I do this every year, November after November I write this post, but with each year the topic on my mind changes and I think it’s worth doing. As many of you may know we’re currently knee deep into November, a month known to some as Nanowrimo during which they write 50,000 or more words of sparkling awesome.
During Nanowrimo one question is on everyone’s mind — doesn’t matter if you’ve twelve published books under your t-shirt (six of which are written by you) or this is your first time. We all ask this question at some point or another, for me it mostly happens at 3am in the morning at the weekend as I’m well into my fifth up of tea and have run out of snacks:

Just how do you write a novel in 30 days, anyway?

The answer is, of course, that you don’t. Most people don’t end up with a novel at the end of the month, but they do end up with a first draft and that’s a long way to writing a novel. Some people never find the plot — some years this has definitely happened to me — and others feel like what they’ve written is nothing more than a 50,000 word list. That’s okay. It’s more than okay, it’s a success!

Nobody ever writes something publishable the first time around — novels are edited and rewritten within an inch of their lives before they ever even catch sight of a bookshelf. They pass through many hands, all picking apart and placing back together elements of the story. All have a hand in making it a book.

So, the answer to this question is quite simple — and perhaps the realisation of the answer is what changes between hardened writer and first time newcomer — you don’t write a novel in 30 days. You write 50,000 words, and you congratulate yourself on that. You let yourself feel proud.

Time has a lot of influence on books. It took me (hilariously) a while to realise this as I started writing. It took me a while to understand that first drafts sometimes need to sit, even if it’s only for a week, and age like a fine cheese. It took me even longer to accept that the story I tell to myself in the first draft is never the story that makes it through revisions. It’s my story. It’s a tale I told myself to better understand the world I was writing.

Some people will say they do write novels in thirty days (some novelists can do it in less) and maybe they do and maybe that’s great but my point is that nobody is demanding you do that. All that Nanowrimo asks of you is that you do your best, and if you end up with 50,000 at the end of it that you appreciate this is the first step on a fantastic and magical journey.  Most importantly at the end, no matter what happens, understand that you do this. You sat down day after day and you pulled this story out of you. You are worth celebrating.



  • Loni Townsend

    I’ve written 50K during November for a few years now. Sadly, it’s all been towards the same book, and I’ve thrown out most of it. Oh well. It’ll get there, someday.


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