How to Write a 50,000 Word Novel in a Month

Nanowrimo is a project that requires speed. There are certainly slow and deliberate ways to write a novel but they won’t help you if you need to produce one in a month. Writing 50,000 words in a thirty-day month is no easy task, and it is made even harder by the difficulties of a novel, which has pitfalls such as writing yourself into a corner or deciding along the way that a plot point or character trait was a mistake. Here are some tips for speeding up the process and getting through the month.

Explore Your Idea

Explore your story idea before the start of the month. If you have a general idea of what you want to write, take the time to examine it. Write out the plot points, create some background for the characters, think about the settings, and decide on what point-of-view you want the narrative to use. The more of this you have settled before the first day, the easier it will be to start producing from day one.

Set a Daily Goal

Set a 2000 word a day goal. In order to finish the project on time, you technically have to average 1667 words a day. Setting a 2000 word a day goal allows you to build up some cushion in case you have days in which you aren’t able to write or aren’t able to produce as many words.

Stick to a Schedule

Schedule time every day to write. You need to look at your own writing speed to make determination of how many hours you are going to need. If you are comfortable that you can write 1000 words an hour, then two hours a day will be sufficient. If you feel as if 500 words an hour is the most you can handle, then you need to schedule four hours a day. If you expect your speed to be lower than that, you need to adjust accordingly.
Remember that you are writing a first draft. A first draft does not have to be perfect.

Don’t Expect Perfection

Accept that what you write on the first try only needs to be good enough for a first draft. Try to avoid going backwards and rewriting what you have already created. Instead, if you know something needs to be changed, go back to that point and make a note in the text, then move on.

Stay in Motion

If you get stuck, find a way to get unstuck quickly. If you know that a scene needs to happen, but you aren’t ready to write it yet, make a note in the story describing the basic events, then jump to the part that you are ready to write and get going. If you need to choose between two different directions for the plot, choose one of them and don’t look back. Your focus should always be on forward momentum.

Write What You Know

Pick characters, locations and themes that you are comfortable writing about. It can be difficult to write quickly about places you don’t know or characters that are radically different from your experience. Look for a story that can leverage the things you know about and are comfortable writing about quickly. If you do think you will need additional information, try to assemble as much of that information as possible before you start the project.

Swim With a Buddy

Find a way to hold yourself accountable. Nanowrimo has groups in most major cities that you can hook up with to compare notes and keep the pressure on you. You can also find a partner who is working on it so that you can regularly keep each other focused and enthusiastic. A little friendly competition doesn’t hurt. I intend to track my progress on my blog, so that people can see where I am at.

Have Fun

Enjoy yourself. Nanowrimo should be a fun challenge. It is a way to make you better as a writer, but it shouldn’t be something to make yourself miserable over. Just relax and no matter what obstacles get in your way, keep writing, even if you don’t think you are going to make it. The only way to have a chance is to keep at it.

14 thoughts on “How to Write a 50,000 Word Novel in a Month

  1. Pingback: NaNo Tips & Tricks
  2. Hey Humans;
    What an exceptionally good article. It lists without exception all the mistakes which I always make! Swimming alone in never-before explored waters, getting in-mired in a horrible confusing bog of undefined characters and over-complicated plot, and… well, the general idea is that by the end I’m a sadly disapointed dwarf sitting in miserable solitude under a mushroom. Well, I’d write more about how good this article is, but I just saw a link for “negative self talk for writers” and I think that sounds just marvellous, so must go.

  3. Finally, someone to give me confidence to do this. I asked myself this question before: How am I going to do this!? And it’s nice to have someone come and out give a little more explanation. I just wish I could write non-fiction, as I’m sure I could write that a lot faster.

  4. I like the idea of scheduling time every day to write. That will help me to stick to it. The idea of making notes of problems so that I can fix them later is one that works very well. I do it a lot using the Comments tool in Microsoft Word.

  5. NaNoWriMo’s gonna be tought, but I’m going in whole hog. Thanks for sound advice, John. It’s doable, but a whole lot easier with a steady plan.

    Writer Dads last blog post..Sure Mom, You Can Have a Guest Post.

  6. Nicely done, John. Confirmed a lot of what I was thinking for prep and getting my mind ready. And nice to see you subscribe to my theory – make the first draft crappy, as long as it’s there on the page. I’m looking forward to more posts on the topic.

    QuietRebelWriters last blog post..How to Make Clients Run Far, Far Away

  7. @ DD
    Think positive, my friend.

    @ OF
    You could always write a fictionalized version of real life.

    @ WD
    You’re a blogger, I have confidence in your ability to put 50,000 words down in a month.

    @ QRW
    How about a Crafty Draft?

  8. @ John
    Hey Human;
    I know it doesn’t show but I’m actually a very positive dwarf, compared to most dwarves. I think that comes mostly from the fact that I frequent both useful and amusing blogs and useful and amusing humans.

  9. Pingback: Creative Link Love and TV on the Radio - Quiet Rebel Writer
  10. Pingback: Links: 2008-10-24 |
  11. John, I just saw your multi-part series on character building and now I feel like a total tool for posting that comment. Hooray!! :)

    Well, it looks like I have some catching up to do.

    Jamie Grove – How Not To Writes last blog post..The Terror of Titles

  12. John,
    I’m behind reading and commenting on blogs so just saw this today. I don’t want you to think I stole your ideas. :-) I wrote a guest post for Words for Hire that will appear Monday that includes many of the same points you make.

    Lillie Ammanns last blog post..Dream or Destiny and the Kindle

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