NaNoWriMo success:
Register for the Challenge: If you don’t officially sign up, you can’t officially win. Luckily, it’s easy to do. Just go to the National Novel Writing Month website to fill out and submit a brief form: https://nanowrimo.org/sign_up. (And remember, don’t forget to validate your novel’s word count by the end of the month if you want to win.)
Get Your Team on Board: Tell your inner circle about the challenge and let them know how they can help you. Whether that means giving you more time and space at home to focus on your writing, temporary help with other obligations or just a word of encouragement or two, get your loved ones on board in advance. Let them know what they can do to support your efforts.
Prep Your Schedule: Be the consistent tortoise, not the overconfident hare. For the month of November, set aside some time in your schedule every day to focus on your writing. Try watching less TV. Streamline your household errands. Do whatever you need to do to give yourself ample time to think, write and tackle this writing challenge head on.
Brainstorm: Before November 1st, spend some time thinking about what you want your book to be about. Do some research, take notes, do some brainstorming, do some outlining. Mentally prepare yourself and your brain for writing your book.
When these four tasks are under your belt, you’ll be ready.
But That Seems Like a Lot of Words!
I won’t lie. At first glance, 50,000 words seems like a whole lot to write in one month, but that number actually breaks down to an average of 1,666 words per day. If you write consistently every day (or nearly every day), an average of 1,666 words becomes much more manageable. I promise.
If you do your writing on a computer, Microsoft Word and Google Docs are both fine tools to help you write, keep track of your novel’s word count and save your work. However, if you’re looking for more options, you might consider dedicated writing apps like Scrivener or Ulysses.
Now take a moment to think about some of the books you may have read. 50,000 words is a respectable length for a novel; however, many well-loved books have had much heftier words counts. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five weighed in at 47,000 and 49,000 words, respectively, but J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye was 73,000 words, J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit was 95,000 words, Jane Austen’s Emma was 155,000 words and Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace was a mind-boggling 587,000 words.
Writing a first draft of 50,000 words in November? You can do this.
Sometimes It Takes a Village to Write a Book
You don’t have to do this alone if you don’t want to, either.
I know writers who enjoy the creative freedom of writing in solitude, but I also know writers who enjoy the camaraderie of a community. If you enjoy the company of other writers, or if you think you might, National Novel Writing Month can help put you in touch with your peers.
After you sign up for NaNoWriMo on their website, you gain access to forums where you can discuss different topics related to the challenge or to your writing. There you can also view other writers’ profiles and find a writing buddy to help spur you on towards your goal.
In addition, you’ll find regional forums and opportunities for local meetups. Volunteer Municipal Liaisons organize local writing sessions, get-togethers and other events that you can choose to attend. And if you don’t see enough local events on the calendar in your region, talk to your Municipal Liaison about helping to organize some.
Whether you participate in the online forums, get a writing buddy or attend local events, NaNoWriMo gives you the opportunity to find other writing enthusiasts.
Ready to Write
If you’ve been thinking about writing a book, then NaNoWriMo is the perfect time to start – and get the first draft done.
Will you be participating in National Novel Writing Month this year? Let me know! Also, check out our newest online coaching program, Writer’s Sprint.