Four weeks to your first draft

It’s NaNoWriMo. You start on November 1, and by the end of the month the aim is to write a novel – or at least a 50,000-word first draft of a novel.

It’s a great idea. It really gets you writing if you’ve struggled in the past. You have a goal, and you drive towards it, relentlessly, hopefully.

I know some professional authors who’ve taken part, and benefitted, and I think anyone who wants to write a novel, but don’t know where or how to start, should have a crack.

There’s a great website full of tips and advice, and you can find forums and blogs all over the internet. You won’t lack support as you set out to finish your book. And I hope that all of you who started on November 1 are still in the game – you’re nearly half way through.

Fifty thousand words in a month sounds like a big challenge, and it is – but it is do-able.

You might think you have to write every day, but as I show in my book How To Write A Novel In 6 Months, you don’t have to.

Daily targets, in my opinion, can be the death of writing. You set yourself up for failure if you decide to write a novel and tell yourself: I have to write 2,000 words a day. It’s unlikely that will happen. Life will get in the way. Count on it.

So my strategy – and it has been since I wrote my second novel Skarlet – has been to give myself weekly targets.

During the first draft process, I aim to write between 8,000 and 10,000 words a week. That is not a big ask. The top end is a little over 1,400 words a day.

Yes, I know, I said don’t set yourself daily word targets – but that is an average daily count. You won’t be writing every day. Some days you’ll be doing “life”. So maybe you’ll write 700 words one day, but on another day – when you’re flying and you have more time – you will churn out 3,000.

And that’s what you should do with NaNoWriMo, too.

Break down that 50,000 into weekly targets and you get 12,500 words a week, or just under 1,800 a day.

It’s still a tough ask, but my suggestion is you use the weekly target, not the daily one. Hey, if you can and do write every day, great. But if for some reason you miss a day, with a weekly word target, you will not have to abandon your project. And you won’t feel bad about having a life, just like everyone else.

So if you’re into NaNoWriMo, and you’re starting to find it tough finding the time daily, look at a weekly target.

One day you might do 5,000. But the next it’s only 300, the following day you don’t get the time to work at all, but day four and you managed a 1,000, and the next it’s 3,000. Day six, you can’t get to your desk, so on the seventh day you can’t rest – you know you’ve got 3,200 words to write to hit your weekly 12,500 target.

You got there, but you still managed to deal with two non-writing days when life got in the way.

All the best with your NaNoWriMo project. Don’t give up. You’ll have a first draft by the time you finish. And writing a novel in a month is quite an achievement. And you didn;t even have to write on each of the 30 days.