How to Write a Novel in 30 Days.

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As my regular followers know I’m the ML for the Charleston, SC region of NaNoWriMo. This will be my third year MLing, my sixth year participating in NaNo, and (hopefully) my sixth year winning. Last year we had a sudden growth spurt in my region, prompting me to try to beat the numbers this year and grow even more. Which means more work for me. I know, I’m kinda stupid that way sometimes 🙂

One of the things I’ve decided to do to help our region grow is give a presentation at the library called “How to Write a Novel in 30 Days”. This presentation will be taking place on Monday, and I’ve done about… zilch to prepare! Now, granted, I know I can make a presentation in a few days because I can write a 50,000 word book in 18 days. So at least there is that! And to help get my thoughts in order for this presentation, I’m going to tell you how I write a book in 30 days.

As you can imagine, it starts with a lot of sticky notes. I write down every idea that I have. Any little bits of dialogue that come to me, any scenes that I want to include, songs that make me think of the story. You get the idea. I’m not an outliner by any means (the few times I have tried I have failed miserably) but I don’t exactly go into any story blind either. I go in with an idea of the characters, and I trust them to lead me on a great adventure.

I’ll usually storyline through the entire story at least once, beginning to end, so I have an idea of the direction and know that there is an actual beginning and ending (middle no so much – as long as I can get through the beginning, a rough idea of the middle, and the ending I know I have a story).

More important than the plot though are the characters. I make sure I know my characters before I get into the writing. Sometimes I’ll write backstory. Sometimes I’ll throw them into a random situation (Rebecca’s world is especially good for this, since it’s full of doorways to other worlds and I can throw characters into her world or bring her into theirs at will). Usually I plop them down into the Cafe with a few of my other characters (Mikayla for the shyer/younger characters because she’s nice and everyone loves her, and Kindra for the adults and troublemakers because she can take care of herself so well). I know Kindra and Mika so well that I know how they’ll respond and I use them to figure out who the others are. They start talking, maybe start a good fight if it’s Kindra, and I learn about how the new character handles a confusing, often scary situation. Sometimes they’ll have a cup of coffee or a shot of whiskey or maybe just sit at a comfy chair by a fire and spill about themselves, their world, and their deepest secrets (that’s what the whiskey is for, of course).

This year I learned that my new characters don’t know what marriage is. They have bonds (to anyone they feel most connected to), and they have mates (for the purpose of having children). Sometimes it’s the same person, but if your sister is your bond you can’t really mate with her, can you? So then you find yourself a mate, who would be somewhat like your wife/husband, but there is no ceremony and the relationship can be dissolved at any time without a lot of hassle. A bonding ceremony is much harder to dissolve. I found this out because the new girl, Neona, was introduced to Mikayla’s husband and didn’t know what a husband was. It would have taken me much longer to figure that out otherwise, since all of my major characters are too young to be mated. The Cafe is probably just as important to me as the sticky notes.

As NaNo starts I stick to my word count goals. I write extra whenever I can. If I get my 1667 words in for the day but I’ve got more I’m itching to tell I keep going so that on that random Friday when I don’t feel like writing I don’t have to. I don’t let the Zero days get me down, and I use the 3K days as a buffer. I push myself, but I don’t push myself over the limit constantly. NaNo can burn you out and wear you down, but when I start to feel that way I take a day off and read.

And the most important thing you can do during NaNo? Meet the others doing NaNo with you! Go to the region events if you can (misery loves company, and often turns into excitement at the write-ins), and visit the forums if you can’t make the events. Find a NaNo buddy – someone to word war, commiserate and cheer with, help when you’ve hit a roadblock and don’t know what to do next. Writing is such a lonely profession, and NaNo is the one time a year when you can really slough off that skin of loneliness and be part of something huge and great and terrifying and satisfying.

And that, friends, is my secret to writing a novel in 30 days or less.

Don’t forget to visit the other Wrimos in the blogchain and find out how they write a novel in 30 days!


Published by

Rebecca Enzor

Rebecca Enzor is a chemist in Charleston, SC who writes Young Adult and New Adult Fantasy and Magical Realism. Repped by Eric Smith of P.S. Literary. Her debut novel, SPEAK THE OCEAN, comes out with Reuts Pub in Fall 2018!

12 thoughts on “How to Write a Novel in 30 Days.”

  1. Ooh, another NaNo ML on this blogchain. 🙂 I’m in charge of Quebec City. Obviously, I can only agree that the best way to get through NaNo is to find a buddy, and stick with him. 🙂

    I know I do a lot of sprints. Last year, nearly everything I wrote was done during a war or another. It’s by far my favourite way to get my daily goals done.

  2. Glad to see another ML in the group! We’ve got a few, as far as I know 🙂

    This year I’ve set up a raffle, and one of the ways to get a ticket is to beat me in a word war 🙂 And over the big fundraiser push I bet anyone a dollar that I can beat them at a word war. I usually end up losing (I’m a handwriter), but I don’t mind giving up some money to NaNo if it improves my wordcount as well as my Wrimos!

  3. I love your idea of a ‘character cafe,’ bringing characters from different stories together in order to help you figure out the new guy. I’ve toyed with character interviews before, but have your new character interact with established ones sounds like it might be even more helpful.

  4. I’ve done the interviews before, but it’s so much easier for me to have them talk naturally to another character that I know well. I tend to freak the new characters out (imagine, meeting the person who is watching your every move and writing about your life – scary!). They tend to open up better to the people who don’t watch them from the sky like some kind of crazy god 😉

  5. Your story already sounds fascinating.
    I do the whole outline beginning to end, too, and interviews… but not just one character at a time. Throw ’em all together and see what happens, like your character cafe. It’s a lot more fun and you learn more about how the characters interact with each other.

  6. Getting excited for NaNo, and I always get really nervous too. This year will be weird for me because I’ll be finishing last year’s book and starting a new story midway. So I have to be prepared for both.

    Your characters not knowing what marriage is – and bonding is a stronger bond than mating – sounds very intriguing!

  7. I’ll try to put up a bit more about it later this week, without completely giving the whole world away (it’s high concept, so I’m trying not to give too much away online).

    Two stories in one NaNo! Crazy! I don’t know that I’d be able to switch halfway through. My brain’s always still buzzing with the NaNo story after Nov, even if I managed to finish within the month (only happened twice).

    The Presentation is in a couple hours and I’m getting nervous! But excited 😀

  8. This is a great article. I really like the idea of the Character Cafe’.

    This is my second year doing NaNo and I have no idea what I’m writing yet. I thought I was going to write a sequel to last year’s NaNovel but it’s not fleshing out at all.

    I’m excited for November, though. I’m also confident that I’ll make the 50,000 words once I get started.

  9. Haha, I love how writer-speak often sounds like pure insanity (can I even argue that it’s not?) but I really love the cafe thing – though I might need to build up a few different characters before pairing new ones up with old ones! (I reckon Chrissie would be a little too full-on for Imogen – they’re not even from the same century lol). But it could be useful for working on speech styles, back stories, etc. Thanks for the tip!!

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