Can you fit the best of your creativity into a single month? NO! But here’s why to try.
It starts TOMORROW! If you’re going to go for it and write a novel during National Novel Writing Month (https://nanowrimo.org/), be prepared to do the best you can. Don’t expect to write a Pulitzer-winning book. In fact, maybe keep your expectations simple and try to get through to the end with what Anne Lamott calls a “shitty first draft”. After all, November 31 isn’t the end; it’s just the beginning.
Reasons to join in the NaNoWriMo fun!
You get to see how well the story works
Many NaNoWriMo resources and experienced participants suggest that you plot out the story before you get started. A little preparation can make the writing process easier if you have some idea where you should be in the plot during a given week. This is particularly helpful for first timers.
Of course it’s all counter to Stephen King’s assertion that you should let the story unfold naturally as you write, letting the character’s actions and choices drive the narrative. It can be challenging to write under the gun if you’re not exactly sure where you’re going. Writing on the fly is not for the fainthearted. Whether you write on the fly or with an outline, the point is: WRITE!
Routine is every writer’s friend
One of the benefits of writing during NaNoWriMo is creating a routine that fits into your everyday life. Those with a full-time job aren’t able to take the month off. Scheduling time to write every day and/or around your busy life will be helpful and fully transferrable to your post-NaNoWriMo life.
If you don’t already know, you’ll also learn whether writing in the morning, if lunch-time bursts, or evening binges work best for you. Be flexible and find what feels best for your creative mind. Hint: Late night writing; after a day of work, a workout, family time, getting the kids to bed, and a hot bath, might sound like the perfect time. But choose a time when your mind is sharp and at its creative peak, not when you’d usually be going to bed or vegging in front of the TV. Make your writing time a priority. What you do for thirty days can become a habit. (You didn’t think this lasts a month on accident, did you?)
Get to know your protagonist better
It’s said you could fall in love with any single person that you spend a month with alone on a deserted island. You get to see whether you can make it a month with your protagonist before finding faults that signal necessary changes in their backstory, character, motives, or speech. You’ll learn what you like and can’t stand, and whether you want to change them during the month (now) or after month’s end (later).
You’ll see whether character dynamics work
Writing a novel is like inviting friends to a cocktail party. You hope everyone gets along or at least share interesting interactions. It’s the same with your book. NaNoWriMo provides a grand experiment to see how your characters interact. Are their dynamics interesting? Will readers engage with your cast? To whom will your audience be most sympathetic? Who will they despise? Will they root for the leads or cheer against their quest?
Does the story engage readers?
If your readers don’t care about the characters, they’re not likely to care what they do or what happens to them. What are the stakes? Stories have conflict. Doesn’t matter if you’re writing a comedy or mystery. Could be an adult drama or coming of age YA novel. Conflict is what makes the world go round. How important are the stakes and the consequences to your characters? Will your readers care enough to stay engaged with the story?
Two heads are better than one
One of the best benefits of NaNoWriMo are the many options you have once your first draft is done. There are reading groups and personal friends willing to read and give you feedback.
If you don’t quiz your readers and reviewers with the above questions, you’ll miss out on what independent people think of your draft’s successes and shortcomings.
Remember, when it comes to your own writing, you have blinders on. Humbly ask for and receive the feedback of others. Try not to take the comments of others personally. (Asking for constructive feedback places an expectation on your readers to help you with thoughtful and accurate answers. See if your story and characters pass muster with your readers.
I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of writing a book in a month. (My background includes screenwriting, so I have written a screenplay in a month.) What a great accomplishment! Whether you end up with a novella, a short novel, or a full-length book, you’ll have something on which to build. Your first draft will hopefully be “okay”. You get to choose whether you want to take it from good to great! Choose well, based on your goals, time, and energy to see your NaNoWriMo book through to the success you envision for it.