Do you have a novel inside you just busting to get out? I don’t.
I enjoy reading the most excellent detective fiction by Marcia Muller, or sometimes good sci-fi, but I don’t have the ideas or endurance to create a novel myself.
I’ll stick to instructional writing: manuals, ebooks, help files and so on. I really enjoy writing those things.
But if you are the kind of person who’s just busting to write a novel, then perhaps NaNoWriMo may help you along:
National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.
Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.
The 80/80 rule
I’d venture to suggest, given the wording above, that what you’d have at the end of the month would put you at the beginning of a much longer effort. But still, getting the words out onto (virtual) paper is a hard job in itself.
There’s an old adage that says:
The first 80% of the work takes the first 80% of the time. The rest takes the other 80%.
If you want to create a good novel — one that respects its readers, rather than taking them for granted — I’m pretty sure you’ll need more than 1 month.
Unless, of course, you have it all fully written and rewritten in your head, and all you have to do is transfer it to ‘paper’.
Some practical advice
Back in 2006 Maria Langer and I collaborated on a 300 page book: WordPress 2 Visual Quickstart Guide (affiliate link). At that time Maria already had around 50 or more actual books to her name. Now she has more like 70.
That places her in an excellent position to give advice to those participating in NanoWriMo:
…in the weeks leading up to NanoWriMo, participants should be preparing for the task of writing. Create your characters and build your plot now, before crunch time. Take detailed notes on index cards or in a computer-based outline, or with some other tool. Visit the world of your characters and story in your mind and take detailed notes about what you see and hear and feel.
Maria has a lot more to say than that, too.
She plans to revive an old novel she started writing some time ago, and is writing a whole series of posts about the whole thing.
When it comes to producing books that are then published and sell, Maria certainly knows her stuff. If you’re an aspiring novelist I suggest you pay heed to her advice.