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Writing a Novel in a Month: Nanowrimo

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Always thought you had a book in you? The beginning of November sees the annual start of a month-long, international writing project, the National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo). Nanowrimo says write that novel: 50,000 words in 30 days. That's 1,667 words a day (or near enough). And to help you on your way, the site lets you know other people in your area giving it a go, so you'll have support and company should you seek it (most often at 'write-ins', where the aspiring novelists get together to write together. Think a comedy writing room. Except with silence. And no laughter.)

Does this sound vaguely attractive? If so, here are five tips drawn from my own experience doing it the last few years:

1. "How do I do that many words every day?" You don't have to. As long as you hit 50,000 on day 30, you're all gravy. If you fall behind one day, you're just going to have to catch up the next. But I warn you, that's a pretty horrid feeling. I don't recommend it. So ideally, you'll just keep plugging away when you can. And you'll soon realise you've got to let your inner editor hush up so you can simply get on with getting words out.

2. "But I need quiet and hours stretching undisturbed ahead of me to write. And the right kind of tea. And a cat curled upon my feet." Really? Really really? Nano might be just for you - it destroys that myth that writing can only be done in eight-hour, silent chunks with perfect weather conditions and liquid refreshment. It can be done in 30 minute sprints too, you know, or on the Tube, or quite wherever you fancy it. In this day and age, you could even write on your phone. (Your phone! I know!) Forget those strange requirements.

3. "But, I don't think it's for me." How do you know, unless you try? E L James's husband (think 50 Shades of Grey) tried out Nano, and he's a published crime writer now. Easy-peasy*. Plenty of well-known people get involved - I believe Neil Gaiman has; Sarah Morgan off the Twitter has. It's not for anyone in particular. You can make Nano work for you, rather than vice-verse.

4. "I want to write but I'm not a novelist." That's cool. Let's face it: 50,000 words isn't really a good length for a novel. 80k minimum, really. Maybe 60k at a push. Many are 100,000, or 150,000. So you know, Nanowrimo is stretching the 'novel' part of its name. To be honest, even that isn't that important: write 50,000 words of blank verse, or 20 short stories (I did, last year. They were about birds. Twit twoo, blue tits, and so on); use Nano to help your writing, to give you that push to get on with it, rather than waiting for it to get... on with... you. (That's not a thing, is it?)

5. "What if I don't like what I've written?" Learn from it: where did it go wrong? Did you write the first thing you thought of, just to hit that target? Was there a scene you now loathe? You can edit if you want to; heck, you can delete anything you want. You control the words, not the words you. Don't fret it - writing at speed can create a whole load of bullshit and too few gems. But at least you're giving yourself the opportunity to write the gems, rather than just not writing at all.

That's my closing thought: you fancy you have that book in you? Give yourself a chance to get it out.

*Disclaimer: I had no idea if his wife's success had anything to do with him getting published. I think it didn't...