Can a Good Novel Be Written in a Month?

November is National Novel Writing Month. There’s a whole website dedicated to helping you write a novel in a month, and the people there at even admit that it’s all about writing a bad novel. The point is to get a bad first draft down, especially if you are one of the many people who have always secretly wondered if you could do it. This way you know you’re only going to give up a month of free time, and it will be over.

The first time I tried nano, I don’t know why I did it, because I was sure that only garbage could be turned out in a month. Maybe I did it because nanowrimo is free, or maybe I did it because I like a challenge. Anyway, I only made it halfway through the story. The problem was that I came up with a story on November first and realized a couple weeks later that I didn’t know enough about science to sustain my characters with few resources on a semi habitable planet. Darn. I liked those characters, too.

But I did learn some things. One, the 25,000 words I wrote were not any worse than the 27,000 words I’d spent more than a year on in another novel. Two, to avoid heavy research, I needed to set my next  nano story in the here and now.

So last summer, I came up with an idea about 20 high school seniors on a field trip having a Canterbury Tales storytelling contest. Sadly, I still had months to wait until November, and although it’s not against the rules to outline before November first, you’re not supposed to write any of the actual prose. So I outlined, and outlined, and outlined. And I learned something my second year.

Outlining helps. Although my story only came out to 25,000 words again, it was a complete story, and thanks to the easy self-publishing options at CreateSpace, I could publish any length book I wanted. Yes, it needed editing, but it was a decent first draft. (Anaheim Tales is available on Amazon now.)

This year I have been outlining like mad again. There’s nothing more I can outline. My comedic Cinderella and her friendly stepsisters’ story runs through my head almost like a movie. I’m aiming for 50,000 words so that I can get that virtual “winner” medal on my nano page, but I’ll be happy with a 40,000 word novella, too.(Littlefoot Part One came out to 20,000 words and is available on Kindle.)

You still have time! Find a memorable character in your brain and throw them into a crazy situation. Will it be good or ridiculously bad? Only one way to find out.


1. Sign up at

2. Explore the FAQs and find “buddies” on the website.

3. Start a planning document. Write down your characters’ physical descriptions and important facts about their backgrounds. Make sure you have at least one possible resolution for your character’s situation.

4. Keep an eye on my blog for upcoming tips on novel writing.

5. On November first, start writing! You don’t have to write scenes in order. You do have to upload your 50,000 word document to the nanowrimo website between November 25th and 30th if you want to be an official winner. Note. Different programs count words differently. I wouldn’t stop at 50,001 if I were you.

6. Be okay with a messy house, at least for one month.

7. Don’t edit. Keep moving forward. December is for editing.

8. Pretend you are a novelist. Because you are!


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