Take the NaNoWriMo Challenge!

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By Susan May Warren

Can you write a book in a month?

YES! We had a conversation about this last Thursday during the MBT OPEN HOUSE webinar. Writing a book in a month is a great way to jumpstart a new idea, get a head start on a longer story (you only have to write 50K for NaNo) or to even start over and rewrite a story that needs a major overhaul (just for clarification purposes, NaNoWriMo wants you to write a new story – but the concept of diving in hard for a month of writing is a good one and can be applied to either issues). But it does take a few a deliberate steps.

1. Planning. Take the next month to set up your story, plot it out (just the big parts) and sketching out the story so you know if you’re heading the right direction.

2. Preparation. Doing the “Story Math” as I call it – figuring out how many chapters your book will be, (I always write 20 chapter books, but that’s just my method), how many scenes will be in each chapter, how long it will take you to write each scene (this means you need to figure out how long it takes you to write, say, 2000 words or so), and then looking at your calendar and figuring out where you’ll find that time. If you are a SOTPants, writer who prefers to write without a blueprint, then maybe you simply know how many words you want to aim for (suggestion: 50k), looking at your calendar and figuring how many words per writing session you need to crank out. Then, you pencil in “WRITING TIME” in these calendar spaces and…well, show up.

3. Determination. You show up and write. Even if you are writing JUNK. Because you can edit junk. Turn off your internal editor and keep writing. Don’t worry about whether it’s good, or there are spelling errors – just download the book onto the page. Put asterisks in the places you want to flesh out more emotion, or even rewrite – and asterisk is your promise that you’ll come back to it. Just keep writing, just keep writing…

And, if I could encourage you more, here’s a conversation I had with Sally, my writing mentor.


“NaNoWriMo? National Novel Writing Month? Oh please, don’t ask me to write a novel in a month. I’m sorry, it’s just too overwhelming.” Sally took a sip of her mint dark chocolate cocoa, looking at me as if I’d asked her to run Grandma’s marathon. Tomorrow. “No. Forget it.”

“You’re about half-way in, right? And overwhelmed? And you’ve learned so much. What about setting this book aside and simply jumping in with a new one with all you’ve learned. Or maybe, just committing to finishing this one.

Technically, NaNoWriMo is about finishing a new story, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take the principles and apply it to a current story and finish it. I’ll even help you prepare for it.”

“55 thousand words in a month…?” She took another, very long sip of cocoa. “NaNoWriMo even sounds like a sort of disorder.”

“It is…once you learn to fast draft, you’ll be addicted!”


“Listen, Sally. You can do this. Plan the work, then work the plan -”

“That’s easy for you to say – you’ve done that about forty times!”

“Here’s the Truth: I do it the same way each time.” I pulled out a sheet of paper. “Look. I made you this cool infographic of the process. Just follow it step by step.”

She took the graphic. “I’m going to need more than this, coach, to get me through to the end.”

Writing Coach Truth: Writing a book is simply about figuring out what direction your character is going to take, and then showing up every day to help him on his journey.

Have a great writing week!

Susie May

Susan May WarrenSusan May Warren is the Christy, RITA and Carol award-winning author of over forty-five novels with Tyndale, Barbour, Steeple Hill and Summerside Press. Two time Christy winner, RITA winner, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Carol award. A seasoned women’s events speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the book, Conversations with a Writing Coach, where you can ready about Sally and Susie’s writing/mentoring journey from idea to finished novel. She is also the founder of www.MyBookTherapy.com, a craft and coaching community for novelists. For more help on your writing journey, visit www.learnhowtowriteanovel.com.

Comments 0

  1. Susan,
    I’m copying your writer coach truth. Coming back to writing after about a year and a half away is hard, but I’m scooping up every bit of advice and inspiration I can!

    Thanks for the encouragement; I’m still contemplating NANO.

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