The challenge of writing a novel in a month is inspiring, strenuous and – for most of us – daunting. Yet thousands of writers register to take part in NaNoWriMo every year, many forming smaller networks to keep each other on track when the effort of creating a novel from scratch seems too much.
November was first designated National Novel Writing Month 20 years ago, with the aim of encouraging writers who need a bit of pressure to keep them motivated. The target is 50,000 words – a complete novel (albeit a shortish one) or a significant start to a novel of the more usual 60-100,000 word length.
NaNoWriMo isn’t for everyone, but if you need that extra push to get you writing and keep you there, then go for it! Otherwise, follow the advice of many seasoned writers, and put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) every single day, even if – especially if – you don’t really feel like it. If you can write a thousand words a day – that’s about two sides of A4 – you’ll soon be on the way to finishing your first draft in a couple of months. You could have a first draft finished by Christmas!
But life gets in the way – work and family commitments, illness, fatigue: all of these can stop you clocking up that magic thousand-word daily total. Don’t let that stop you trying, though – do what you can.
The other enemy of productivity is a lack of confidence. Everything you write is rubbish. No one’s going to want to read it. You might as well give up now before you waste any more time on pages and pages of s***. The most experienced writers are plagued with self-doubt. The more established you are, the higher up the Amazon rankings, the more pressure you feel to stay at the top.
Think of the weight of expectation on a writer like Margaret Atwood! After the success of The Handmaid’s Tale (given a new lease of life, thirty years after publication, by the television series) would she be able to pull it off again with the sequel, The Testaments? Clearly, she could, but I doubt that she sat down at her desk to write it, certain that she would succeed – and even less certain that it would win the Booker Prize!
So, if you’ve missed the start of NaNoWriMo 2019, don’t give up and think you’ll have to leave it till next year. Join a writing group if you need ongoing support from a writing buddy. Set yourself a target that only you know about, but set it anyway. And just write.