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  • LV Ditchkus

Is writing a novel in a month for everyone?

Updated: Jun 25, 2020

If you’ve never heard of NaNoWriMo (, you might be amazed or in awe of what it does. This organization supports the National Novel Writing Month, which is traditionally in November. Anyone who wants to write a novel in a month can sign up and commit to writing a 50,000 word manuscript between November 1 and November 30.

This is a BIG deal! Folks join support groups to keep them honest and motivated through the process. While there are a few groups who have done similar events in other months, NaNoWriMo in November is the one most authors know about, have tried and succeeded, or tried and came up short of the finish line.

Being fiercely independent and not bound by group pressure or encouragement, I decided to do my own writing month in May. After all, what better time to start a new novel than when everyone was in lock-down anyway?

I’ve read suggestions from folks who succeeded at NaNoWriMo. They do loads of preplanning. So I picked up my favorite book on how to organize my work—Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody, based on books by Blake Snyder. This excellent tome helped me to describe key action points and structure for the first book in my next series. While writing my first draft, I followed my proposed structure, built crescendos, and moderated the pace. For each scene, I stayed focused on the overall plot. Best of all, the Save the Cat structure gave me the flexibility to modify significant plot points on an ongoing basis (despite starting with an overall plan).

You might wonder if I succeeded in my goal to write 50,000 words?

  • Well, at the end of the first week, I’d written 6,000 words (not on track as I needed 11.7K per week)

  • By the end of the second week, I had 18,000 words (better but not the cumulative 23.4K I should have had)

  • At the end of week three, my total was 30K (still short of my 35.1K goal)

  • After four weeks, I had 40.5K (bummer—too little)

  • However, I ran past the 30 days into week five to make 57K

  • And at the end of week six, my draft was 68K (which is a respectable length for ‘crappy’ first draft of a novel)

If you’re unfamiliar with how many words an author should have for a commercially reasonable book, I needed about 60K-100K, and many book agents don’t accept manuscripts with less than 80K (unless the book is for young adults).

So if you're thinking about writing a novel, but lack motivation or self-discipline to get the job done, consider NaNoWriMo in November. Or simply pick a month and do it on your own.

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