So You Want To Write A Novel? Here Are Some Tips For Success


By Casey Rose Frank

According to a 2011 poll, 81% of Americans aspire to write a novel one day.

That means that people of all walks of life, all career paths, and ages, regardless of their lack of any “traditional training” have a desire to write a book. Storytelling is part of our evolution as humans. From era to era and culture to culture, human beings want to share their pasts and dream of their futures.

If you’ve been harboring secret or even not so secret novel-writing aspirations, then you need to get ready for National Novel Writing Month.

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Given that each year NaNoWriMo has even more participants than the last and that it spans multiple countries, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard of the event.

National Novel Writing Month is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to helping writers of all ages silence their inner editor and create a novel. More than an organization, it’s an invitation: please come join our awesome community and dare to do something you don’t do everyday.

The Basics

In order to win, you must write at least 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30. These words don’t have to be read by anyone by you! When you submit your work to be deemed an official winner it is for word counting purposes only. Writing is done on an honor system. You could copy the instruction manual for your toaster oven for endless pages to get your 50,000, but you’re really only cheating yourself.

Chances are you live in an area where you have a Municipal Liaison. These awesome people will help host Write-Ins were you can sit and write with other NaNoWriMo participants. Seeing other people writing fervently can help inspire you to do the same. Some ML’s also host word sprints.

Helpful Hints

The first week is awesome, the second week feels like a garbage sandwich, the third week feels cautiously optimistic, and the last week feels like Rocky arriving at the top of those steps in Philly.

The second week slump is an extremely common experience and NaNoWriMo’s emails and socials media often have tips for how to combat it.

Rack up words early. The daily goal is 1667, but with American Thanksgiving and the unexpected, there will often be days later in the month when you’ll be writing less. Take advantage of the early excitement and write as much as you can.

Turn off all your editing tools (but remember to turn them back on for work!) The goal is to write without your inner editor telling you that you should delete words, edit as you go, or that your ideas are garbage. To help silence this nagging voice, write without those dotted red and green lines.

Pre-order a winner’s t-shirt. You can only wear it if you actually win, and nothing burns quite like buying something you can’t use. I have two winner’s shirts and two official NaNo wins. This is not a coincidence.

Helpful Books

No Plot, No Problem. NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty, wrote this helpful guide to understanding the mission of the month and silencing your inner editor. He provides tips and stories for each week of the challenge.

Ready, Set, Novel! This is a workbook created by the gang over at NaNoWriMo headquarters to not only help cheer you on but to provide concrete tools for brainstorming and outlining.

On Writing. I am a huge Stephen King fan so I read his combination memoir and writing guide long before I took up writing as a profession, but have re-read and listened to it many times since. I say listen because the author himself reads the audiobook and it is a real treat.

Bird by Bird. Anne Lamott has a lot of great advice on both life and writing. One of my favorite quotes of hers reminds me to do crazy things like try to write a novel in a month: “What if you wake up some day, and you’re 65… and you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life?”

Story Genius. I’m actually working through Lisa Cron’s book right now as prep work for NaNoWriMo. It flies in the face of a lot of the recommendations made in other books but I think that’s part of the adventure, trying new things each time this beautiful month comes around.

And this is me personally inviting you to join in. I’ve participated in three official NaNoWriMos, won two of them, and two Camp NaNoWriMo sessions. If you have questions or doubts feel free to reach out to me here or on social media and I’ll be your cheerleader. So head over to and sign up now!

Casey is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty on Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click HERE.

{featured image via unsplash}