As we approach N-Day (November 1, or the start of NaNoWriMo), I wanted to give a shout-out to the book behind the write-a-novel-in-30-days concept. No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days , By Chris Baty, founder of National Novel Writing Month. This little book is a humorous, practical guide to getting started on actually writing that novel you’ve been dreaming of.
From preparation, gaining allies, figuring out your physical space, creating incentives, getting food… and actually getting through the 1,667 words per day, and dealing with the mid-month slog and other challenges (illness, lack of support, sudden time crunches), this book takes you through the entire month of novel-writing drama. I highly recommend reading it before NaNoWriMo, so you can appropriately prepare. You can, of course, just show up on Day 1 and start writing, but knowing about and planning for the inevitable setbacks and challenges will help you keep to your goal.
I like the just do it! approach, and think it can work well for those who have spent too much time waffling, or talking about writing without actually writing. The caveat is that you may end up with a mess. When you’re just thinking about making it to a challenging word count each day, a lot of other stuff flies out the window. It can be a good thing: you may surprise yourself and come up with characters and situations you never expected. However, you may, when you are done, have to spend a lot of time figuring out how it all fits together into a coherent whole. And a novel is a big, messy, unwieldy thing in any case (that’s sometimes the reason people give up in the middle – it becomes a hydra-headed, multi-tentacled beast the writer despairs of ever taming).
Outlining can help, of course. And whether you’re an outliner or not, the habit of just writing through whatever challenge you’ve come up against can be a good one to form. Rather than crashing to a halt and abandoning the project for weeks, you just keep writing past it, and resolve to figure it out later.
So, even if you’re not planning on officially doing NaNoWriMo, I encourage you to pick up this book. Plan your own Writing Intensive, on your own or with friends. Modify, if you need to: if 1,667 words per day feels impossible, try an even 1,000. Try it for 66 days (the amount of time some studies show is optimal for creating a lasting habit). I’m a big fan of doing a little each day, but it can also be good to push ourselves once in awhile, and do more than we think we can.
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