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Lessons Learned While Trying to Complete a Novel in 30 Days

Since 1999, people have challenged themselves to complete a 50,000-word manuscript during the 30 days of November. Known as National Novel Writing Month, the 2010 event had more than 200,000 people sign up online. Andrea Alumbaugh, marketing specialist for Author Solutions, participated. Here’s what she learned:

The Best-Laid Plans

In the days leading up to November, excitement set in. I have always wanted to write a book, and this event seemed like the perfect occasion to finally realize that goal. Starting strong, I completed about 5,000 words in the first few days. But planning to write is much easier than actually writing.

For full disclosure, let me admit that I did not complete a 50,000-word manuscript in November. Most people don’t (this year, 24% of participants met their word-count goals).

John Lennon once sang, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” For me, life is what happened while I was busy trying to write a novel. While procrastination may be easy, it won’t help you achieve your goal of writing a book. I am now better equipped to complete my writing goals in 2011, and you can use these tips that I picked up to help you finish your book.

What You Need to Complete a Novel:

Accountability
Setting a date for when you want to finish your book is a good start. Having someone who will push you to complete that goal is even better. Tell friends, family members and co-workers how important this goal is to you. Find someone who is willing to read and critique your work. Find a friend who will tell you to go write 500 words before you’re allowed to go to a movie with them.

Direction
Outlining seemed like the worst idea ever. “So rigid! So boring! Surely, inspiration will take me and my book where I need to go,” I foolishly told myself as I sat down to write and proceeded to stare at a blank page for an hour. Create an outline, write a synopsis, draw a map—have a rough idea of where you’re going with the book, and be willing to go down a new road if things aren’t working out as you write.

Support
Don’t work in a vacuum. One of the great things about National Novel Writing Month is that it helps people connect with other writers in their region, so they can schedule meet-ups and inspire each other toward goals. Organize a meet-up at your local library; start something online. Find your fellow writers now.

Writing
This may be an obvious ingredient, but it’s important to mention. If you wait for divine inspiration to tap you on the shoulder before you sit down to write, you could wait forever. Set aside time every day to write. Don’t wait for it to be good. Don’t wait for it to be right. JUST WRITE.

Reality Check
If you’re serious about becoming an author, be willing to put your best work out there. Completing a manuscript you’re ready to share is the first step, but at some point, ideally before it is published, you should have someone read your book. Editing, critiques and rewrites are crucial steps toward a quality, professional book.

For more information about National Novel Writing Month, visit the website.