National Novel Writing Month is a nonprofit organization that hosts an annual writing challenge in the month of November (#NaNoWriMo....don't ask me, I didn't make up the acronym). The goal is to have more people write in general: if you write 50,000 words in the month of November, you're a NaNoWriMo "winner" that gets bragging rights.
In the Writing Community, NaNoWriMo is a big thing that everyone has opinions about - some people love it, some people hate it. I personally had never done NaNoWriMo before, despite spending a lot of my spare time, well, writing. This year, I've been spending even more time than normal writing since my first book comes out next month, but I'm also a glutton for punishment.
So, for the last 28 days, I've written one chapter a day (anywhere from 1,500 to 2,500 words) of my next book, the sequel to Summer Twilight. I've woken up early to make sure I can get a chapter done before work, and I've stayed up several hours too late to get those words written before I go to sleep.
There are days it's been easy - I know exactly what's happening in the chapter, the characters are eager to cooperate, and the words flow. There are also days where I've started a chapter in the morning and not finished it until right before bed, 15+ hours later. As anyone who has ever tried to write knows, sometimes it's a struggle. The important thing is to keep going.
I hit my 50k on November 24th, and I've kept writing one chapter a day since. I'm on track to finish my first (very rough) draft December 1st, and I want to keep up the momentum.
Obviously, NaNoWriMo is almost over for 2020. However, I'm a firm believer in goals, which is why I enjoyed this challenge. I work well when I have something to strive towards, like many other people. So, even if it's not November, you can write a book in 30 days. Start tomorrow, or at the start of next month, or on your birthday. I've included my three biggest tips below to get you started!
Set Numeric Goals
To write 50,000 words in 30 days, you need to write 1,667 words a day, every day. For some people, like me, that gives you all that you need. It's a clear goal, and for me melds well with the length of a chapter. So my goal becomes to write one chapter a day - my longer chapters will balance out any that are under 1,667 words.
If you write more sporadically, you should still set benchmarks to work towards. 50k is a ginormous goal, which means you need to make sure you're keeping yourself on track. Do you normally write about 5k words a session? That means you need to write a minimum of 10 days in the month. Make a tracker, and check off a box every time you work. Remember, if you're working in a 30 day constraint, you have to set yourself up for success: while you can procrastinate and try to write 50k words in 72 hours, it's not recommended. Seriously.
Have an Outline
Different writers have different opinions on the value of outlining. I personally am a fan, but I get if you aren't. However, if you're trying to speed write (such as, I don't know, 50k words in one month), I cannot recommend having an outline enough.
My writing strategy worked because I already knew what I was going to write each day. I have a spreadsheet I use which lists my planned chapters and short synopses of each. Every day, I make a new google doc, copy over the synopsis, turn on my word counter, and start writing. That means the only time I'm spending each day is on actual writing. I'm not wasting time figuring out what to write.
Note: it's okay to change your outline! It's totally fine to realize chapters are missing or that original thing you planned no longer works. Both of those things happened to me. The important part is that I had a road to follow, even if I wanted to deviate from the path from time to time.
Preferably multiple someones. It felt amazing every day to be able to message my mom and my friends and tell them I was on track, that I'd written another chapter. It also felt really bad to consider telling them I missed a day - which forced me to keep going.
Accountability is important, and if you don't want to tell someone you know, tell people you don't know! Make an Instagram account for your novel writing journey, or join a reddit community. With social media there are literally hundreds of ways to get a virtual high five with the tap of a button. Still not sure what to do? Drop me a message, I'd love to cheer you on.
Bridget is the author of Summer Twilight, available for purchase now!