All about Writing Novels… and how fast…


A Novel in a month? I can hear you say ‘Impossible’ but it isn’t actually, says some people… and there is a ‘method to such madness’, check out NaNoWriMo and JulNoWriMo. Both are novel writing marathons which set you a target and you write so many words, in a month, be it July or November.

In case you are new to this code word of aspiring novelists, the NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, observed or rather celebrated from November 1st to 30th. Its thirty days of literary abandon or a literary crusade not just in the U.S where it all began, but all over the world.

Chris Baty started it in 1999 in SF Bay Area with just 21 writers. In the second year the numbers rose to 140; a whopping 5000 participated in the third year and then there has been no looking back. You can find the whole stuff on the web.

The goal is to ‘write a 175 page (50,000 worded) novel in a month. Close your door, turn off the calling bell, shut down your internet connection, and don’t answer your phone, put on the answering machine. Now, write when you want, where you want, what you want; it isn’t about quality but quantity.

You may be writing crap, but you ARE writing, which is what matters. And you have lots of company in the other participants of NaNoWriMo; this year they have counted up to 71000+ writers participating when I pen this. You can just chat up someone or post on the forum and ask a NaNoWriMo buddy, hey I have done X pages today, how about you?

Oh, yes, I forgot to mention the support mechanisms. The Forums at the NaNoWriMo site are an excellent support factor when you get stuck or when you think your plot is all bungled up. Check out the genre lounges, groups based on age, Out of the Box people, and general topics which spurn you on to reach the victory stand; in general your life during NaNoWriMo. I hope at least some of you will take this as a challenge and write out that novel that has been begging to be put down on paper.

Talking about writing a novel in 30 days brings a little something to my mind, a bit of a gossip. I agree writing, say, a 175 page novel may be just possible if you just want to write crap. But I hear of a Indian writer who got published after writing her novel in 30 days flat. And that too by a leading publisher! This writer considers her feat as a sort of fast-writing record, I wonder if she has heard of the word editing? The novel she did publish shows a lack of polish, and now I know why, after reading her interview on the topic… it hasn’t been polished, it hasn’t been edited…

But I did see some people who had been writing a novel for several years before they could show it to the reader. And the effort shows. Marilynn Robinson, winner of the Orange Prize this year for her Home-coming is such a writer. She has brought out only 3 novels in all of two decades. And all three of them have been acclaimed.

Her first novel was ‘House keeping’ published in 1980 won a Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for best first novel and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Her second novel, Gilead was acclaimed by critics and received the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the 2004National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, and the 2005 Ambassador Book Award. Her third novel, Home, published in 2008, was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award, and won the 2009 Orange Prize for Fiction.

The 2008 NaNoWriMo had 119,301 participants and 21683 ‘won’ meaning reached their target number of words.

The JulNoWriMo is a more recent phenomenon and has been around since 2006, but there is an advantage… one extra day… remember ‘30 days hath…November’ and July has 31 days?

Check this out here

But all said and done I am sure a 30/31 day novel could be the germ of or skeleton of a great piece after some years of rewrite and polishing.

I forgot to tell you, they are on Facebook and you can tweet about your NaNoWriMo/JulNoWriMo and so does that make it twitterature and you a twitterati?

Suneetha is a writer by passion, profession and hobby. She writes fiction in English, poetry in her native tongue Malayalam and journalistic features in both. She can be contacted at

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