How to Write a Novel in 30 Days

The NaNoWriMo website is full of advice from published authors/writers on how to make it through the 30 days of November.

found on

But this is how I do it.

1. No Plot. No Problem. – This is the title of the book written by NaNoWriMo founder, Chris Baty, that takes you through the steps of writing a novel in 30 days. This is an impossible way for me to begin. If I have nothing I will sit and stare at the screen as the flashing cursor mocks me. But neither do I work with a big outline.

When I watch a movie and want to tell someone about it without giving away key plot points and ruin the movie I say something like “two wanna be rockers are failing history and need to pass in order for one of them not to be sent to military school. They meet a man from the future with a time machine and hilarity ensues.” “Hilarity ensues” is the meat of the story, the part I haven’t figured out yet. But I got a general premise down and a basic idea of what kind of story I have. In this case, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

2. 50K in 30 days. – Is daunting. The NaNo website breaks it down by dividing 50K into a day by day word count to see if you’re ahead or lagging behind. The way I try to do it is to make that daily word count the amount of words in each chapter. So at the end of the month I end up with 50someK words at 30 chapters in a book. This is a good way for me to make sure I’m moving my story along and not taking up too much time in one point. If I go on and on in one chapter and hit 3-5K I’m not moving the plot along. Not enough to finish in 30 days anyway. Sometimes I have to end chapters in something like “and then Vulcan blew up.” (Star Trek 2009) Next chapter!

3. Writer’s Block. – is not real. I wish I could remember where I read/heard the thing that got me through writer’s block. So let’s say I’m in my story and I don’t know what happens next or I’m getting bored in the direction it’s going (the actual problem of writer’s block in my opinion). When this happens you know what I do? It’s simple. I make something up. I usually say to suffering writer’s “and then ninjas come out”. That should get a plot going.

So really anything that gets me pass that hurdle and keep writing. Switch character point of views for awhile, kill a character, natural disaster, love triangle… anything that keeps me writing.

I don’t want to hear any whining about “but I can’t think of anything”. There’s no way to answer that without being insulting. Storytelling is an art form. It’s about being creative. And if you can’t think of anything… you’re not very creative are you? That probably sounds harsh, but it’s the standard I hold myself by.

4. Editing – for the love of Kurt Vonnegut, do not start editing anything you write in November until it’s December. I will go back mid-sentence and fix a typo. But I keep notes on character names and details. I have virtual index cards of every chapter with a sentence or two describing what happens in the chapter. This way if I forget something I can go back and find it without going back into the text and howling at the horribleness.

5. Motivation. – There’s no advice I can give here. For me, I go to the write-ins with my fellow Miami NaNo writers. They can be very motivating. I also really don’t want to fail. I’d feel like a big fat failure. No offense to those who didn’t cross the 50K finish line. Either life got in the way or the challenge wasn’t one of your priorities. It’s not a failure in that case.

But my biggest motivation is the challenge itself. I like being challenged in my writing. “You dare to challenge me!” I say in an overly dramatic Shakespearean voice. I hold my fist in the air and shake it.

6. Tools. – Not that it matters really without the rest of it. I’ve been using the Scrivener program for the past two years. I have an ibook I take with me places. Sometimes I’ll write out character sheets on actual paper, but not usually. I research online and I work in a library, so that helps with any research I need to do. That’s about it.

Go forth and write the shit out of your story.


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