How to Write a Novel in a Month

I have quite a few posts about Camp NaNo Prep. If you are planning on participating in Camp NaNo (which is happening in less than a week!) but haven’t finished (or started) prepping, I’m here for you.

Good. Now that you’re caught up, I’m here to offer some thoughts on ways to approach Camp NaNoWriMo once you actually get into the writing.

Set a Specific Time to Write

As I’ve mentioned many times, my first, and perhaps most crucial tip, is to have a time set aside to write. Pick a time of day, whether 20 minutes or an hour and write during that time every day. Even when it’s hard. Even when the words don’t want to come. Sit down and crank out some words. In regular, non-NaNo-writing months, you can write or not write whenever you want, but during NaNo you have a deadline, and getting a habit going will help you reach that wordcount!

Just Write

A very common tip, but one I see ignored a lot. During NaNo, just write.

Here’s a short do and don’t list for NaNo 2019 (and every year):

  • Do: Write
  • Don’t: Edit

There I said it. Don’t edit. Turn off, or at the very least, ignore that inner critic/editor. Again, you do you during non-NaNo times, but here, during this month, you don’t have time to be wasting precious writing moments going back to change a word, add a comma you will probably take out later, or fix a spelling mistake. It’s got the red sqiggle, you’ll see it when you come back. Don’t worry. This month is for writing a novel and, here’s a secret, the only way to write a novel is to write. If you are prone to getting sidetracked with editing, try Write or Die, which is definitely as pleasant as it sounds.

Don’t worry about the words you write

Sometimes you’ll sit down and the words will flow and it will be magical as you see the story unfolding around you. And other times you’ll sit down, at your pre-chosen time (see point 1), and…nothing. You’ve got no inspiration, no idea where to go, no motivation, or worst of all, you’ve fallen into a bout of writer’s insecurity.

First things, first. Don’t worry, it happens to all of us, even the greats.

Second. Take the pressure off yourself. The words you are writing this month are not the words you have to show anyone. These are first draft words. And guess what, first drafts are full of inconsistencies, mistakes, and random ramblings when the author had no idea what to say or where to go. And guess what else. That is okay. That is literally the purpose of first drafts.

A short anecdote, if you will. I tutor English students at my college, and something I am constantly telling them is to take the pressure off their first drafts. Often times, I say, the first draft is merely there so that you figure out what you were trying to say. You can’t skip this step, and nor should you try. First drafts are beautiful. There’s no pressure, no need to keep everything (or anything ((though I have opinions about throwing out your old work: don’t.))). First drafts are just for you, so relax, and enjoy the hyper-sped up process of writing that first draft during NaNo.

Write in Spurts

Much more practical a tip is to take advantage of writing in spurts. Now maybe you can write for hours and hours and the story just keeps going for you, a rthyhm starts and you are able to make tremendous endurance-based progress. But don’t worry if you can’t. Writing Sprints are here for you. Camp NaNoWriMo has a twitter account specifically for this purpose. Log onto twitter and follow them for timed writing sprints, and community spirit to encourage your writing for the days. And if no sprints are happening, set a timer, (pomodoro technique states that 25 minutes is an ideal time for this) and write. No distractions, no breaks, just let your fingers fly! Then hydrate, stretch, breath, and do it again.

Consider a 10K Day

Now, don’t be frightened. 10k days, ie where you attempt to write 10,000 words in 24 hours, are not for everyone. But, there’s something incredible about marking a day on the calendar and sitting down to write as many words as you are physically able to write on that day. I’ll talk more about my 10k days another time, possibly later this month, but the idea is to take your project and massively make progress on it. It’s rewarding to watch how much story happens in 10,000 words. This is a great way to boost your word count if you are lagging behind, or to create a cushion earlier in the month for when you might fall behind later in the month. Whatever the case, a 10k day, while insane, is a great way to help you write a novel in a month.

Take care of yourself

As much as the writer locked up in their room at all hours of the day, drinking uncountable cups of coffee and never seeing the light of day, is a hilarious image and often relatable to writers, don’t strive to make that your experience. Eat real food. Drink a reasonable amount of coffee, and, here’s a challenge, for every cup of coffee you consume, drink a cup of water. Go to sleep. Talk to people. Walk around. Camp NaNoWriMo is not an excuse to stop caring for yourself. It’s not an excuse to ignore everyone in your family and friendgroups. Take care of yourself. Your novel will thank you.

And there you have it! A couple of my tips for successfully tackling Camp NaNoWriMo. What methods do you use to reach your word count? I’d love to compare methods, as I’m always looking to learn about new ways to approach NaNoWriMo.

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