top of page
  • Writer's pictureB. E. Padgett

Myths and Surprises about Writing a Novel in a Month

Since 2009, I’ve participated five times in National Novel Writing Month and won three times.

How does someone win? The rules are simple: write 50,000 words in one month.

Every November, thousands of writers participate in National Novel Writing Month, which is hosted by a non-profit organization called NaNoWriMo.

In her article, “Want to Win NaNoWriMo? The Secret Is Preparation,” Julie Artz, children’s book author and editor, shares how failing her first NaNoWriMo made her more determined to meet her goals.

For me, winning and failing meant something different. That is the beauty of NaNoWriMo, it’s a personal-no-regrets challenge.

If you are thinking about participating this year, let me debunk some myths and list some advantages to trying even if you don’t succeed.

Surprise – You learn a lot about your creative process.

Committing to a major project with a timeline, especially when you are not clear on the outcome, can be liberating. I found myself talking my analytical side down for the sake of time. Yeah, you may toss some of the material later but see where the pressure and creativity can take you.

Myth – You must have a plan before starting.

I have done it both ways: plan and no plan. Plans are helpful but you don’t need it. In fact, the years I had plans, they ended up changing because my characters or story took a different turn. If you are a planner, though, I highly recommend Julie’s article.

Surprise – You have more time to write then you think you do.

Yes, a writer should be writing a little every day. I’ve been told this so many times. But let’s be honest, we talk ourselves out of doing what we want to do all the time. Writing daily for a month, reminded me I can find the time for a 15-minute sprint.

Myth – You must make 50,000.

I had to have a talk to my inner voice about failure. I am the only one putting pressure on myself to write and if I ended the month with 30,000 words instead of 50,000, well… it was still 30,000 words!

Surprise – There is huge community support.

NaNoWriMo’s website connected me to writers in my local region. I used these connections for advice and attending sprints, write ins, and workshops.

Myth – If you hit 50,000 words, you have a novel ready for the world.

Writing a novel in a month is hard, but editing and shaping a novel into something ready for publishing is even harder. Don’t expect to have the next great American novel ready to go by December 1.

Here is another secret. You don’t even have to write a novel! I have used NaNoWriMo to give myself editing time on a previous project.

No matter the journey, remember NaNoWriMo is a personal-no-regrets challenge. You are still accomplishing something whether its 10,000, 18,000, 25,000 words. They are all milestones… they are all wins.

bottom of page