The National Novel Writing Month is just around the corner. It’s a competition where you try to write fifty thousand words of a novel in November every year. Despite its name, it’s not just a single national event, the event is decentralized and boasts competitors from all around the world (very similar to how Golden Euro Mobile Casino works). The rules are very simple, you start writing on November 1st, and by the 31st you hope to have written fifty thousand words or more of a novel. Even though it calls itself a competition the only person you’re really competing with is yourself. There’s no prize other than the pride of knowing you accomplished it.
That isn’t to say there isn’t a competition to be had, but we’ll be getting to that shortly. Even though the rules are simple the actual event is much much harder. Luckily here are ten great tips for making sure you stay on track and win National Novel Writing Month 2023.
1. Picking your Premise
Coming up with an idea for a novel is easy for some or incredibly difficult for some. Regardless of which boat you are in not all ideas are born equal. Some ideas are simply going to be easier and more straightforward to write. An intricate grand fantasy story with hard rules surrounding its magic system and a level of intrigue and inner politics that make it toe the line between escapism fairy tale and a college major in physics with a minor in political science is obviously going to be easier to write than a romance novel about two widows finding love again.
But that doesn’t make either of the two ideas inherently better than the other. Maybe for you, the fantasy novel will be considerably easier to write than the romance novel. But just remember to plan forward for what idea or premise will flow easiest out of your hands. For National Novel Writing Month it’s all about quantity over quality.
Just remember to pick something that interests you too. You’ll find it much easier to write a story about the parasocial relationships of East Asian ducks than a kid’s book if you are truly passionate about the parasocial relationship of East Asian ducks.
2. Write a strong summary
Once you have your idea for your story you need to figure out how your actual story itself is going to work. Now don’t start thinking you need to write out a full plot line for your entire novel and plan every character arc and plot twist. That’s an outline and we’ll be getting to that in the next section.
A summary is the most basic information of what your story is actually about. While an outline is optional a summary is really not. You can do a summary in your head, once you have an idea you probably already have a summary you’ve created either knowingly or unknowingly. But writing down the summary or at least simple ideas from it will really help you form a strong understanding of your story and more importantly of where to start.
Just like writing itself, there are very many ways you can do a summary, you can write out a full few pages or an entire character analysis for your protagonists, antagonists, and supporting cast or you can write a single page. Even simpler you can just write a single line.
Your summary should be just the basics that make up a story, the setting, the characters, and the very very basic story or inciting event that is going to push all of those things along. A good summary should be able to be condensed into a single line. Some examples of a summary would be Harry Potter ‘A boy finds out he has magical powers and goes to a school to learn how to use them’, or Star Wars ‘A farmer finds out he has magical powers and goes on a quest to save a princess’. Very simple, very basic.
Figure out who you are going to write your story about, where they are, and how the story should start in the basic sense. This stage can also be a good stage to figure stuff out like how you want to write your prose, if you want your story in the third or first person, etc etc.
3. Prep work for your novel
This is the more complicated version of a summary. Prep work can be anything from planning out characters’ personalities, their relationships with other characters, and eventual character arcs and development to creating full outlines for the plot of your book. Prep work could also be doing all the world-building and planning for the setting of your novel.
Figuring out your characters and who they are can be a double-edged sword. It can be incredibly useful while writing to look back on and refocus on who this person is and what they want or need but also it can very easily constrain you while you are trying to meet a certain word count every day. Letting your characters grow naturally as you write them can be very helpful to maintaining momentum while participating in National Novel Writing Month.
Creating an outline for your story can also be very useful. Think of this like the line work for a picture. You write an outline so you know exactly where the story is going at all times, what scenes need to happen where characters will go, and be throughout the plot so that when it comes to writing the first draft you are just filling in the spaces in the outline.
The outline might say Jeff and Bob walk into a bar and get into a fight. Afterwards, Jeff ends up at the hospital.
Then you know exactly that you need to just write a scene where Jeff and Bob go into a bar, add in all the details of the bar and the escalation then write the fight, after that scene you just need to fill in the scene of Jeff at a hospital. It makes the task of writing feel less overwhelming and a lot more organized.
But also writing an outline takes time and planning and for some can take away from their creative process. Neither option is better than the other it depends entirely on how you like to write. The major takeaway is just to write how you want to write and if you find writing the outline to be slow and boring skip it, if you find writing to be too overwhelming and you keep getting stopped by figuring out what needs to happen next or how to organize your scenes, maybe write an outline.
4. Remember…it’s ok to be bad
The point of NaNoWriMo is to write fifty thousand words in one month. That’s it. You aren’t trying to write a bestseller, your magnum opus, or even a book worthy of reading or publishing. It’s a challenge to make writing and writing habits easier.
When it becomes quantity over quality, some of the stuff you write is going to just seem bad when you write it. But try not to spend too much time going over and over the same section trying to make it feel better. This is a first draft, if something is taking you too much time to get right it, might be best to leave it and move on.