Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How do you write a novel in 30 days, or less?

How do you write a novel in 30 days, or less?
Well . . . the short answer to that question is: perseverance.

The long answer is far more complicated. First, I signed up for the NaNoWriMo  Challenge – which is a challenge to produce 50 000 words during the month of November. (That works out to be approximately 1667 words a day, or about 3 pages of text.) Broken down like that, it really doesn’t seem like all that much. But – if you skip a day, then you have to figure out how you’re going to make up that word count. If you skip three or four days the challenge can become overwhelming. At the end of it all, should you achieve your 50 000 word count goal – you get a shiny web badge and a coupon for a free proof-copy of your novel through CreateSpace. Believe me, there is nothing like receiving that proof copy in the mail – but that’s another story altogether.

 In addition to writing actual words, I needed to come up with a story.  I needed a theme that would easily carry me through the month of November as I had not taken the time to develop characters or create a plot outline, and I knew I would not have time if I was going to achieve the impossible. So, I came up with a concept that I knew wasn’t original but would carry me through the month and force me to write every day. My main character (Willow) would keep a journal, which would in turn pretty much force me to write one journal entry for each day of November.

Of course, Willow needed something more interesting to write about than the doldrums of her day to day life. And let’s face it; November has to be one of the dreariest months of the year for us Canadians. Thanksgiving and Hallowe’en are left in bright, colourful October, Christmas and News Years’ are in far off December. The only thing we commemorate is Remembrance Day, which is important, but doesn’t exactly sparkle with excitement and intrigue.

I don’t know where the dare idea came from; perhaps it was the shadow of my girlfriend daring me to try the NaNoWriMo challenge. Or perhaps it came from me wanting to spice up my own mundane existence. Regardless, Willow’s best friend challenges her to try one new thing every day for 30 days – and to make my life easy, part of the challenge is that Willow has to document it. So, violà, I had a theme that would easily carry me through the entire month. I had no idea where it would take Willow and me so I decided to leave that for my Muse to figure out.

In the meantime – the month of November passed by in a blur. My family got used to digging for clothing in the mountains of clean, but unfolded laundry that lived in our family room; we ate a lot of soup, sandwiches and frozen entrées; and my kids learned how to make their own lunches for school. November is the perfect month to settle into the warmth of your own imagination to lay the groundwork for a novel that will evolve and perhaps even take on a life of its own.


  1. I wrote a 70,000 word novel in ten days on time. It became my life. I got up thinking about it, ate and went to work. Stopped for lunch, then went back to writing. Same thing for dinner. I wrote until it was time for bed and then I had dreams about it. Great experience, but I don't want to repeat it any time soon.

  2. That would be intense. I doubt I have a long enough attention span to do that. Of course, if you were even dreaming about it - that might make it different.

    How were the edits afterwards(aside from typos)? I think writing the entire book within a tight time-frame helps maintain the continuity of the book.