How to write a book in one month: National Novel Writing Month #NaNoWriMo

It’s nearly November and for all the would-be writers out there, it’s your annual reminder that it’s entirely possible to write that book! You may have started writing or thought about your ideas a thousand times over, but with National Novel Writing Month (#NaNoWriMo) coming up, is now the right time for you to do it?

As a company who helps around a hundred authors every year to realise their dream of finishing and publishing a book, it should come as no surprise that we’re huge fans of #NaNoWriMo. We love it because:

  • It encourages more people to start writing
  • It supports those who already had a book on their bucket list
  • It provides structure to those who need help with the writing
  • It helps writers to finish their books; so many remain unfinished, lying in drawers!
  • It means more people share their stories.
We firmly believe everyone has an interesting tale to tell. But what does it mean for you as a writer?

Well, you might have been feeling like the task was too large and you don’t have time for it. However, National Novel Writing Month was designed to give you the support of a vibrant community to help you achieve that dream. It began back in 1999 with the simple challenge: for writers to complete 50,000 words in the thirty-day month. The organisation has since grown to support young writers and old alike with creative encouragement and structured programmes. Their impact includes:

  • Over 500,000 writers share their stories with NaNoWriMo each year.
  • 2,500 sets of free classroom materials are sent to teachers and students around the world.
  • 1,000 libraries, bookstores, and community centers host writers in their spaces.
  • 650 active international chapters, each led by local volunteers.
If you want to join in, we’ve got some tips and some questions for you to ask yourself about your goals and your book.

How much can you write each day?
If you seriously want to write a novel (or a memoir or business or self-help book) in a single month, you do need to set yourself some tough goals. An average novel is around 80,000 words, so to finish your book in one month, you’ll need to be prepared to write more than two thousand words every day.

For some writers, those words will come easily and you’ll power through that in less than four hours. But if you’ve got a busy job or professional life, is that realistic to fit in? Some writers prefer a more realistic goal of writing 500-1000 words per day. Others don’t set themselves a goal or a schedule, they simply write when the feeling strikes. But what you need to remember is that it takes time to get into the flow, so if you keep stopping and starting for small stints, the whole process will take much longer overall.

What’s the purpose of your book?
In her talk for our Book Writing Club, Becky Walsh talked about the power of books as a creative tool, projecting a desirable future state which you’ve created in your mind or operating as a reflective tool for you to learn something profound from your past experiences. In either case, your book is likely to have a clear purpose. The writing will flow much faster and the ideas will stay alive in your mind if you can establish that purpose before or soon after you start writing. You may also be writing with a specific audience in mind, to help them overcome, acknowledge or reflect on a situation. Or on the surface, you may be looking to create pure entertainment but Becky reminded us that laughter and making entertainment out of a serious situation is still a form of therapy for the reader. Writing with a goal like that in mind can really help you stay on track.

Have you made a plan for your book?
Sitting down to write a chunk of words each day is much easier if you’ve already worked on a plan for your book. To start, you might set out the character arc, the major and minor plot lines and the world in which your story takes place. Methods like mind-mapping may be useful to generate ideas and tools like Trello, or post-it notes and a binder folder can help you stay organised with your notes and research.

Steps to write your book
Some authors follow a process to write their books, others will simply start writing and see where their characters take them. Neither approach is wrong. When exploring your ideas for a new book, you can follow these steps:
  1. Think about your audience - who will this book appeal to and why?
  2. Imagine your characters - what will happen to them and how will their voice develop?
  3. Decide on a major plotline - where is the action going to happen?
  4. Create a world - is your book based in a real place or a fantasy location?
  5. Pick out major scenes - is there dialogue to write or will you describe the scene in third person?
  6. Write the beginning of your book when you’ve nearly finished - plus think about the ending. Is there potential for a sequel?
The NaNoWriMo website offers an entire toolkit to help you prepare to start your novel.

What kind of support do you have at home?
Writing can be an excellent way to exercise your creativity. When you’ve finished a number of words, it can leave you feeling accomplished and confident. Conversely, if you find yourself staring at a blank page for an hour or so before you can get started, this can take a toll on your mental health. Or you might do the writing but then worry about how good it is. Communities like NaNoWriMo are fantastic for helping you to get motivated, but if you start to suffer from comparison-itis or writer’s block, you can instantly feel disconnected from the intended positive experience because it only takes place in a digital format. This is when you’ll need the backup and support of the people closest to you. Real people, real hugs and real encouragement can get you through those difficult moments. We also offer our Book Writing Club members a weekly call where they can drop in and ask any questions or share a piece of writing with the group for some feedback.

And to support writers, we are running a prize giveaway this November. One lucky person will win a SilverWood Reader’s Report. The Report will cover the first 50 pages of your book, reviewing the writing style and pace, grammar and spelling, commercial appeal and readiness for publication. You need to be willing to share the first part of your manuscript with us and you can win simply by signing up to our mailing list before 15th November. Sign up here:

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“If you’re thinking of self-publishing, I hope you don't go at it alone. With a team like SilverWood behind you, you have the support you need to publish the best work you believe in.”

J A Higgins