How to write a novel in 30 days

National Novel Writing Month

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On Nov 1, participants begin working toward the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59pm on Nov 30.

Valuing enthusiasm, determination and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel.

“The biggest thing separating people from their artistic ambitions is not a lack of talent. It’s a lack of a deadline. Give someone an enormous task, a supportive community, and a friendly-yet-firm due date, and miracles will happen every time.” – from “No Plot? No Problem! A low-stress, high-velocity guide to writing a novel in 30 days” by Chris Baty, NaNoWriMo founder

NaNoWriMo 2014 display - photo by Michael PerkinsGet started: writing a novel in 30 days

To learn more or to join, sign up at nanowrimo.org and set Topeka as your home region. Fill out your profile, create your novel and then return to the nanowrimo.org website to log your word count beginning Nov 1. Once you reach 50,000 words during November, validate your novel and unlock your winner goodies, including a winner certificate!

Before you begin writing, follow Chris Baty’s advice from No Plot? No Problem! to consider what kind of book you would enjoy writing. The Two Magna Cartas of Novel Writing is basically a way to help you write the kind of book you would like to read.

Another important step before writing a first draft so quickly is to consciously prevent your own inner editor from sabotaging your efforts. These two pages from the Young Writers Program explain Putting Away Your Inner Editor in more detail.

Finding time to write will be one of your biggest challenges. Use the NaNoWriMo 2017 tracking calendar to schedule time to write and chart your own word count progress against the goal for each day in November. Of course, planning to attend Write Ins with other writers in November can be helpful also!

Events for writers

Fiction writing: Come Write In at the library
NaNoWriMo participants meet to add scenes, chapters and characters to their stories, compete in word wars and further their plots. Bring laptops for a creative and frantic writing session to increase word counts.
Sunday, Nov 5 • 1-5 pm
Sunday, Nov 12 • 1-5pm
Sunday, Nov19 • 1-5pm
Menninger Room 206

Find more local writing events on the Topeka NaNoWriMo calendar and connect with other writers on the regional forums and updates at the Topeka region  of the official National Novel Writing Month website.

Resources for writers

Character Development and Plot Handouts from Topeka’s NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaisons Diana Marsh and Lissa Staley including:

  • Super Powered Character Building
  • Ability Scores
  • Quirks and Flaws
  • Ideals and Values
  • Goals and Obstacles
  • Personality Traits – Positive
  • Personality Traits – Negative
  • T Chart for Character Likes and Dislikes
  • Snapshot of your Character
  • Presentation slides: Rolling with Character Creation
  • and several d20 Unstuckers.

Learn and share strategies for creating believable characters in your novel using character sheets to develop their thoughts, personal struggles, reactions, problematic relationships, unique goals and motivations. Know who they are, where they’ve been, what they’ve done and why they continue.

If you use Hoopla for ebooks, check out Pep Talks For Writers: 52 Insights and Actions to Boost Your Creative Mojo by Grant Faulkner, Executive Director of NaNoWriMo.


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Lissa Staley

Lissa Staley helps people use the library. She is a Book Evangelist, Health Information Librarian, Trivia Emcee, Classics Made Modern book group leader, NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison, Community Novel Project leader, HUSH podcaster, and frequent library customer. She reads a new book every few days, but recently enjoyed Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley.