Do people really write a novel in under a month? Could you? Yes, they do. So can you.

How quickly can you come up with a plot that works? And how long would it take you to do the actual writing? Some people dictate, of course, which is faster. Where will you find the time?

Many who ‘think’ about the book they might write spend four hours a day watching TV. You alone can decide your priorities.

For many years there’s been a phenomenon in America known as ‘National Novel Writing Month’. Interest is now international. Google NaNoWriMo and you’ll find a group of writers near you.  Over 20,000 people sign up each year to write their novel in November. 

How long is a novel? The ‘right’ length for your novel depends on several things, including its genre and your writing experience level. NaNoWriMo ‘qualifying’ length is 50,000 words. That’s shorter than the average published novel but lengths definitely vary with genre. In general, novels run 75,000 -120,000 words. But a 50,000 word novel is a good beginning.

If you spent the first ten days of your month outlining and planning, that leaves you 2500 words to write each day for the rest of the month. It’s a significant task, but many have done it. You could make this your next fun project. 

Start with these eight steps:

  1. Summarise your book idea in one sentence. Tip: Look at the brief back cover blurb descriptions on books on bestseller lists for examples of one-sentence-plot-summaries.
  1. Expand your sentence into a several-sentences-long précis. Your sentences should describe the story’s major parts, including the build-up of tension through two or three sub- climaxes, until the final denouement that finishes it off. Many stories use an escalating series of problems, reversals or disasters which the main protagonist must overcome before he/she saves the city or the business or the world. This is a proven success formula many writers follow.
  1. Now outline your characters, including their motivations for acting as they do during your story.What are their strengths and, more importantly, what are their flaws?  This is a vital part of your planning because it is the flaws in our heroes that make them compellingly real characters. Your characters will need a demonstrable inner conflict, and an obvious epiphany; one that leads to a watershed in their ideas or actions during the story.They must ‘change’ in some way. 
  1. You may have to rewrite your initial summary! Sometimes the characters we create want to do more than we originally planned. Continue to develop your précis into a full page. In a paragraph or two, describe each of the stages in your story, and the crisis in it that precipitates the next section. Now you can expand this one page into several pages by expanding each of the sections. You are creating a progressively more detailed outline of your story. It will make the eventual writing much easier because you won’t so easily stray from your original concept. If you get stuck and don’t know what should happen next, ask yourself how you could make the situation worse, and then write your characters through those additional reversals. (Of course, you can’t kill them all off!)
  1. Now you can write a list that contains all the scenes from your outline. Stories are simply a collection of scenes (beats) strung together. Each has characters with motivations and a goal for that scene. The scene ends when the characters have achieved their goal/s or been thwarted. If you’re writing a 50,000 word novel, that’s 200 scenes of 250 words each. A standard page is about 250 words. 
  1. Include dialogue. In this last step before you begin writing the story, you’ll flesh out those one-line titles of each scene into a full description – maybe with some “dialogue” if it comes to mind easily as you’re outlining. 
  1. Now you write. You’ve probably taken a quarter of your month to get this far, but you have made a very clear map so writing your story should be simple. You already know everything that’s going to happen – you just have to describe it, and figure out the minor problems that weren’t apparent in your big picture. If you hit the dreaded writer’s block, just keep writing anyway. Any words are better than no words.
  1. Keep motoring ahead. Finish your first draft while you’re in the creative writing process. The key is to not expect to get it perfect. Just get it written. Tidy comes later. Don’t edit your draft this month; just write version 1. Keep moving forward.

Writing a novel in 30 days is getting the first draft done. You can polish it and make it into a bestseller later. No one’s first draft is perfect. But they get the words written. Rewriting and polishing is a separate stage. 

By Anthony Smits. Reproduced for Educational Purposes.