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Friday, June 7, 2013

Guest post: A Novel in a Month - 5 Tips to Win #JuNoWriMo by Margaret McNellis

Ready for more? Today I've got a guest post from author Margaret McNellis. She gives us her tips on how to successfully write 50,000 words in a month.


You’ve always wanted to write a novel. Maybe it’s always been your dream, or maybe characters have come to life in your head and won’t give you any semblance of peace until you write them into existence. Regardless of your reason, you’ve decided to push a novel out of your head in all its glory, sort of like Zeus giving brain-birth to a fully grown, fully armored goddess of war and wisdom. Because that’s what you want your novel to be—a symphony of timelessness, armored against the inevitable critics and online heckling that all authors must inevitably endure.

That’s fantastic—but how do you get there? How do you reach that golden 50,000th word that allows you to say, “Yup, I’ve written a novel!” I’m going to share with you 5 tips that will help you cross that finish line—but only if you promise to not be afraid to write badly. Do you promise? Okay, good…then read on.

Write your fantastic novel tip #1:

Don’t just lock away your inner editor. He or she might escape—don’t forget for one second that your inner editor is like a Jedi, and will try to, with a subtle wave of his or her pen, persuade you to provide just one peek at the sentence you just wrote. Before you know it, five hours have passed, your word count has gone from 2,000 down to 20, and you’re ready to tear your hair out. Instead, think of your inner editor like one of your characters. Kill him or her, and you can bring your inner editor back later in some barely believable deus ex machina when you’re ready to revisit your masterpiece-in-the-making.

Write your fantastic novel tip #2:

Never say these words: “I’m too busy to write today.” You have to write every day. Every. Single. Day. The benefit to writing 50,000 words in 30 days is getting into the practice of writing every day. And, you know, you get your Athena of books. Writing a novel in a month is much like schoolwork (though in most cases, more fun) in that it will snowball into an avalanche that will bury you neck deep in snow so that you can survive long enough to feel your body freeze over. Sure, you might have a day where you can punch out 10,000 words, but your wrists will be stiff and sore the next day and you’ll feel like you have a worse hangover than that night on spring break that you swore you would never repeat.

So, even if you only have a 15-minute lunch break, try and write 200 words. It’ll be 200 words more than you had when you woke up that morning. Watching TV and for some reason still suffering through commercials because you’re not DVRing or watching on HBOGo? Write during the commercial breaks. You don’t need the seven cars they’re going to try to sell you, anyway. Keep a notebook and pen, or tablet, or smartphone, on hand so that you can write little snippets whenever you have the chance.

Write your fantastic novel tip #3:

Writer’s block. We all get it; we all hate it. You can find a million exercises to cure writer’s block, most of which don’t actually involve writing. But what will that do for your word count? Chances are, not much. I’ve found that the best thing I can do when writer’s block threatens to kill my word count graph (I don’t like for it to level out, ever) is to write a letter to or from your character. The letter can be mundane. Tell him or her about what you ate for breakfast today and why it was so boring, and how you wish someone would please invent a new breakfast food. Maybe your character, bored with the usual fare, will eat something he or she shouldn’t, and undergo a bout of food poisoning that leads to meeting a wizard and poof! You’re back on track (sort of)—at least you’ll have something to write about. The letter can be angry. You can write about how current politics are frustrating you so much—and this might give you an idea for some political event in your story that might push things forward.

Write your fantastic novel tip #4:

Participate in the community. Not only will you meet other awesome writers, but you’ll also boost your Klout score…because that’s the most important thing, right? (If you’re planning to market your own novel, it can actually be a huge benefit.) Seriously though, by becoming part of a community, you’ll not only have support for those days when writing just seems hard—and trust me, it is hard, which is why not everyone does it—but you’ll also find folks who will keep you on task. Folks who know what you’re going through and so will ask you every day what your word count is, even if you don’t want them to. You might even drum up some friendly competition!

Write your fantastic novel tip #5:

Forgive yourself. Look—you’re writing an entire novel in a month—most of it will be first draft quality or worse. You’ll look back on it and wonder how you can salvage any of it. You’ll look back and say, “This isn’t like Athena at all! She lied! It’s like a puddle of goo with a misshapen helmet!” Forgive yourself. Take a month off and then…remember when I told you to kill off your inner editor? Now it’s time to miraculously bring him or her back to life. Edit, edit, edit. Editing will likely take you longer than it took to write. Forgive yourself for that too, and go and write your masterpiece of a goddess-goo symphony.


Thanks for the great post, Margaret!! I love the idea of writing a letter to your character. I talk to my characters all the time. For some reason, writing them letters seems less crazy. :)

Connect with Margaret here:


C. Lee McKenzie said...

I'm not a fast writer. If I think I have to write a certain number of words in X amount of time, I freeze up. A lot of my writing happens in my head way before I sit down to my desk. I really admire people who can do what you do. That's just not ever going to be me.

Margaret McNellis said...

Hi! Thanks so much for reading and for your comment. I am the same way. One of the books I'm working on has been cooking in my head for *years.*

If you ever have a chance, read the forward for "Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett. It is very inspiring. He talks about how that book took him about ten years to write.

Maybe instead of focusing on a word count minimum for the day, you can say, "I am going to sit down and write for an hour today and what will be, will be." Best of luck to you, and don't ever give up! (Because if you are like me, your characters won't let you rest, the greedy little buggers.)