National Novel Writing Month is truly an exciting time for both professional and new writers!
Not only is this month completely dedicated to writing and finishing a book, the method encourages writers to stick to a goal and make it to the end by the end of the month.
Personally, I write all year long, but I love the idea of this month because it helps introduce others to writing.
The whole writing community takes part, so everyone is encouraged to pursue their dream of becoming an author.
However, if you’re new to writing or don’t write every day, National Novel Writing Month can be a challenge.
After all, you’re not used to putting in time every day to write, and now you’re looking to add it to your routine.
Here’s 7 tips that can help new writers, as well as those making a comeback, survive National Novel Writing Month.
What is National Novel Writing Month?
National Novel Writing Month is the month where writers are challenged to complete a novel within a month. The challenge takes place in November, and this month is widely celebrated among authors in the United States.
Starting in 1999, National Novel Writing Month began as a way to encourage writers to produce 50,000 words in one month. November has thirty days, which would mean you’d need to write 1,667 words to meet that goal.
Here are the traditional rules of National Novel Writing Month:
- You must start writing your book November 1st, and end November 30th
- You can prepare an outline, character sheets, or other materials, but they can’t be part of your final wordcount
- You must write 50,000 words during this month. The book can be any genre, and it doesn’t have to be 100% complete if you’re writing a longer book
The purpose of National Novel Writing Month is to help inspire new and seasoned writers to start and complete their novel. There’s plenty of workshops, classes, and theories to help writers craft their novel over the course of the month.
Educators also use this month to help young writers begin their writing journey. Teachers will oftentimes develop lessons and strategies to bring interested students into the novel writing realm.
Does it need to be November to take the challenge?
Short answer: Nope!
If you’re reading this article at a different time of the year, you’re still free to try to write a novel in under a month no matter what season it is. It’s just that November is the time when writers unanimously decide that they will take on the challenge.
Besides, waiting until November might not be ideal, so don’t wait if you’re interested in writing a book with this method.
What if it’s the middle of November?
Don’t be afraid to start the challenge mid-month if you’re up to it!
You might have to do more work a day if you’re keen on finishing by November 30th, but you could also extend your deadline if that works better for you.
Besides, even if you’re late to the writing challenge, they say better late than never!
Do I have to write 50,000 words?
While 50,000 words is the specific challenge set by this month, but there’s no “rule” that says you have to meet this word count goal.
50,000 words is just the traditional count that’s encouraged to be met. But this word count might not help you if you’re aspiring to write a book that’s shorter or longer.
In fact, different genres of literature require different word counts. For example, if you’re writing Historical Fiction, you’ll want a healthy 80,000 words at the end of your novel. Middle Grade Fiction sits around 30,000-40,000 words.
Depending on your target audience and genre, your end wordcount will likely be different. Therefore, you may want to think about setting the challenge in a way that meets your desired wordcount.
You can also make your goal 50,000 words for the end of November 30th but give yourself additional time if you’re writing a book that’s a little longer.
Feel free to adjust your National Novel Writing Month goals to fit where you eventually want to be published!
Hold Yourself Accountable to Your Goal
The first step to conquering the National Novel Writing Month challenge is by holding yourself accountable to that word count.
That means you’ll want to make sure you’re sitting down every single day to consistently get those key strokes onto your digital page.
But how can you hold yourself accountable? Here’s some ideas.
- Use a Temporary Website Blocker. Love to watch Youtube? Block yourself from wandering there accidentally. Enjoy scrolling through social media? Block Facebook for an hour. This will help you hold yourself accountable and work on the piece you’re holding to finish.
- Don’t relax until you finish your wordcount. There’s no watching Netflix or going for an evening stroll until you’ve finished your work. Just like you can’t enjoy your time off work until you clock out, you can’t have fun doing other impractical things until you finish your wordcount.
- Measure how long you’re productive. It’s okay to take a small break while you write, but you want to make sure you’re putting in an ample amount of time first. Whether you set a timer or you record how long you can write in a sitting, make sure you aren’t cutting your writing time short.
At the end of the day, write down how many words you got to and where you may have felt short. Make a plan to make up the lost words (if applicable) and do the same the next day.
Don’t focus on editing
One of the ways writers end up never finishing their books is they spend more time editing than writing.
“But editing’s important! Without proper grammar, you won’t get published,” you say.
And yes, I agree with you, but imagine this: you write your first chapter. The next day, you edit it; and then the next day, you edit it more.
You can get stuck in an endless loop of perfecting your writing without ever moving forward.
Some writers don’t make it past the first chapter; others, the third, and so on.
To increase your chances of completing your novel, you need to move forward during National Novel Writing Month.
You can’t get hung up on a specific part, and you need to continue to go through the story to meet the deadline by the 30th.
Don’t worry, you can spend time editing your novel after you complete it. Just make notes of things you want to change on a spreadsheet while you’re finishing your book.
Make your top priority finishing your book, and worry about the little details later.
Have a Writing Plan
Another way to conquer National Novel Writing Month is by having a plan in mind.
After all, if you go in with a goal and no idea how to get there, then chances are you might not make the wordcount.
Have you ever heard that it’s the journey that counts? The same goes for National Novel Writing Month – the destination is having a completed novel.
So in order to finish that novel, you need a plan. Here’s a few strategies you can have:
- Decide when you’re writing. Whether that’s in the morning or after your shift, this will be the time you work on your novel and only your novel. Try to keep your time consistent so you don’t go off schedule.
- Make an outline. One of the greatest strengths you can have is by creating an outline of where you’re going. Whether that’s a summary of your characters or a short paragraph of what happens in each chapter, outlining can help you have a plan. You can also develop character sheets that have the personalities, backstories, and other information of your characters if you need those.
- Stick to one story. In order to meet the 50,000 goal, you’re going to need to choose one story. While you may have several ideas in your head, it’s important to understand that your goal is to finish one novel. Besides, you can always do the next book at a later date!
Making a plan and sticking to it will ensure that you meet your National Novel Writing Month goals. You want to make sure you’re staying on track and always working to make it to the end.
Work in a Quiet Area
Another way to ensure you meet your National Novel Writing Month wordcount is by working in a quiet room.
Do you have noisy brothers and sisters? Then go to the library.
Are your kids always buzzing in your ear? Let them know when you’re going to be busy doing “work.”
Does your significant other always like to chatter away with you? Tell them you’re not going to talk to them for a period of time every day during National Novel Writing Month.
Do your phone notifications always go off? Chuck it into a drawer—preferably one that’s in the other room.
You get the idea. Quietness will help you be successful during National Novel Writing Month.
You’ll want to work in a place that’s quiet but also free of distractions. That also means it’s advisable to not have a television, music, or other household items that might stop you from writing.
Your writing room should be a space where you can let your imagination wander. That means you’ll want to keep it clean and free from things that will throw your concentration off.
You don’t want to be distracted by what’s in the room, so ideally you’ll want to set up in an office or a quiet bedroom. If you don’t have this space in your house, then find it at the café or other local area.
Seek out the writing spot where you’re going to be the most productive. This will help you complete the novel you always wanted to publish!
Besides, setting yourself up for success begins with strategically choosing when and where to write. Think about this carefully, and go there to reach your goals!
Find ways to brainstorm
A month really isn’t that long of a time to finish a project, but you might not be able to draw the same level of enthusiasm you had on day 1 when it becomes day 15.
However, if you only worked on your novel when the muses sing to you, then you probably won’t ever finish it. After all, inspiration is rare and comes to us at random times of the week.
That means there will be times you have to work when you aren’t feeling like writing but you have to. National Novel Writing Month is forcing you to face your work and get through the end.
Part of the challenge is writing even when we don’t feel like it.
Luckily, there’s ways you can rejuvenate your inspiration. You can utilize some prewriting strategies that will help you brainstorm and keep your mind open to new story possibilities.
These writing strategies can be used on days when you’re not feeling like writing, but you have to.
The best part is you only need to take fifteen-thirty minutes to use a prewriting strategy that will give you a new perspective.
Here’s a few brainstorming exercises you can use before you work on your National Novel Writing Month challenge:
- Write a short story for 15 minutes based on a writing prompt. Writing prompts are a great way to help you explore a new idea without committing to a full story. You can find writing prompts online, in books, or come up with one based on something you find in your home. Bonus points if you can include the characters of your book into the writing prompt exercise!
- Freewriting. Freewriting is when you sit down and write without constraint. When you freewrite, you’re working on whatever comes to your mind at the time. That means you write without stopping or thinking about what you’re going to say next. This is a great way to help improve because you aren’t worried about what’s happening next.
- Journaling. Whether you write about your day or a journal in the voice of your character, this is an excellent way to start off your writing session. You can talk about whatever you want, and you only have to write about it for 15 minutes.
Use these techniques to help you when you’re stumped and looking for the next place to go in your novel.
After all, this can allow you to bring a fresh perspective when you turn back to the book you’re writing!
Don’t feel bad for missing a goal
One of the biggest challenges of National Novel Writing Month, especially for new writers, is completely missing the writing goal.
After all, if you don’t write every day, you’re coming into this challenge cold-turkey.
That doesn’t mean you can’t be successful, but you might be inclined to skip a portion of the wordcount and say, “I’ll make up for it later.”
Yet if you end up in a habit consecutively putting off your novel, then you might not reach your word count goal at all. And when you realize that, you may be hard on yourself.
Nobody’s perfect, and that includes writers. Instead, you’ll want to strive to reach your wordcount goals every day moving forward.
Give yourself some time to adjust to your goals. If you don’t successfully reach the word count one day, then try to make it the next. All you can do is better each and every time.
Besides, mentally beating yourself up over not reaching your word count goal will slow down your productivity.
Try to stay positive throughout the entire month. You want to continue to charge forward every day, and not look backwards at where you fell short.
You’re in this to write a novel—so write one!
Find a Writing Community
With so many writers choosing to participate in National Novel Writing Month, there’s plenty of library and Facebook groups with aspiring authors just like you.
That means there’s thousands of people you can connect with as you go through this journey.
These fellow writers will be your biggest advocates. Some of them have done this five times before, and they can give you some advice if you’re struggling.
Many of these writers will also share tips on how their own National Novel Writing Journey is going. You can take a break and check out what others are saying throughout the month on these message boards.
If you’re interested in connecting to other people, there’s no better way than to begin by participating in the same groups as everyone else. There’s also a chance that your story can help other writers out there, too.
Besides, you might be more motivated to reach your goals if you find others are reaching and exceeding them. There’s nothing like a little friendly competition to see if you can meet the same expectations as everyone else.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to other writers. After all, we’re all in this National Novel Writing challenge together!
Consistently Track Your Progress
Because you’re looking to write 50,000 words by the end of the month, you’ll want to keep meticulous track of your progress.
Each day, you’ll want to record:
- How many pages of your book you wrote
- What word count did you meet
- How many chapters did you complete
- Where you may have fell short
- Your plan for the next day
There’s plenty of different ways you can keep track of your National Novel Writing Month progress. There’s some websites that have free ways you can organize your writing plan and keep details of where you are so far.
You can also choose to keep track of your National Novel Writing Month goals on a sheet that you create yourself.
Whether you build a Microsoft Excel sheet or start your very own journal for this project, you can find the method that works best for you to quickly recap your writing journey.
Just make sure your sheet is neat, organized, and easy to read. This will help you as you make progress through your National Novel Writing Month journey.
Here’s some tips to help you as you make progress throughout National Novel Writing Month:
- Don’t estimate your progress every day. If you just eyeball your word count in the corner and say “well, I did good enough,” you don’t actually know if you met the goal of writing 1,667 words per day.
- Write ahead, if you’re inspired. If you can meet and exceed a writing word count goal, then go ahead! This is especially true if you’re within the first week of the challenge. The more you can get ahead, the more leeway you can give yourself when you become stuck.
- Make sure to plan for tomorrow. At the end of every day, it’s critical that you plan your strategy for the next day. You want to make sure you’re continuously meeting your goals, so plan on when and how you’re going to keep writing your awesome story.
Keep track of your progress as you continue to go for your writing goals. Soon enough, you’ll be at November 30th before you know it!
Are you ready to begin your National Novel Writing Month Challenge?
Now that it’s November, it’s time for you to take the first step towards conquering National Novel Writing Month.
Make your plan.
Prep your writing area.
Begin writing on November 1st.
But most of all, remember that the book you want to write can only come from you.
Be positive, and look towards the goal of finishing your book!
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