As the Ernest Hemmingway quote goes, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” The quote illuminates a truth for writers everywhere: Writing a novel is much easier said than done.
That fact is one of the reasons why the founder of National Novel Writing Month, which begins Tuesday, launched the NaNoWriMo community in 1999. That led to the month of November being known as NaNoWriMo, which encourages writers to bear down and get serious about writing their next novel.
From Tuesday through 11:59 p.m. Nov. 30, participating writers are tasked with penning a 50,000-word novel. If they finish early they are encouraged to keep writing. One of the main points of NaNoWriMo is to set writing goals and reach them, as opposed to shooting for a Pulitzer-winning novel (although aiming to write the book of a generation is an admirable endeavor).
Below are 10 tips for getting started writing a novel and staying on-task. Grab your typewriter (fine, computer) and a box of Band-Aids for your fingers, sit down and write with these tips.
- First, sign up for NaNoWriMo and create your profile. You will be able to receive help from esteemed authors and connect with fellow writers. Committing to the program will hold you accountable for your writing.
- Decide how you want to plan your novel. Yes, there’s even a step before the big steps. The NaNoWriMo website's places writers into two categories: a “planner” and a “pantser.” The first believes in solid preparation and will likely have their stories fleshed out before Nov. 1. That means if you’re your reading up on these tips, you’re probably in the latter group of those who let their spontaneity take the reins. The latter also prefers to dive right in and see what unfolds along the way.
- Prep your novel! If you don’t have somewhat of a story idea already, it’s time to get going. The NaNo website has published videos and tips on how to properly plan for your story for the month ahead.
- Check out the literature the site also publishes on tips for character building, fiction writing, story building and more. Plan ahead, but don’t let the planning process keep you from this next step…
- WRITE. There’s no avoiding it. The best thing to do is just write.
- Once you’ve started, plan your pace for the month and commit to completing a certain amount of words every day. The goal is to write 50,000 words, so the word count is a tangible goal that needs to be met.
- Try to write at the same time every day. This doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, but by committing to the same time, you’ll be less likely to push aside the time for socializing or doing chores. Some people prefer writing first thing in the morning, while others prefer the late-night grind. Find your “time” and stick to it.
- Reach out to others. The community through NaNoWriMo is meant to help you get the resources and support you need to complete your story. Contrary to popular belief, writing does not just have to be a solitary experience that you share with you and yourself in a cold, damp garret – your writing is meant to be shared. So seek out friends, family members, fellow writers or mentors who might offer you feedback on your writing or even just moral support.
- Don’t give up! This might not be the most original tip, but it’s impossible to keep going if you don’t believe in yourself or your story. Keep at it, and keep at it some more. Some days the words will fly, while other days will feel tedious and awful (remember the part about the proverbial “bleeding” – grab those Band-Aids and get back to work).
- Have fun. You’re writing a novel, not fighting a war. Have fun and enjoy the process. Nothing beats the beauty of when the human mind and imagination coming together to create something completely original and unique.