Novel Writing Tips for National Novel Writing Month

Can you write a great novel in a month?

The recent Nobel Prize-winner, Kazuo Ishiguro, wrote most of his most famous novel THE REMAINS OF THE DAY in just four weeks.

He had been feeling stuck with his writing, so he decided to try immersing himself in it full-time. He had already done the research and preparation work. Now he set himself a deadline and spent a month doing nothing but writing his novel.

His goal was to make the world of the novel feel more vivid to him than the real world. The key, he said, was being willing to write badly.

For example, if something he wrote in the afternoon didn't fit with what he'd written in the morning, he ignored the inconsistency and wrote on.

I want to draw your attention to a few points about Ishiguro's approach.

1) His response to feeling stuck with his writing wasn't to give up. It was just the opposite -- he responded by diving more deeply into his project.

2) He prepared ahead of time. If he had just sat down in front of a blank page without knowing what he was going to write about, the process is unlikely to have gone so quickly.

3) He was willing to write badly. If you stop to judge or edit what you're writing, that pulls you out of the story and interrupts the creative flow. You can fix things later, during the revision.

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) when writers all over the world challenge themselves to complete a 50,000 novel draft in just 30 days.

If you want to join in the fun, consider preparing in advance. For example, if you start the month with a novel outline, your writing's likely to flow a lot more easily.

And remember that it's not all or nothing. Ishiguro worked full-time on his novel for a month, but most people don't have the luxury of doing that.

Maybe you only have an hour a day to write, or even less. Maybe you won't finish your novel in a month, but you'll finish it in a year. Wouldn't that be great too?

It might even take you longer. Pulitzer Prize-winner Donna Tartt spends about ten years on each of her novels. She's tried writing faster, she says, but she doesn't enjoy it.

As the writer Charles Baxter once said, "Literature is not a sack race." In the end, it doesn't really matter how fast you do it. What counts is the result.

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