Sounds good, doesn’t it? What does it take to write a novel in a month? You and I just missed it, because Nanowrimo is essentially that – where people world wide try to write their novels in one month.

Nanowrimo is geared towards getting 50,000 words done in a month with 30 days. It’s very regimented, but we’re going to actually focus in January on writing a novel instead of getting a word count. That means you get a complete first draft, including your ending (I mean, what good is it if you spend a month writing 50,000 words in a novel that’s going to take you 120,000?).

If you want to join in and get that novel written next month…. then follow along both here and on my Twitter account, where I’ll have tips and prompts to keep you going!

Ready? Here we go.

  1. minimum 10 plot points. Gotta have this. Better to have 60 plot points. “She gets the car, then she gets the envelope, then she finds out…” Really simple. Number 1-60 on a piece of paper and see if you can write out things that have to happen to your character. If you can’t think of even 10, you don’t have a novel. Consider it a road map.
  2. conflict. Your novel has to have  conflict. Tons of it. Dripping with conflict. How do you get conflict? I’ve written a number of articles on it, but here’s the simplest way – essentially your novel is about something somebody needs or has to do or there’s dire consequences. Now throw as many obstacles in the way as possible. Keep them from getting what they need, increase the stakes, make the consequences as dire as possible, and then in the last 10% of the book you can start rewarding them.
  3. 1667 words a day. The word count’s the easy part. I can get those easily. If you’re writing a 70,000 word novel, it’s 2,333 words a day. A lot tougher, but if you know where you’re going, it’s easy to get there. I personally would plan on 50,000 words for this challenge.
  4. Scrivener or Ywriter. Unless you plan to work three times harder than usual using Microsoft Word, use Scrivener or Ywriter. The way they force you to focus on scenes and chapters is revolutionary, and exceptional. Scrivener is better than Ywriter, but the problem is, most people for some reason are adverse to spending $40 for software. Trust me, Microsoft Word costs much more and does much less. Spend the money.
  5. Hook. You need to have a hook, something that essentially tells why this novel is different. “It’s a story about”… go on… What’s the selling point? What’s your elevator pitch? You need to be able to explain your novel in just a few seconds, the length of an elevator ride. If you don’t have that, your novel lacks focus, and probably will be passed over by publishers.
  6. list of 30 chapters and their synopsis. This works a lot better in Scrivener than any other program. It forms your goals for the chapter.
  7. Beginning and ending. How does it begin? How does it end? In some novels, the ending HAS to be known (and sometimes written) before the rest of the novel, such as mysteries.
  8. Characters. Who’s in your novel? Write out BASIC character sheets – I did this recently for a book I’d already written, and I realized I’d actually skipped over showing the character growth in the novel!
  9. promises and rewards. This part starts as you write, but if you’re doing a one month challenge, a scene that promises something must have a reward. You’ve got to finish out the reward promised. Why was the triceratops sick in Jurassic park? I know the answer. But they cut the reward out of the movie, and it actually still bugs people who saw the movie years ago! A promise and reward system keeps people turning pages. If your literary agent or the reader for the publisher starts skipping paragraphs to see what the reward is… then you’ve got a book contract, guaranteed.
  10. something unique. It’s hard to think of something unique, by saying, “I need something unique about my character.” Guess what? you already probably thought about it, but didn’t realize it. Columbo was a detective who was scared of guns, and sloppy. Monk was a detective who was a germophobe and obsessive compulsive. Carpenter in my novels is obsessed about coffee, his collection of .45 pistols, and suffers from PTSD over the loss of his wife to a drunk driver. Develop the unique part of your character first. Then apply the same process to the plot. Kind of like the first time an art thief in a 60’s movie used floor wax on their back to slide under burglar alarm sensors.


I’ve heard many people say, “I’ve been writing a novel for the last six years”, and I’m over it. I wrote my first novel in just a few months, and I didn’t have all this information then! Let’s get your novel done. Put that other magnus opus aside. We’re writing a whole new novel, and we’re doing it in January – and you’re going to start planning it today!