I Wrote a Novel in a Month, Well, Almost

In November, I started writing a novel by participating in National Novel Writing Month or better known as NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo is a community of writers that support each other in writing a novel in a month with a goal of producing 50,000 words. It is exciting, anxiety-provoking and crazy being a part of a big movement like this one. There were 175,000 writers involved this year from all over the world.

I was introduced to NaNoWriMo by my good friend Erin Van Der Molen Pater. She also participated this year and we became writing buddies on NaNoWriMo’s website. We could follow each other’s progress and provide encouragement throughout the month. I really enjoyed emailing her and talking about the writing process. It really helps to have a sounding board in someone who is doing the same thing.

Writing a novel in a month is utter madness and it to say that I produced a full blown novel in a month is a bit misleading. The novel that is produced is not a finished, polished novel when you arrive at the word count goal. It is a first draft and probably a lousy first draft. In my case, I wasn’t actually finished the novel because at 50,000 words, my novel was about two thirds done. I figured my novel would end up somewhere in the 80,000 word range but that remains to be seen once the novel is edited.

So why try to write a novel in a month? I did the challenge for motivation. I have talked for years about writing a novel, but I never seemed to find the time. However, putting my goal on a website publicly put my pride on the line. The site itself has a number of fun motivators such as badges and a word tracking tool where I would enter my word counts each day. Watching the graph progress and seeing how I was doing against my daily word count goals was inspiring. I kept working hard because I wanted to maintain my pace and post wins on that graph. There was plenty of emails, prompts and encouragement from the site itself. Authors who had written novels using NaNoWriMo provided ideas for keeping up the momentum.

I wrote the novel in a program called Scrivener which is what I refer to as a “writer’s software.” It is not a word processing program although it has many features of one, but rather, it is designed for writers and works with their writing process. This software is so versatile it adapts to almost any writer’s style of writing.

At the end of each day that you write, you tally your word counts, which Scrivener will track for you and enter them onto the NaNoWriMo website. I would actually add my counts first thing in the morning since there were times I would finish writing in the afternoon, but come back in the evening to finish a scene or continue writing. I wanted to have an accurate count so I could understand what I was capable of writing in a day if I applied myself. Once I hit 50,000 words, which is the goal of the challenge, I could validate my word count by copying and pasting the entire novel contents into a word count validator on the NaNoWriMo website. It was a proud day when I validated my word count and my profile showed that I was a NaNoWriMo 2014 winner.

This community challenge has occurred every November for many years. I love that it provides a forum for authors wanting to work virtually along side others for the excitement of writing alone but together. The virtual support system was vital for me.

So I’m at the end of January 2015 and I have not finished that novel from November. I’m close, but not done. So I’m working on strategies for power writing the rest of the novel. I’ve set a goal to finish by mid-February so I can set it aside for a month and then start a program of re-writes. Surprisingly, I’m just as excited about the prospect of editing the novel as I am at finishing the first draft.

I plan to feed chapters to my writing group in March to ask for a writer’s critique. Once I’ve incorporated the writer’s group feedback, I plan to seek out beta readers who can commit to reading the book and providing me a reader’s perspective. Once I’ve incorporated that feedback, I’ll start looking for an editor. Who knows maybe by next November I can say I have published a NaNoWriMo novel.

Cheers, Catherine  Location: Saltspring Island, BC
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