What if you can write a novel in 30 days? That’s right, you’ve guessed it, the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is coming up.

Despite any perceived shortcomings to this call, NaNoWriMo is a shoutout to all writers. It's like a kick in the butt by your best friend in an attempt to throw reality in your face.

Any writing initiative should be encouraged, and when it’s accompanied by thousands of people who are thrown in the same boat with you, fighting the dragon, climbing the magic mountain, then even better.

national novel writing month, discipline, writing

Photo by mpclemens

Rather than going through the facts and stats, conditions, and how it works (all of which you can find on the official website), let’s look through the required psychological and intellectual effort as a preparation for those who are considering giving NaNoWriMo a go:

1. Planning

Without having at least a little bit of planning done, then writing a novel in thirty days cannot only get way messy and easier to give up, but you may end up with a non-usable draft. Unconnected scenes, bad writing and underdeveloped characters can all be corrected later; a novel with an unclear message and characters with shifting pillar traits from chapter to chapter is harder to fix.

To avoid losing precious days in November thinking about what kind of novel you should write, or shaping your protagonist, spend the next two weeks planning your upcoming writing month.

If the novel you’re going to write requires lots of research, get a pile of books from the library and start reading. If you need to work on the characters, do that; if outlining is your style, then certainly do an outline. Whatever preparations you usually have, do the same now, if not even more. This will help your whole writing process and can determine whether you actually go through with it or not.

2. Discipline

Seriously, what doesn’t require discipline? Yet, it has to be mentioned because it’s the only thing you need to complete 1,666 words a day. Think of climbing Kilimanjaro or going to Mars. How much time in training do you need in order to be able to do these achievements? Months, years, decades?

Writing a novel in thirty days is your Kilimanjaro and your training is all the preceding time you’ve invested in writing or thinking about writing, reading more books than your town’s local library, taking notes, listening to your muse.

3. Editing

NaNoWriMo is about quantity over quality. Switch off your editing voices and turn on the storytelling mode. The goal is to get your story told, your words flowing, your characters doing, and your sentences multiplying. Remember that this is just a draft that you’ll return to once you finish your story. This may also be helpful in achieving your daily word-count. Just keep going without turning back.

If it seems difficult, remember the legend of Orpheus who went to the Underworld to save his beloved Eurydice from the dead under one condition—that he would walk in front of her and never look back. As one may suspect, he did look back and his beautiful wife disappeared back into death. The lesson: don’t look back at your work because it may vanish under your editing fingers or recycle bin as a result of your frustration.

4. Self-Accountability

Though you’ll have a whole wide community as support when times get tough and it becomes difficult to continue, rely on yourself. Self-accountability is crucial to sustaining your effort, because giving up on yourself is more disappointing than any goal you may have. Hold yourself accountable from the very start and revisit your accountability every now and then to keep your goals in check.

Perhaps you won’t write THE book you’ve had imagined or the perfect draft, but what you’ll certainly achieve by participating in NaNoWriMo is building a habit of writing. Leo Babuta from Zen Habits says that building any habit takes about thirty days. Do you need a better reason to join this worldwide writing revolution?


For fifteen minutes write about what kind of book you have been intending or wanting to start, or describe a character that will drive the whole story, or even a short outline for a writing project. Please share your practice in the comments section and don’t forget to support other practitioners with your advice and support.

Sophie Novak is an ultimate daydreamer and curious soul, who can be found either translating or reading at any time of day.
She originally comes from the sunny heart of the Balkans, Macedonia, and currently lives in the UK. You can follow her blog and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

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