Are You Brave or Crazy Enough to Write a Novel in 30 Days?

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November is fast approaching and in the nerdy Bay Area that means novel writing season. This is the time of year when National Novel Writing Month-ers attempt the heroic and seemly impossible task of writing the first draft of a 50,000 word novel in a single month. It’s a time when baby novels are coming into the world screaming and alive and we want to scream sometimes, but we feel super alive. Words and stories are flying around like space cars and nobody has time to do their laundry.  Coffee houses are overflowing with over caffeinated NaNoWriMo’s tapping away or staring out the window trying to decide if their hero should be a pensive narwhal or unicorn with ADHD. It’s a time when the impossible seems possible and we clear our schedules to tell our stories.

If you feel like you might want to be a part of this mad fever dream ask yourself the following questions.

Do you feel like Netflix is an electronic vampire that is feeding on your mind and eyeballs and stealing your life?

NaNoWriMo is a chance to get proactive with your time and media habits. When you’ve got to write 1,667 words a day and also work and feed and dress yourself, binge watching it out. This is a chance to reset the bad habits you may have picked up along the way. Instead of passively absorbing other people’s’ stories you will be writing your own. How cool is that? And if things come full circle maybe you can sell your novel’s screenplay rights to Netflix who can make an awesome show out of it that you won’t have time to watch because you’re too busy on your whirlwind book promotion tour.

Have you always wanted to write a novel but weren’t sure where to start?

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NaNoWriMo welcomes the dreamers and turns them into do’ers! They do this with a magical and powerful thing called a deadline. A deadline stops you from doing endless research on what kind of tobacco your 18th century sexy piratess would have smoked or pontificating for the perfect word. A deadline is like a rabid, literature loving monkey constantly clinging to your back screaming, “Words! Words! Words!” This monkey doesn’t want outlines or promises or to hear about your bad day at the office. The only things this monkey wants is your words, 50,000 of them to be precise.


Are you a little bored with your life?

It’s okay to admit it, I won’t tell. Just because being restless and bored is a first world problem, doesn’t mean the experience doesn’t suck when you’re in it. If your world has gone from rainbow stripes to beige on beige then it’s time to do something totally different. This rut is not going to bust itself. You need to beat the crap out of it with a daring feat of novel making daring do. If you feel like nothing has surprised and delighted you in quite a while NaNoWriMo could be just what the doctor ordered.

Or maybe you’re feeling like your whole life is planned out like a perfect suburban community complete with inch and a half tall grass. Everyone thinks you’re the perfect mother/father/account executive/insert role here and they have no idea about the cross dressing dragons that lurk in your heart. Writing a novel will remind you that you have as many dimensions as the most confusing science fiction series. You are more than your job, your relationship and your to-do list. You’re a bad ass world building mother fucker!

Have you recently gone through some kind of trauma or hardship?

The first time I did NaNoWriMo I had just been unexpectedly fired from a job I loved. The second time I had been physically and verbally assaulted. Both times I was feeling completely untethered and dark about my present and future and both times the experience was like a hand reaching down and pulling me out of the muck. Writing a novel is the best combination of therapy, play and wide awake dreaming. It doesn’t matter how badly it sucks. You made meaning of your mess and you’re gonna feel better, I promise.

Do you want to surprise and delight yourself?

Ambivalent mothers, gay superheroes, kidnapped babies and born again Christians all found their way into my last NaNoWriMo novel and none of them were part of the original plan. Doing this type of writing allows you to tap into subconscious parts of your brain that will surprise the hell out of you again and again. All the craziness, wonder, fear and beauty that you’ve absorbed from living in this world is going to sneak into your novel.  It’s like throwing a surprise party for yourself every single day.

NaNoWriMo also gives you the opportunity to take out some of your inner bad guys (I’m looking at your perfectionism, procrastination and doubt). Sheer speed and allowing yourself to write a really shitty first draft are cryptonite to these guys and you will find their grip getting looser and looser as the month progresses. And once you’ve showed these bad dudes who’s boss you will be in charge of your novel (and you destiny) once again. Hooray!


Do you want to do something heroic with a community of other wanna be heroes?

Writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days is really, really hard. There will be times when you want to quit. There will be times when you want to throw your computer at the wall. There will be times when you have no idea what to write and are completely certain that your brain is nothing more than worms and caffeine. I know because all those things have happened to me both times I have taken on this challenge. But you’ll get through it. Somehow your fingers and your brain will find each other again. People will surprise you with just the support you need to get you through your darkest hours and you will somehow dig down to help them too. You’re gonna be a part of something bigger than yourself. Something that started when prehistoric people first made drawings on their cave walls and continues like a river that connects us all: The human story.

Are you still not sure you can do this?

Fear and uncertainty are part of the process so go ahead and make friends with them now. That being said there are tools that can make this endeavor a lot easier. Enlisting friends to do it with you and hold you accountable is helpful. If your friends aren’t into it, try joining a group on the NaNoWriMo website and make some new novel writing buddies. I found Chris Batty’s novel writing kit and book No Plot No Problem extremely helpful while writing my first novel and seriously recommend it. He’s the cool cat who started this outlandish experience so he knows his stuff and really knows how to get you ready and walk you through it week by week.

If you don’t tell your story who will?

Seriously. Who?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions then I invite you to consider jumping on the NaNoWriMo bandwagon and letting your freaky novel writing flag fly. It’s gonna be weird and awesome and I can hardly wait. Won’t you join me?

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Heather Robinson - Artisanal Trouble Maker

Heather Robinson - Artisanal Trouble Maker

Heather Robinson has been doing stupid stuff in San Francisco for almost 10 years. She loves dive bars, typewriters, and creative people. Buy her a beer and she'll solve all your problems.