How to Write a Novel in a Month

As a lot of you know, last month I completed JuNoWriMo! It was my first time writing a novel in a month, and let me tell you--it was SO FUN, that I can't wait for NaNoWriMo in November! I've started thinking of ideas for my November novel, and I'll probably start plotting in the fall!

Writing a novel in a month is no easy task, but it turned out to be a lot easier than I expected. So, if any of you are interested in writing a novel in a month, check out these tips!

Plot Everything Out Ahead of Time

This one probably sounds super obvious, but I cannot stress its importance enough. Months in advance, start developing  your characters. I wrote Sculpt Yourself during the month of June, but I made Pinterest boards for my characters long before that. I used the character development advice I discuss in this post.

The completed first draft of Sculpt Yourself!
Next to it is my completed draft of One Final Vinyl,
which I took much longer than one month to write.
It's time to get revising on that one!
To further understand my characters, I also did writing sprints at 6:30 every morning from different characters' voices in the weeks leading up to June. It helped me work out those glitches in each character that I couldn't quite figure out when doing my usual character development process. Writing sprints are a great way to have a brain-dump and find all the ideas you didn't even know were in there.

You'll also need to have a strong understanding of your plot before you get started. Don't worry--if you don't know how it's going to end yet, that's totally fine! Often the most brilliant idea for an ending will come to you while you're in the midst of writing.

For figuring out the preliminary plot of your story, I recommend trying Blake Snyder's beat sheet, featured in his book Save the Cat. This outline is meant for screenwriting, so if you follow it to the letter, you may find that your story's shaping up to be an extremely formulaic mid-2000s rom-com. However, it's a good way to figure out your sequence of events early on, and realize what the most important events are going to be. Don't worry if you're not able to fill in every space--as long as you have most of them figured out before you begin, you should be good to go!

Write More than You Need on Day One

On the first of June, I wrote over 5,000 words. I thought to myself, "Wow! This is amazing! If I keep up this pace, I'll be done by June 10th!"

I did not keep up that pace. Chances are, you won't either. On the first day, I was full of excitement about my new novel, and had a million ideas circling around in my head that I couldn't wait to get down.

As my work schedule got more hectic, and my freelance assignment deadlines approached, I found myself with less than enough time to write 2,000 words a day, let alone 5,000. I'm glad I got off to a fast start on the first few days, because it kept me from falling too far behind when life smacked me in the face.

Set a Daily Goal for Yourself

Your word-count goal is  going to vary based on how long you think the final work will be. I was shooting for 50,000 words, which is a pretty standard goal for a novel-writing challenge. So, I went onto my Google calendar, and I blocked out a few hours every day, with a goal of 2,000 words a day on weekdays and 5,000 words a day on weekends.

Some quick mental math will tell you that, in 30 days, that will total way more than 50,000 words. It's good to over-budget time. That way, if you have a crazy day where you have to go to one job in the morning, do a million freelance assignments in the afternoon, and have plans to see visiting relatives in the evening (I had a good amount of days just like this in June), you won't get off track.

If you do get behind--which I did, a few times--don't stress! It's important to just sit down and let the words come out.

Remember that this is just a first draft! You'll have all of eternity to revise it and make it better. Right now, get the words down!

Don't Take Breaks; Take Excursions

People often tell me to "take breaks" because I'm a "workaholic." (They're not wrong.) But, when you're trying to write an entire draft of a novel in such a short time, breaks aren't the most conducive to productivity.

The best way to get yourself motivated is to take breaks that aren't really breaks. That is to say, don't take a break that involves marathoning a TV show or surfing the Internet. If you get too comfortable indulging in a guilty pleasure (or a non-guilty pleasure), it'll be that much harder to drag yourself back into your writing, especially if you're feeling stuck.

The best kind of break to take is an excursion. Go somewhere you regularly feel inspired. Change your scenery. Take your dog on a walk around the block, and let your imagination run wild with new story ideas. Go to a coffee shop (or a McDonald's if you're on an extreme budget like me) with a notebook and write down ideas that come to you. During excursions I took with a notebook, I ended up plotting the majority of my chapters. Then, I could return home with a new perspective on where the story's going, and write for hours.

Join a Community!

Whenever there's a month-long writing challenge, you better believe there's a huge online community for it! When I decided I was going to do JuNoWriMo, I joined a Facebook group for it, and regularly posted there. It was a lot of fun, because you can meet new people, and you can all encourage each other! We'd regularly post our daily word counts, and congratulate each other on our progress. It was really nice having a like-minded community to motivate me!

Also, Twitter is a great place to visit. There will be hashtags you can search, like #NaNoWriMo or #JuNoWriMo, so you can see who else is working on their novels. Plus, each day, someone will run some writing sprints. If you get stuck, you can join a writing sprint, where you have to write as many words as you can in a half hour or so without stopping. Then you can post on Twitter about how many words you were able to write, and other people will congratulate you.

A big undertaking like this feels a lot less intimidating when you know you have other people doing it along with you!

I hope these tips were helpful!

If you have additional tips on how to write a novel in a month, please leave a comment!

Or if you're planning to do NaNoWriMo and looking for more advice, feel free to comment with a question!

Happy writing!



  1. This is very helpful. Thank you, Savy.

    1. Thanks, Andrew! Glad you enjoyed this post! :)

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